News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Now is the time to start planning your fall garden

Linn County Master Gardener

OSU Linn County Master Gardener-

Have you noticed how food prices have increased? What about the price of gas to get to the store? How can we have fresh food at lower cost? Grow it ourselves. And we don’t have to drive to get there. 

No space? Garden in containers wherever they can get some sun. Interplant vegetables and fruits among shrubs and around the lawn. Replace some lawn with an edible planted area.

We are far enough into the summer growing season that we will not have time to grow some crops to maturity before first frost. If the seed package says it takes 90 or more days to grow to maturity it’ll never get there from here and now in the Canyon. 

Many vegetables have short season species. Check different varieties for the quickest-growing. Or wait for garden centers to bring in transplants for fall planting.

Plan a fall/winter garden to supplement the food budget and provide healthy, nutritious food beyond summer. What do you think people ate in winter (beyond canned foods) before they had supermarkets trucking “fresh” food in from far away growers? 

Some crops grown in the summer can be stored for later consumption, like onions, potatoes and winter squash. 

What can we grow for fresh eating in colder weather? There are three categories of veg to plant in late summer: those that will mature and be eaten before freezing, those that can be harvested during the winter, and those that will overwinter for early spring meals.

Garden crops that can be harvested during the winter will have to reach some near-maturity before first frost (projected for late November this year) because they grow verrrry slooowly in cold temperatures.

Root crops like carrots, radishes, beets and turnips get sweeter while insulated underground during the winter. Beet greens and mustard add flavorful interest to winter salads. The cabbage family, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens and cauliflower, will tolerate freezing temperatures. Bush beans, unlike pole varieties, will produce well into fall if picked regularly. 

Many leafy, non-heading lettuces and Swiss chards can be harvested when they thaw on winter afternoons, especially if they are given a little protection from wind and heavy rain. Cilantro, parsley and arugula grow in winter, adding some flavors to winter meals. 

Snap peas and fava beans tolerate cold weather for fresh eating in fall and late winter, given a sunny location for flower production. Even without flowers, pea shoots taste great in salads and soups.

It can be difficult to start seeds in hot weather. They might have to be started indoors where it is cooler, kept moist with bottom water in a tray. Transplant at night and water well to give plants a few hours to adjust before the heat of summer days. 

Provide shade and (twice) daily water for seeds that prefer temps under 50 degrees F for sprouting, like carrots. Plant under and in between other plants where it will be shady and protected, especially if those other plants will be removed by the time the new seedlings achieve conflicting height. 

Got plenty of ice? Sprinkle it on seeded areas on hot days.

For more information and plant lists, there are two publications available for reading or download at : EC871 Vegetable Gardening in Oregon and PNW548 Fall and Winter Gardening in the Pacific Northwest. 

Santiam Community Gardens, [email protected], 503-859-2517, will have a free class Sept. 17 to show how to extend the garden season, with vegetable starts and handouts.

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