If there is one thing Cathy Ickringill would like everyone in Powell River to know, it’s that they can eat fresh vegetables and greens through the fall and winter with just a little bit of effort.
“You can garden all year-round in this area,” said Ickringill, who is the nursery manager at Mother Nature. “Last year, we harvested the first fall cauliflower from the test garden here on November 19. I picked a red cabbage that I’d overwintered in my unheated greenhouse in April, and it was delicious.”
Anyone planning on putting in a fall and winter garden needs to start now, according to Ickringill. Brassicas such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are excellent fall and winter crops, as well as leafy greens like lettuce and beets.
Certain vegetables, such as purple flowering broccoli and Walla Walla onions, overwinter and are harvested in the spring.
If gardeners want to put in a fall and winter garden, Ickringill recommends first determining the area of their garden that will get the most winter sun.
“Fall and winter vegetables still need four to eight hours of sunlight, so you’ll want to plant them in the sunniest area of your yard,” she said.
Ickringill also recommends raised beds with simple frames made from bent electrical conduit pipe. The pipe provides a structure for any material used to protect crops from pests, extreme temperatures, or too much rain.
“Gardening in the fall and winter is less work than summer gardening,” said Ickringill. “If you’re busy travelling in the summer, garden in the fall and winter instead.”
Springtime Garden Centre manager Gina Derkatch agreed.
“Fall and winter gardening is simpler because of all the things you don’t have to really worry about,” she said. “The rain means we don’t have to water often, most of the pests die off, and if you have mulch or straw around your plants, that takes care of weeds.”
Derkatch has harvested her summer crops and is getting her garden ready for fall and winter planting.
“I mix a nutrient-rich soil into my garden and make mounded rows. This helps with drainage and with keeping the roots warm.”
Planning and organization are big parts of having a successful all-year garden, said Derkatch.
“If you are just starting out and don’t know where your best drainage is or where you’ll get the most winter sun, plant some containers and spend the winter observing and learning,” she added. “The library has a great gardening section, and the Powell River Garden Club is a great resource.”
Container gardening also opens up the world of fall and winter gardening to people in apartments.
“One kale plant in a two-gallon pot will give you lots of practice and keep you focused as you learn more about gardening and how plants grow,” said Derkatch.
Anyone interested in learning more about gardening year-round can visit Mother Nature at 7050 Duncan Street or Springtime Garden Centre at 5300 Yukon Avenue and speak with staff members.