Purple sprouting broccoli plants

Purple sprouting broccoli is easy to grow and so very cold hardy. Plant young plant starts now and they will slowly develop over the winter. In March and April, they produce exquisitely sweet, tender baby broccoli sprouts. There are green and purple types – the purple ones are almost too beautiful to eat.

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Sure, some very organized vegetable gardeners have all their cabbages in a row and are merrily planning their winter dinners based on their clever succession of plantings. Okay, so I’m kind of talking about myself here. I knew I was going to write about it so I got moving early this year – in mid-July, to be precise. But if you have been busy enjoying your summer bounty and haven’t yet thought about your fall through spring harvest, don’t give up: there’s still time to plant quite a few excellent vegetables. (This is assuming you have a garden ready to receive these plants. If you don’t, check out this article on starting a new garden bed from scratch.)

Yesterday I spoke with a woman named Jolie Grindstaff who works at the Portland Nursery. (I enjoy chatting up the staff there – probably driving them crazy in the process.) Jolie writes a kitchen gardening blog. I asked her what vegetables she is still planting in early September. Here’s what she suggested. (Note: the commentary is mine and I made a few additional plant suggestions, too.)

For fall harvest:

From seed: radish, greens like mustard, and baby greens including mustard, kale, spinach, lettuce, cress, arugula, mache and mesclun salad mixes.

From starts only: Kale, Swiss chard, cold-hardy lettuces like Arctic Tundra or Winter Density, and all previously mentioned mesclun greens. Also, quick-ripening green peas like snow peas.

For winter harvest:

From starts only (through mid-late Sept): leafy greens including mustards, kale, broccoli raab (you harvest the tasty greens), and some fast-growing cabbages, if the plants are strong and healthy. Even more cold-hardy winter lettuce varieties can perish in really cold weather so consider covering your crop with frost cloth or little hoop houses during prolonged cold snaps – or harvest as mesclun greens before a freeze – for details, read this.

For spring harvest:

From seed: Mache, edible fava beans (Windsor, Aprovecho varieties)

From starts only: Overwintering carrots like Merida, overwintering sprouting broccoli, cold-hardy/overwintering cabbage, cauliflower and kale.

One of our best regional sources for cold-hardy, overwintering vegetable varieties is Territorial Seed Company. They clearly indicate which varieties are intended for overwintering.

Finally, I would add that it’s still too early to plant garlic cloves and shallot bulbs – they are best planted in mid- to late October or earliest November. As this is the season when we feel summer slipping regrettably through our fingers, it’s reassuring to know it’s still too early to do something in the garden!