Your cool-season kitchen garden

A guide to starting vegetables for fall and winter harvest

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Get your garden ready

Dig plenty of compost into your garden soil before planting. Loose, light well-amended soil is easier for roots to penetrate, retains nutrients better, and drains well after winter rains.

Since you're starting tender seedlings during the heat of summer, you'll need to shade them with floating row covers after planting. The row covers not only shield the young plants from the scorching sun but also help keep insects at bay and provide frost protection during the cold months.

Fertilize at planting time, then once every two months. You can use any complete fertilizer, but in our test garden, we used fish emulsion exclusively.

Raised beds give you an edge

By far the fastest and most effective way to start a vegetable garden ― especially if you have poor soil ― is to use raised beds. Filled with light commercial topsoil, raised beds afford excellent drainage and warm up quickly in mild, sunny weather. The loose soil is easily penetrated by roots, making it possible for carrots and radishes to develop perfectly.

You can frame raised beds with lumber or form unframed beds like ours by shaping soil into level, flat-sided mounds about 8 inches high.

Extra crop insurance

If there's room in your garden, try succession planting. Consider the salad crops you use up fastest ― lettuce and radishes, for example ― then plant a dozen seeds of each every two weeks until frost. That way you'll be sure to have enough plants at all stages of maturity to ensure against any losses caused by unseasonable heat or early frost.

 

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