Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

A Winter Vegetable Garden

by Robert Smaus

In the coastal West, a winter vegetable garden is not only possible, but ridiculously easy. Yet, in the community garden I belong to, many plots go unplanted during the winter, as if they were soon to be covered with a blanket of snow. What a missed opportunity! Compared to the summer garden, with its vast armies of insects and inevitable diseases and the constant watering and weeding, a winter vegetable garden is a snap.

In winter there are virtually no pests and no diseases. After a summer spent battling wilts and viruses, mildew and rust, the winter garden is like a vacation. Lean back in your chair and sip tea while you watch the rains water the garden. You don't need to fertilize winter vegetables as they grow, and because none of them get very big, they take up less space. Winter weeds are wimps, so you can weed with a hoe instead of a spade.

The only problem you'll encounter is lack of light as the days grow shorter and working in the garden becomes nearly impossible except on weekends. But by then there is little to do anyway. In summer, I have to get to the community garden every few days to water and weed. In winter, the garden can care for itself for weeks. Even if it doesn't rain (a distinct possibility in California), the sun is so low and mellow that the soil stays moist for days, even weeks, after a watering.

So, at the end of summer, when the last sickly tomato calls it quits, don't pack those tomato cages away -- plant peas at their bases. Cauliflower and broccoli should follow closely on the heels of corn and squash, and carrots and beets should be lined up like Christmas trees on a lot, interplanted with rows of crisp spinach and lettuce.

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