No sooner do I get the summer garden in each year than the mail brings the winter catalog from Territorial Seed Co. While it may seem like a stretch to begin thinking about another round of planting so soon, this may be the answer for the painful withdrawal that afflicts die-hard vegetable gardeners at the end of every summer.
If you plan it right, you can indeed grow a second garden before the dead of winter descends. The catch is that you have to start scheming now, even though you're busy tending the garden you already have. If you wait until August, it will be too late.
To my knowledge, Territorial (www.territorialseed.com) is the only source for a collection of seeds specifically chosen for late-summer and fall planting. You won't find the appropriate selection in retail outlets, now or later this summer, and Territorial bills itself as the only mail-order vendor with a winter catalog.
Although northeast Kansas technically is in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Zone 5, we're on the border of Zone 6. During most winters the weather treats us like we're in Zone 6, which has an average yearly low temperature of minus 10 to zero degrees.
A fall and winter garden is basically the same as an early-spring garden, which consists of greens, root vegetables, cole crops and peas. The difference is that an early-spring garden is planted when the temperatures are cool and matures in warmer weather. The fall and winter garden reverses that timetable.
That's why you need to plant varieties that are heat-tolerant in the early stages of growth. For example, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce a spring lettuce that develops a strong, bitter flavor in hot weather would not be an appropriate choice for planting in August.
Certainly, the late summer and early fall heat will be an issue for some vegetables, as will the wind chills that usually start registering in the weather reports in November. Shade cloth or a garden spot that offers dappled shade in the afternoon can mitigate the heat problem, and a protective cold frame structure or a spot sheltered from the wind can keep the garden going well past the first killing frost in late October.
Territorial recommends starting broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower indoors or in a lighted place sheltered from heat and transplanting them into the garden in August and September. Direct-seeding of beets, kohlrabi, kale, endive, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, spinach and turnips should happen in June and July, while salad greens should be seeded in early August.
In this climate you'll have to let most of the garden go by Thanksgiving. Even with a cold frame and carefully chosen seed, you'll lose even the hardiest above-ground vegetables. However, some root vegetables and onions can overwinter. I recall preparing a holiday dinner about five years ago with vegetables that I had dug out of the garden on Christmas Eve.
The ground doesn't freeze hard here and anything that grows below ground is generally safe from cold. As an added bonus, the bugs that bother root crops tend to disappear when the temperature drops.
Territorial's winter catalog also has the most comprehensive selection of garlic that I've seen from any single supplier.
Orders placed now will ship in late September. The cloves should be planted by mid-October at the latest so they sprout before the winter cold sets in.
Garlic should overwinter for harvest in July. Some companies sell planting garlic for spring sowing, but they aren't doing you a favor. Garlic that hasn't spent a winter underground won't produce large, flavorful heads.
In my experience, gardeners who complain that they can't grow garlic either have tried growing it within a single season, or they have tried to plant garlic from the grocery store that often is sprayed with a growth inhibitor to keep it from sprouting in the produce bin.
When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.