Did I miss the gardening window?
August 24, 2018 11:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving next month to an apartment with a patio suitable for gardening (yay!) However, it looks like I've largely missed the window for winter vegetables. Is there anything I can plant at the beginning of October that will do okay?

I live in Vancouver, BC. Looks like the average frost date is November 2nd, which means I'll have missed the window for your classic winter vegetables by the time I move in. Is there anything I can plant at the beginning of October that might have a chance of success throughout the winter? I could just do an indoor herb garden but, after having lived in a no-light basement suite for two years, I'm pretty eager to use the outdoor space if I can.

I'm pretty new to gardening (I've successfully grown some tomatoes in my past), so any tips, tricks, or resources you could recommend would also be great!
posted by xiasanlan to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are talking about a patio, I am going to assume you mean container gardening. Zones and planting dates vary, but you are correct that November 2nd is a bit late in the season.

Have you considered doing some cold frames? These can provide a bit of warmth if you provide proper sun exposure and the pots aren't too surrounded by cold air. Plants like warm toes.

Best of luck-container gardening can be very rewarding if done properly, so even if you have to have a vegetable-free winter, you will have plenty of time to plan for the spring.
posted by mike_honcho at 12:09 PM on August 24, 2018

Onions! October should be okay for planting onions and shallots, because they don't go in until the soil cools anyhow. Garlic tends to get planted even later, so that's another option. (Possibly this link repeats information you already have, but you may find it handy.)

I'm assuming you're currently in the "no-light basement suite," but if there's even a little light, you could try starting some cabbage seedlings, setting them out as soon as you move in, and just seeing what happens.
posted by halation at 12:12 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Garlic tends to get planted even later, so that's another option.

Can't believe I forgot this one, thanks halation. I planted softneck garlic last November in a grow-bag. We then had a pretty cold winter but I had some good healthy bulbs come spring.
posted by mike_honcho at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

winter herbs like dill do nicely in pots. Leafy greens don't give a crap about months, just that it's not to warm. Spinach-arugula-lettuce-Swiss chard etc all would do nicely. You could do them in a cold frame to protect them from the inevitable snow?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came in to say garlic and onions. We put those in in October, the garden we tend is close to a mountain range and frost can hit by early November, snow by December.
Also, cou can put in carrot seeds, the germinate in winter under the snow and come out in spring. And swiss chard, and also corn salad grows well in winter, sow it in oc
If you use planters however and frost hits from early November you will need to ensure the planters or pots are protected, eg wrap them in bubble wrap and cover the soil with branches of an evergreen needle tree.
posted by 15L06 at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

mâche and kale are a couple good cold weather greens. both will tolerate a considerable amount of below-freezing temps without protection, and mâche has the added bonus of having a fairly quick maturation cycle. everything will be slowed down both from low temps and low light levels but if your plants hunker down and hold on for a few months they'll have a head start when conditions start to improve in early spring. You might also be able to get a cycle of snow peas in as well. They're typically about 2 months from planting to harvest and will tolerate frost.
posted by drlith at 2:48 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yay, looks like there are a lot of options! I'm getting even more excited now, thanks!
posted by xiasanlan at 11:08 PM on August 24, 2018

I buy the veggie starts at the nursery where I work; by October it's just kale and chard...but sometimes you can get large Redbor or Lacinato (dinosaur-type) kale and Bright Lights Swiss chard starts that are edible, but have been grown as ornamentals for use in winter containers - they are totally hardy in our PNW winters, you just have to be ok with them not being organic usually. Don't get these confused with the other ornamental "flowering" cabbages and kales that show up in nurseries in September (these will be colorful and frilly with names like "Coral Queen" and "Pigeon Purple"). If the temps drop way below freezing you could try throwing some sort of floating row cover fabric over your containers to help keep in the heat.

This is a handy chart for winter gardening in the PNW that I get from one of my vendors; also the Territorial Seed winter gardening guide might be helpful. For my customers who want to get serious about their vegetable gardens I recommend the Tilth Alliance's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, it's excellent.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 8:47 AM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Similar to plasticpalacealice's links, West Coast Seeds does charts specifically for coastal BC. They're based in Greater Vancouver, so their info should be as local as you can get.
posted by bethnull at 3:43 PM on August 26, 2018

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