Four Season Garden Explained

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje
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January is the time of dreaming and planning for your spring garden.  All the seed companies begin sending out their catalogs for seeds and plants this month.   It is an exciting time for browsing the magazines and making the garden plan for the upcoming year!

As you are planning for the upcoming garden season, think beyond just spring and summer vegetables.  Fall and winter are also available to extend fresh produce.  French and Italian gardeners have been using all four seasons for generations in their kitchen (potager) gardens.

Four Season Garden Explained Simply

You hear people talk about a four season garden.  This just means growing a garden that you can harvest from in all four season-spring, summer, fall and winter. 

Crops fall into 2 categories-cold season crops and warm season crops.  Cold season crops are those that prefer when temperatures are cool.  When warm temperatures hit (80’s), the cold crops “bolt” which is simply sending up a flower stalk to make seeds.

Warm season crops are those that abhor frost or getting their feet chilly.  Most of the warm season crops are killed by frost and won’t grow until the soil is nice and warm.  

As you can guess, cold season crops are grown in the spring and fall.  The really cold (and freeze) hardy ones are also grown in the winter garden.  Warm season crops are put out after all danger of frost is passed and the soil has warmed. 

Cold crops: arugula, broccoli, cabbage, celery, fennel, leek, lettuce, marjoram, onions, parsley, peas, summer savory, sorrel, spinach.

Warm season crops: basil, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and beans.

So, when you go to plant in the spring, you will start with the cold season crops.  Once the danger of frost has passed, you can then add in your warm season crops.

At the height of summer, believe it or not, is when you should start sowing seeds for the fall and winter seasons.  You need to get your fall and winter veggies to full size by the first freeze.  With the shorter days, growth slows significantly between the end of November to the end of January in our Zone 6.

Many crops like spinach, kale, carrots, onions, thyme, sorrel, oregano, chives can be harvested all winter with just straw covering.  You can expand your selection to broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and chard among others by putting a hoop cover over your crops or using a mini greenhouse.