Q: How do I get ready for a winter vegetable garden, and what do I grow?
— Amy Breschini, San Luis Obispo
A: While East Coast gardeners hunker down by the fireplace with a stack of seed catalogs to entertain them through the snowy winter, Central Coast gardeners gear up for the next planting session, ready to rip out tired tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes that cheerfully supplied us all summer long.
October is an ideal month to put in the new fall/winter garden that provides us with healthy cool-season green and root vegetables.
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Since many of us have limited space, there is no resting spell for the past season’s garden, and we need to replenish the nutrients before subjecting it to hungry new plants and seeds.
Once the beds are cleared of plant material, including large roots and those weeds that eluded us until now, it is important to revitalize the soil with at least several inches of fresh compost, mixing it in with the exhausted garden medium. An organic fertilizer is a good addition at this time, too. Deeply loosen compacted soil with a tilling tool. This is extremely important for root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, onions and beets that need to push down easily for optimum growth.
Choices abound for cool-season vegetables and herbs. Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, onions, lettuces, Asian greens, garlic, fava beans, peas and cilantro are but a few.
Contact your local Master Gardeners for a complete list and detailed gardening instructions, and get out there. Soon, we will be dining on our own fresh winter produce while our eastern counterparts must content themselves with photos in a catalog.