FALL VEGETABLE GARDENING ADVICE
opens you to growing (and eating!) more varieties over a longer
period of time. Here are some tips for planning your
A full sun location
maximizes the available solar energy. The shorter days of spring
and fall provide less daylight for plants to photosynthesize.
Add two weeks to seed packets' recommended days to maturity for
the slower growth that occurs during shorter days.
One night of less than 32
degrees usually ends all but the hardiest garden crops. In an
emergency, cover plants overnight with sheets, blankets
or cardboard boxes.
Locate your garden near a
windbreak like a fence or hedge to reduce potentially
damaging wind. Combined with cooler temperatures, wind
accelerates drying and shortens the growing season.
Boost soil temperatures
to improve seed germination and help crops grow longer into the
fall. Use mulch to moderate soil temperature and to shield your
plants from low temperatures. Black plastic or garden fabric can
increase soil temperatures and retain heat.
Choose plant varieties
that will match your early or late season production goals. For
example, some varieties of broccoli thrive in cold spring soils
but go to seed quickly once warm weather arrives. Other
varieties tolerate mid-summer heat, and still others thrive in
the low light conditions and cold temperatures of late fall.
Sow seeds every few weeks
for a continuous harvest. You will enjoy more vegetables
at the peak of their maturity as well as free up garden space as
older crops decline.
If you cover crops such as peas, strawberries, beans and squash
that require pollination to produce a harvest, remove or
temporarily lift fabric from the beds during the day to allow
bees to do their work. Self-pollinating plants, such as
tomatoes, can be left covered during cooler temperatures.
Consider how long you want
to stretch the season and the amount of time and resources you
are willing to invest. If you want to extend your harvest season
year-round, you will likely need a greenhouse and should be
ready to provide daily attention. On the other hand, if you just
want a few extra weeks of ripe tomatoes in the fall and more
salad greens in the spring and fall, using garden fabric is easy
and inexpensive. Some common ways to prepare for extending the
growing season include:
An inexpensive and easy first step in season extending, garden
fabric provides an excellent protection from cooler
temperatures, frost, wind and insects. Made of spun polyester or
polypropylene, garden fabric is sun-, air- and water-permeable.
It is available in a variety of thicknesses capable of
protecting plants down to 25 degrees. Drape the fabric right
over garden plants or use wire hoops to support it. Secure the
edges of the fabric with garden stakes or soil. Don't forget to
check the plants under the fabric at least weekly for water and
weed control. Garden fabric should last for many years. When not
in use, fold and store away from light and moisture.
Enclosures with a clear top, cold frames capture sunlight to
create a warm microclimate to allow plants to be started earlier
in the spring and survive longer into the fall and winter. Cold
frame kits are readily available and can be assembled quickly
with basic tools. Handy gardeners can design and build their own
cold frame, often from used materials. A cold frame starts with
an enclosure large enough for your mature plants topped with a
clear sash made from an old window, plastic or fiberglass. The
sash must open for ventilation and close tightly to retain heat.
Daily monitoring or automatic control is required to adjust
ventilation. Plants can be quickly damaged from too much heat on
Frost on tender Beech
leaves in late Spring
Both hobbyists and farmers are increasingly using solar tunnels
as affordable and highly effective structures to extend the
gardening season. A tunnel is constructed of a frame (typically
metal pipes bent into arced hoops) covered with clear plastic
sheeting specifically designed for gardening. During the day,
solar energy is collected through the clear covering and
retained within the structure throughout the night. Daily
monitoring is required. Ventilation is critical as too much heat
can be generated on sunny days, damaging cool-season plants.
Achieving four-season gardening will likely require a greenhouse
that can provide extra insulation against very cold temperatures
and stand up to heavy snow loads common here. When choosing a
greenhouse, try to visit as many as possible in order to clarify
your own greenhouse vision. Considering the options and making
your plans is an exciting process.
is a satisfying reward for gardeners who want to produce
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