Late Fall Gardening
It’s amazing what a basic (read “scrounged”) cold frame or fleece (agricultural fabric) can do in extending the planting and harvesting season. The simple and inexpensive protection makes a huge difference by giving the plants a few more heat degrees and some wind protection.
This year I have focused on leafy greens – by not entirely of my own volition. Plenty of leafy greens indeed – elsewhere in the open, I have yet more arugula, escarole and mustard. Also landcress and scallions in an other cold frame. Sorrel is still producing outside. I did not even plant any root crops due to vole infestation – so no radishes, turnips, carrots or beets. No peas either (that was ill timing). Still! Pretty good, and such a boon to have truly garden fresh veggies still.
Weather permitting, there should be abundant harvest through early December – and with luck through Christmas. After that… it’ll be sparser, since the low tunnel needs to be rehabilitated (it got … ahem!… overgrow — to use kind words). Mature plants don’t resist the cold as well as seedlings – and the agrofabric (even tripled or quadrupled) can only do so much. Besides, ice or snow can weight it down enough that the plants under are damaged. But I do use a layer of agrofabric, flat on the ground on top of late planted greens. The greens germinate and stay put under the fabric until late February when they start to really grow – giving me several weeks on spring planted seeds.
Every year, I learn more about winter growing – or rather I do a little more. The hardest is to start the seeds early enough – August is ideal, but is hot an dry here, so thorough and frequent watering and even a little shading are necessary — and of course, in August there are still so many summer vegetables things growing that it is almost impossible to find space to start seedlings in situ!
But one day, I’ll be more organized. Like Deirdre Armstrong who operates a small specialty produce farm, Harvest Thyme Herbs Farm in Staunton, VA (and writes a terrific and informative small-grower blog, Farm Use). Or like El of Fast Grow The Weeds: if she can winter-grow and harvest like that in Michigan, (Michigan!), we should be able to do it in Virginia too!
What says you?