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.

Square beds house hardy veggies at various stages of growth with the help of agrofabric


Arugula, cutting celery (parcel), lettuce (lots of lollo rossa), dill and an underveloped holly savoy cabbage


Leeks. As they are harvested, I plant/transplant violas (edible), mustard and lettuce. I also just threw some mache seeds in there.

Baby spinach, cilantro, scallions, more dill and several types of escarole
Late planted Swiss chard in a cold frame. Also cilantro and mache seedlings

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?

3 thoughts on “Late Fall Gardening”

  • Absolutely we can do it in Virginia. I use purchased greenhouses, but more handy folks can build sturdy cold frames/hoop houses. The winter protection challenge is far outweighed by the challenge of getting the seeds planted in summer with so much going on in the garden plus vacations, etc. I supplement what I cannot get planted with purchased seedlings, but one day I’ll get organized. Greens are definitely the easiest. I really can’t believe more gardeners aren’t winter gardening–the diseases and pests are much fewer. The rewards can be greater since you can’t get as much fresh local produce in winter. What is not harvested in winter gives a head start in spring–this is the only redeeming part of cold weather for me! You might also like to check out

  • val – yes, no gnats nor mosquitoes. Hardly any plant-eating bugs! no sweating in the sweltering heat – lots to say got winter gardening.

  • Sylvie,

    Your fall greens look beautiful! I’m impressed with that late Swiss chard- bugs and bunnies got ours this year.

    Thanks for the shout- out, but we’re still learning. Planted our fall root crops way too late- now hoping for baby turnips and radishes before the ground freezes solid (with the help of those wonderful row covers.) But our mache is gorgeous, thanks to your seed- sowing tip many years ago!

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