September 12, 2010

How to Extend Your Gardening Season to Enjoy Fall Vegetables

As any gardener knows spring and summer are an important time for producing crops. Most at home crop growers plant their crop in early to mid spring and expect bountiful vegetables in the summer. Among those most will admit that they plant their vegetables in the spring and once they arrive for harvesting forget about the garden entirely. The problem is many people are unaware that there are crops that actually taste better when harvested in the fall and ones that thrive better in the weeks of early frost and cold. Nevertheless, you could be missing out on some of the tastiest vegetables you have ever grown. So, by maintaining your garden through the summer and fall and making the right choices in plants you can enjoy succulent vegetables well into fall and winter.

In terms of fall and winter vegetables there are many that are easy to grow at home. Some of the most common are leeks, pumpkins, certain types of lettuce, butternut squash, turnips, broccoli and spinach. Most of these can be planted in mid-summer once you start harvesting your other vegetables. Early in the summer you should think about what to plant for arrival in the fall. Leeks are one crop that actually survive the frost and thrive in cold weather. The problem is they should actually be planted early on in the year but harvested in the cold months such as late October or November. This means you would have to maintain this crop throughout the spring and summer months as well. They can be planted outside as soon as the soil is dry enough. Butternut squash is another that will keep well with frost and can be harvested in the cold. They are actually sweeter when picked in the cooler temperatures. Just be sure to harvest them before the ground gets frozen solid.

Regarding the maintenance of these crops throughout the summer and into the colder months one of the best things you can do is to actually plant them indoors, or within a potting or garden shed to let them become seedlings. Place them in the ground once they are a couple inches tall and can withstand the elements. In order to avoid drying out during the summer months it is best to cover your crops in straw or even hay. This will help retain moisture in the soil as much as possible. Once the frost arrives you should keep a close eye on your plants. Some of the plants survive well in frost just as long as the ground doesn’t get frozen solid. Depending on the plant some of them may prefer to be covered with cold frames or tents to avoid the cold shock. You can use an old window frame on legs with a transparent sheet or simply drape transparent sheets over your plants. Make sure it is transparent enough to allow sunlight as this will create a greenhouse effect and keep temperatures warmer underneath.

It may be clear now that vegetables from a home garden can be enjoyed throughout the year. Nevertheless, the only way to achieve this is to maintain your garden throughout the late summer and fall months and carefully choose plants that survive well into the colder months of the fall and winter. As mentioned before plants such as leeks and butternut squash are at their best when harvested in the colder months. Butternut squash is an easy plant to care for in the fall time and only requires harvesting once the frost starts to arrive. Leeks on the other hand can withstand much of the cold of fall and winter but require much longer growing times than other vegetables. Yet, with careful decision making and maintenance of plants in late summer and fall you can almost certainly enjoy these vegetables fresh from your garden even when it’s cold outside.

This is a guest post by Robin Hay - an editor/writer working on behalf of tiger sheds. Over the last 12 months he has written numberous articles relating to gardening matters which aim to educate newcomers to the garden environment. View more at  Tiger Sheds


Kathryn/ said...

Hi, Ewa, Nice guest post. I'm glad to read this as this year I delayed planting kuri squash, and I've not been certain it I waited too long or not. The flowers are appearing and we have several weeks of sun yet, so I'm hoping they will fully mature, say, by Halloween! Thanks for the encouragement! And I LOVE that first photo! Wow.

Robin Hay said...

Hi There,

Glad you like the post - it is essential that you carry on harvesting through fall months, the hard work will certainly pay off!