Enjoy Your Garden into the Fall and Winter Months
While many people enjoy a wonderful garden, the downside for many is that the growing season can come to an abrupt end when the cooler months of fall and winter arrive. With the right planning, however, it is possible to enjoy your favorite outdoor activity even after the cooler weather has set in.
For instance, many varieties of vegetables, including favorites like broccoli, lettuce and cabbage, can be grown well into the winter months, even in cold climates. While other vegetables, such as melons, squash and corn, will need to be started indoors when the weather turns chilly, cold tolerant varieties of vegetables, like spinach, broccoli and lettuce, can be directly sown outdoors, without the need for cumbersome and expensive seed trays and potting soils.
Of course it is still important to prepare those seed beds carefully before the first seed is sown. If you are replacing a summer crop, you may need to add some additional organic material to replace that which has been depleted by the previous crop.
The seeds should be sown according to the directions on the seed packet, and watered appropriately. It is important that the seedlings remain moist until they have germinated and established themselves. Row covers can be a big help during the winter months, but keep in mind that keeping the plants a bit cooler during the day will help to deter insects. Mulching is another important part of growing a successful fall and winter garden. Mulch will help to preserve moisture and keep the seeds warm while they are growing.
Determining the best time to sow those late season seeds is an easy matter of finding the maturity date on the seed packet and backtracking the required number of days. For instance, if the expected date of first frost is October 31, and the crop you are planting takes 45-60 days to mature, you would simply count back 60 days and plant accordingly. It is a good idea to use successive plantings to ensure that something will always be ready for harvest.
It is important to choose your fall and winter crops carefully, and to choose frost tolerant varieties to work with. Some of the most frost tolerant vegetables for the home garden include Brussels sprouts, beets, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, collars, chard, kale, garlic, mustard greens, onions, parsley, turnip and spinach.
Of course the world of gardening is full of surprises, and even the hardiest plants may sometimes need protection when a particularly cold night is forecast. If the weatherman indicates a frosty night is on the way, it is important to protect the plants with a light covering, such as a bed sheet, some newspaper, plastic sheeting or even a sheet of bubble wrap. The key is to cover the plants to provide them with some protection from the impending cold. The cover should of course be removed in the morning so that the plants can get the sunlight and air circulation they need to thrive.
A quick and inexpensive way to provide quick protection to your plants is to simply use a milk jug with the bottom cut out. When using this quick and easy plant cover, be sure to push the edges of the jug into the soil a bit so that cold air cannot get through.
For a quick, easy and almost free mini greenhouse, you can take a few discarded window panes and drape a plastic tarp or bed sheet over them to keep plants protected. This overnight covering can then be quickly removed in the morning when the temperature has warmed. It is a good idea to place a small thermometer in the interior of your “greenhouse” to tell when to remove the covering. This simple plant protection requires virtually no time to take up and put down, and you certainly can’t beat the price.