Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fall Planting – Fall Crops & Winter Storage

Fall Planting – Fall Crops & Winter Storage

Sadly, too many of us are tired of our gardens by fall, often because weeds have taken over, or because we planted the wrong things and we can’t even get rid of them.

I suggest we take another look at it, because gardening in the fall can be very productive, and will give you fresh vegetables well into the winter, if they are grown and stored properly.

Much of a good fall garden should be carried over from the summer garden. Squashes, while requiring warm weather to grow, can be stored for months, as can potatoes. Eggplant, okra, peppers, and tomatoes will produce right up until frost kills them if you will continue feeding them. And tomatoes can be brought into the garage or basement while still green, to extend the harvest another month (unless you cover them with a portable greenhouse as I show in the Photos section of the MittleiderMethod Yahoo Groups site).

Vegetables that can survive a light frost, if provided some protection, do best for growing in the cooler fall weather, and include the cabbage family, leafy greens, and root crops. And some of these actually have their flavor improved by a touch or two of light frost! The greens can also tolerate less direct sun, so the shorter days are less of a problem than for fruit producing crops.

Choose from the following, which can be seeded as late as September in some locations: Beets, carrots, chard, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

The larger crops including broccoli (Waltham), Brussels sprouts (Jade Cross), cabbage (Danish Ball head), and cauliflower (Snow Crown) should be transplanted in August for fall harvesting in the temperate climates.

Many of the fall crops can be stored through the winter with little loss of taste or nutritional value, if you store them in moist sawdust at temperatures around 40 degrees f.

Here’s a good chart showing fall planting times for vegetables, depending on when your average first fall frost date is – by the Yankee Gardener website:

Seeding crops when the ground and the weather are still warm, as in August and early September, is often easier than spring planting, because the plants germinate and grow quickly in the warm conditions. In addition, most of the cool-weather crops are more flavorful when harvested in the cooler weather of late September, October, and November.

Many of us could learn from our friends in the Southern United States about the benefits of eating more greens. Nutritionally you probably can’t beat them. They are high in vitamin A, K, folic acid, dietary fiver, antioxidants, carotenoid, riboflavin, and iron.

Spinach is common everywhere, and some of us enjoy red beets and their tops, but how many eat Swiss chard, which can be harvested all year? Or turnip tops – which are also tasty and nutritious! And I recommend the Southern greens, such as collards, kale, and mustards, which are different still, and will add variety to your diet.

Don’t give up your gardening yet, folks! Now’s a great time to put the finishing touches on a great gardening year, and provide your family with fresh vegetables through the winter.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Grow you garden later in the Fall

Extending your growing season

Today I want to assist many of you who are wondering how to extend your growing season for a few more weeks. For some it may be too late, as in Eagle Mountain, where it was 27 degrees one night this month, but most of the lower elevations are still frost-free as I’m writing this column.

How can you deal with the special challenges of living in these mountain valleys? Several difficult weather conditions make successful vegetable gardening an "iffy" proposition, unless you learn how to protect your plants against them. Let’s discuss what they are, and how you can successfully mitigate their negative effects.

First off, we have late spring frosts, which keep us from getting started in our gardens – often until mid or late May. Second, many of us have strong winds throughout the growing season that buffet our plants and dry everything out. Third, living in a desert we always face the scarcity and cost of water. And finally, we often have early crop-killing frosts, followed by several weeks of mild weather that could support continued growth and harvesting.

So how do you handle the shorter growing season with unseasonable frosts, the constant drying winds, and the lack of water? Let’s deal with the wind first, since the solution to that also helps reduce the other problems. To protect your garden’s tender plants, build solid fences or plant trees and shrubs between your garden and the prevailing winds - but put them far enough away that you do not shade your garden! Always remember that growing vegetables need direct sunshine all day long. This means that you also want to place your shade trees so as to leave the garden in full sun.

Some of you grow in small containers, or raised boxes. When these are subjected to hot winds they are difficult to keep cool and moist. Consider either larger Grow-Boxes - we recommend 4' wide and up to 30' in length - or growing in the regular soil. Many will remember that Thanksgiving Point’s fabulous vegetable gardens were grown in some of the worst clay soil we’ve seen anywhere, and Dr. Mittleider promises "a great garden in any soil, in almost any climate."

Next is watering. You will save ½ or more on your water usage by following these procedures. And it’s amazing how much heat and wind plants can handle if they are properly fed and watered. First, make certain your Grow-Boxes or raised Soil-Beds are accurately leveled, and that Soil-Beds have a 4" ridge around them. Then apply 1" of water right at the soil surface (not by sprinkling!) before your soil becomes the least bit dry – even every day in the heat of summer if needed. This will place the precious water right at the plant roots, and waste none. Finally, automating your watering using ¾" PVC pipes, with 3 tiny #57 holes every 4", will make watering fast, easy, and efficient.

Extending your growing season is accomplished in two ways. Next February and March I’ll show you the first, which is how to grow healthy seedlings in a protected environment and transplant them into the garden after the danger of frost is past. The second thing you can do, even right now if frost hasn’t already killed your garden, is to make "Mini-Greenhouses" for covering your plants. By themselves they are good, but with a small heat source they can extend your growing season in both Spring and Fall by 4-6 weeks. PVC pipe, bent as shown in the picture to fit your bed or box, and covered with 4 or 6 mil greenhouse plastic, provides some protection against frost at night, and will warm the plants on cold days. Cover the edges with dirt all around when frost threatens, and open up when it gets warm. More details are at in the Gardening Techniques and FAQ sections.

Labels: , , ,