Maybe it is because we have just exited an intense drought and it has been raising, but I have started working on my fall garden and have been thinking about what I can do to extend the crops that survived the 100-plus degree heat.
Last week my post was about the vegetables that I am going to be planting during the next couple of weeks. Here’s a link to that post. My focus on this blog this week, however, is to demonstrate ways that we can extend the harvest past the first frost in the fall.
Extending your garden beyond the normal autumn season is much like extending beyond the normal spring season except that you’re protecting bigger plants.
That’s right, ways do exist to extend vegetables like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers beyond the first autumn frost with the use of a season extender.
Many of the early season frosts can be made harmless to a plant simply by using a simple season extender. Often an early season frost would come and then warm weather would come and if the crop is not protected it will freeze and vines and fruits can be damaged. By using one of these season extenders even just one night, frost damage can be put off up to an entire month in which the plants can continue to grow and fruits can continue to mature.
A season extender can be used to trap heat from the sun to keep your plants and soil warmer as the temperatures outside dip down. It also protects your crops from the wind and snow, creating to a micro-climate in your garden.
The first way that I learned to extend the harvest beyond the first frosts of the autumn season was to throw old bed sheets over plants like squash and cucumbers to keep the plants from an overnight frost. This was very effective for this type of plant with early frosts. These do need to be removed every morning, however.
Another way to extend a harvest is to erect cold frames around plants that are growing. A simple cold frame can be erected by setting square hay bales around a group of plants and then putting old windows in frames over the bales or even covering them with sheets of plastic. Remove the plastic or window frames if the weather becomes warm and sunny or you’ll cook your plants.
Floating Row Covers
Purchased floating row covers do well for protecting long rows of vegetables from frost and these don’t have to be removed every day. These hold in the heat, create ventilation and allow rain to percolate down to the plants. To keep floating row covers from blowing away, be sure to anchor the edges of the row cover with rocks, sandbags, or bricks.
The ultimate season extender is a greenhouse. Although this doesn’t do much for extending the season of plants that are already in the ground, you can plant a late crop of those same crops in the greenhouse to last you well into the winter months. If you heat the greenhouse, it can last even longer! However, greenhouses are expensive.
A high tunnel is a greenhouse-like structure that you could put over an existing bed to extend your harvest longer into the winter months and are much less expensive. An easy high tunnel to build is made of cattle panels, supports, and sheets of plastic. They are fairly easy to build, and directions are available in many sources.
Another alternative is a low tunnel it is a cross between floating row covers and the high tunnel and can be used in conjunction with a high tunnel for additional season extension.
If you only have one or two plants that you want to protect and that plant isn’t too tall like a pepper plant, you can build a simple cloche using a large tomato cage and plastic. Put the large tomato cage around the pepper plant and cover the cage with plastic. Remove plastic if the weather turns sunny and warm.
So what do you use or plan to use to extend your garden into the fall months? Please share in the comments below
To read more of Ten Powerful Ways to Save Money this Fall on my other blog How My Spirit Sings https://wordpress.com/post/authorcygnetbrown.com/3862