Some of the best crops of the year need the cooler temperatures of fall to perform their best.If you plan on having a fall or winter garden, Joe Lamp’l offers a few tips in this podcast to keep your plants growing strong as they get established and even well into the season.
BHG025-Cool Season Growing Tips for Extending the Season
Now that the summer gardening season is definitely winding down, for many, myself included, it’s bitter sweet. I never get tired of one more homegrown tomato. Yet, some of my favorite crops would never thrive in those same conditions. They need the cooler temperatures of fall to perform their best.If you listened to last week’s podcast, I hope I motivated you to have a fall garden. And if so, allow me to offer a few tips here to keep your plants growing strong as they get established and even well into the season.
In early fall, when the days are still warm, nights can be cool and crisp, with an occasional frost sneaking in unexpectedly. Although most of the plants you’ll be growing this time of year are well equipped to handle such conditions, that assumes that they’ve had a chance to establish in your garden, and acclimate first. And even though the plants you’ll bring home from the garden center may be perfectly healthy, they may not be completely hardened off yet. The term applies to the plants natural response to toughening up to their new environmental conditions.
Many times the plants you buy at the garden center have lived their entire lives in a greenhouse or controlled environment. So the first time they experience colder temperatures are after they’ve come home to live in your garden. So just be mindful of this and offer them some protection on those marginally frosty nights as they become hardier in your garden.
Here’s a few simple things you can do will help your plants easily adjust and thrive through the season.
First, keep an eye on the forecast. It’s your best defense in having time to react to sudden cold snaps. And keep in mind; your microclimate may present some unique conditions. For example, if you live in a low area, or your garden is at the low point of your property, the heavier cold air will sink to there, so that area can easily be a few degrees cooler than higher ground.
For individual plants, you can make mini greenhouses to trap the heat overnight. Commonly known as cloches, you can buy glass versions or make your own for free by cutting out the bottoms of plastic soda bottles or milk jugs and anchor them into the soil by running a stick or stake down trough it. But here’s one very important thing to remember–if you do this and place the cap on the top, be sure to remove it the following morning. So much heat can build up inside, even on the coldest days, you can literally cook your plants. Removing the cap allows enough of that heat to escape. And that idea of venting the enclosed space applies to larger areas as well like with cold frames.
A cold frame is another common way to garden year-round, even under blankets of snow. Think of it as a large insulated box with a clear or translucent top. Old windows or sheets of Plexiglas are commonly used to allow the sunlight in, while a wood frame, or even hay bales make up the side walls to completely enclose your plants as they grow in the soil within.
Another way to offer some winter protection is to use a lightweight fabric, typically made of spun bound nylon. You hear it commonly referred to as floating row covers. It’s called that because the fabric is so light, it can literally lay across the tops of your plants, and gives the appearance of floating. In summer, row covers can provide an effective barrier for pest control. But in winter, they provide an essential layer of protection from season ending frost for some plants. In addition, when the borders are secured all the way around with stones, stakes, or heavy soil, etc, rising heat from the soil is trapped, adding a few extra degrees of protection and can literally be the difference in plants surviving.
One variation to the “floating” method is to use flexible PVC piping arched in a hoop style over your plants. Then you simply secure the fabric over the hoops and around the borders.
So there you go–some but not all of the most common and effective tools of the trade to get your plants through those extra cold nights. This podcast is just one in a series of 26 episodes, all created to help you have a more successful and enjoyable gardening experience, all throughout the year. You can subscribe to the series for free in iTunes, and you can also listen online at Burpeehomegardens.com — which is a great place to go for more ideas and inspiration.
Now go get dirty!