Did you ever wish that the garden harvest could keep on going? Ever wonder how to incorporate season extension into your yearly garden routine? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you know that I’m crazy about wintering over salad greens. We are still harvesting kale that I sowed last year at this time. Seeds have germinated for this winters greens. It’s the rhythm of the seasons around here for us. I know that many are just ready to pack it in, especially after such a dry season. Let’s get organized and rethink how we can extend that garden harvest.
I often find myself not wanting my readers to be overwhelmed by me constantly talking about winter gardening. Recently, I was listening to an interview with Monty Don, British gardening expert, about this subject. The journalist who was interviewing him was a Swedish gardener named Sara Backmo, who personally grows much of her family’s food, including greens through the winter. She wanted to find out how important season extension was to Monty. I think she was satisfied with the impressive information he relayed to her. As I listened, I felt really good about my efforts with greens but not so great with the other winter hearty veggies. I do realize that I can’t take it all on and local growers do have a lot to offer when it comes to seasonal produce.
I’ve published countless articles on the topic by now but many readers are still learning the ropes of four season gardening. In my post Plant Now For An Extended Harvest, I outline what to plant right now to ensure a continuous harvest. All it takes is a few types of leftover seeds to make a winter salad garden happen.
Pick a space in your garden that is currently not in use. Maybe where your garlic was growing or where you’ve ripped out your green beans. Select some cold hardy greens such as spinach, kale or cold loving lettuces. This is the perfect time to get your greens established before the snow flies. Think about all of the warm autumn day for growing we have ahead of us.
Plan Your Covering
Whether you plan on purchasing a greenhouse kit or coming up with your own structure, now is the time to figure out what you will do to extend your garden season. We use a 12×20 gambrel style greenhouse with raised beds and we build a mini greenhouse over an outside garden bed each fall. Both have their advantages and both work really well. There are countless plans out there so just look around online for one that suits you.
The smaller greenhouse that we construct has a wooden frame and is covered with plastic for the winter. Access to it is not always easy but it protects the greens very well. As long as you have the plastic secured at the base everything will be fine.
A simple cold frame can be a small start in season extension for the beginner. Usually built from wood with an old window or glass door on top. This method gives the garden protection while allowing sunlight in. If the glass is setup with a hinge, it’s so easy to vent the box on hot fall days. You can even make a temporary cold frame with 4 bales of hay. Just make a box out of the hay around the garden and lay the window on top. Instant season extension protection! Here is an example of a basic cold frame made from wood.
The second layer is also the key to extending the harvest. Eliot Coleman started out by building cold frames inside a big greenhouse. He found this to be costly so he started working with floating row cover under a simple plastic covered hoop. The results were more than unbelievable. Just using the row cover for fall and spring frost protection can be a real benefit. There are many ideas out there so just find a few that will work for your garden!
Preserve What You Have
Do you have root vegetables like carrots and parsnips in the ground? Why not leave some under a protective layer of insulation? Construct a make-shift cold frame over the garden bed. Or cover the crops with a thick layer of hay. It can be as easy as that. The crops will be cold but probably not freezing. This will allow you to harvest the vegetables throughout the winter months if it’s accessible.
Four season growing need not be elaborate or complicated. If you have one successful season of it you may be hooked. Feel free to browse other articles under the category of ‘season extension’ in my archives. During these warm late summer days I have been out planting when I get a few minutes here and there. Planting those seeds makes me think of the salads we will enjoy during the coming fall, winter and spring!
Our tomatoes are really starting to ripen over the last week or so. Pretty soon, I’ll have to decide how I will be using them. For the moment, the smaller cherry and grape varieties have been in every salad or they just get popped into my mouth as I walk by. Larger tomatoes get stuffed into grilled cheese sandwiches or just sliced with salt and pepper. Yum! I’m glad I grew out of my childhood hate of tomatoes. I can’t tell you how many years that I just ate bacon and lettuce sandwiches, not even with mayonnaise! On that note, get planning what you can harvest through the winter with season extension! Thanks for sticking around and don’t forget to subscribe for more seasonal info!