Fall Gardening Options – Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Zucchini might start showing up in people’s mailboxes as gardens in western Montana enter harvest season. Even though this is the most profitable time of year for gardeners, it is possible to lengthen the fall harvest season.
“Like most home-grown fresh vegetable lovers, I never wanted the garden to end,” said Eliot Coleman, market gardener, teacher and author of “Four Season Harvest.” “That’s not to say I longed for an endless summer; I love the pleasures of fall, winter and spring. I just wanted freshly harvested food all year round on the table. “
By planting cold hardy crops from time to time, adding a cold frame of hoops and row covers when temperatures drop near freezing, crops can be protected and continue to grow. Adding a plastic cover over the row cover further protects the plants. Crops that can tolerate cooler temperatures include kale, Swiss chard, carrots, bok choy, arugula, some lettuces, parsley, and cilantro. Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can tolerate cooler temperatures, but do not grow very well from direct seeding in warm temperatures.
Johnson’s Homegrown owner Chuad Johnson said they plant spinach, bok choy, mixed salad, arugula and cilantro in their greenhouses in late August or early September when the weather shows signs of cooling. Growing from transplants, instead of seeds, worked better for them, due to the scale of their business, Johnson said.
In my experience, flea beetles are attracted to the tender growth of freshly planted vegetables. Using a mosquito net and a light blanket gives the plants some shade and protection from insects.
Planet Natural author Eric Vinje said: “It’s all about what you grow. Not only does a plant have to survive cold temperatures, it has to survive low light.”
Vinje said kale, spinach, arugula, bok choy and all root vegetables will survive and have viable greens in overnight temperatures of 20 degrees with protection. But they will still work well if the conditions are not extreme and they are well insulated.
Garden hoops can be made with smooth rebar, one-inch PVC pipe, or electrical conduit pipe. Folding it neatly on a wheel to form a hoop shape that fits over a garden row. A ten foot pipe hoop fits over a three foot row using a seven foot wide row cover.
“No matter how involved you get into winter harvesting, you’ll experience some of the best food and easiest gardening you’ve ever experienced,” Coleman said. “Remember that winter work is mainly harvesting.”