Thursday, November 2, 2017

Principles of Fall and Winter Gardening

Most gardeners focus their attention on the summer season, but you may be missing the best time of the year. Fall gardening is a pleasure:  pests, weeds, and disease are less of a problem so you have fewer chores. Much less water is needed so watering isn't such a chore.

One of my goals has been to produce food year round.  I've been able to preserve food from my garden and eat from it year round but growing year round gives you access to a fresh produce high in antioxidants and vitamins during the winter months. 

Keys to Year Round Gardening

The key is planting cold hardy crops which can be grown for 3 seasons spring, fall, and winter. Basically you are looking at the cool crops of spring including green leaf crops and those in the Brassica family.  The second key is to protect your crops.  Put them undercover.  There is something for every budget to protect plants- row covers, cold frames, hot beds, low tunnels, and green houses. 

Row covers 

Low Tunnels

Persephone Months

Fall and winter gardening requires some insight into what has the most influence on plant growth.  If you guessed day length you are correct.   When there are less than 10 hours of daylight plant growth stops. Seeds planted late in fall may not sprout or will sprout and die.  The diminishing sunlight is a signal to them that they are growing in the wrong season

The Greeks created the myth called Persephone to explain this so year round gardeners call these months, when daylight is less than 10 hours, the Persephone Months. The goal is to have your fall crops 90% mature before the Persephone months.

In New Harmony, the Persephone Months are from November 21- January 21st.

How To Use This Information to Time Planting

 How do I use this information?  Seed packets give us this information. Lacinato variety of kale needs 62 days to mature.  In my area, I need to plant this variety around the month of August which gives the plant 62 days to mature before daylight hours fall below 10 hours. If I put the plant undercover I can continue to harvest from the plant even though growth has slowed. 

Another principle to understand is what you are trying to accomplish by covering your plants.  Soil is warmed by the sun during the day and that warmth can be trapped to protect the plant from the cold nights.  Moist soil will trap more heat.  To trap that heat you are going to place low, spreading covers over your plants.  The covers need to allow sunlight to penetrate to regenerate heat the next day.

These are the basics principles which can help you succeed at extending your harvest. 

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