As the season winds down, gardeners will do anything to stretch their time outside. While that may mean working in limited light and dealing with slower growth, the season is not over yet.
When protected from the elements, cold-tolerant lettuces, kale and other fall vegetables will keep in the garden for weeks or months as fall turns to winter.
Keep Your Garden Going with These Season-Stretching Tips:
1. Create a garden tunnel with a row cover to extend the season for turnips, radishes, bok choy and other Asian greens. Nighttime temperatures stay a few degrees warmer under row cover tunnels, which also protect plants from wind and predators.
2. Cover plantings of root vegetables such as carrots or parsnips with black plastic bags stuffed with leaves. This will keep the bed warm until you’re ready to harvest.
3. Choose collard and kale plants to nurture through winter, and surround them with wire cages wrapped in a row cover or another garden fabric. Small tomato cages installed around plants and then covered with sheer curtains work well for this, and ensure the plants’ survival through the worst winter weather.
4. Water plantings regularly to help hardy vegetables survive the first cold snaps. Moist soil retains warmth better than dry soil.
5. Use a cold frame to protect low-growing lettuce and spinach when hard freezes become frequent. The same cold frame you use in spring to harden off seedlings can be used to protect these and other hardy vegetables from cold, ice and deer all winter long.
6. Store cabbage and Brussels sprouts in a cool basement or outbuilding with their roots still intact. Dig several plants and place them in a bucket or tub. Cover the roots with loose soil or mulch. Move to a protected, unheated space like a garage or unheated basement, and keep the roots lightly moist. You can harvest heads as needed for more than a month.
Tip: Cold weather often brings increased problems with hungry deer, but deer will not eat what they cannot see. The same translucent garden fabrics used to insulate plants from cold will protect them from deer, too.