“What-If?” Presents Fall Planting & Cold Frame Gardening

“What-if?” the worrisome words, arrive in the conscious topics spinning in our mind, from safety and financial security to loved ones and pet health.  Asking, “What can I do?” leads to a proactive decision to invest time in the ultimate insurance policy—valuable life skills comprising security, shelter, food, water, and medical care! In any emergency, from extreme weather to a personal disaster, you have the power to take charge of your fate by making plans and taking action!  

Gardeners tend to focus all their efforts on a prosperous harvest between April and July.  Since August and September are still hot, it’s not a time to give up.  With shorter days of sunlight approaching and the disappearance of pesky insects, the change of weather brings a new desire to grow a wide range of hearty vegetables, ideal for soups and other comforting recipes, whether stored in crates, canned, or frozen.  Just imagine having on hand homegrown goodness for the upcoming season of festivities, holidays, and chilling winter forecasts!  

Choosing the Right Location

Take a walk around your garden and decide the best location to begin improving the soil. Do not disturb vines, vegetable plants, or herbs thriving or continuing to produce; instead, think about the spaces needing a rejuvenation of the soil.  Fortunately, restoring the nutrients to areas that bore a successful crop does not have to be a chore or expensive.   Add compostable items, such as tea leaves, coffee grounds, and crushed eggshells, to boost the soil’s nutrient levels.   Turning, raking, or tilling will help mix the earth.  Additionally, consider an organic material, such as straw, grass clippings, leaves, or aged manure to improve drainage. 

Use a Calendar for Guidance

Fall gardening is a race against the first freeze.  According to the Almanac, the first frost in the Piedmont Triad will arrive on November 3rd.   A light freeze, ranging from 29 to 32 degrees, will kill tender plants.  The solution is to cover crops with an old sheet, which at least will offer some protection.  Temperatures 28 degrees and lower can wreak heavy damage and vast destruction to a garden; therefore, it’s vital to check nighttime temperatures to ensure you do not wake up to devastation.

 Cool Weather Crops

Throughout August, gardeners can sow arugula, climbing beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, collards, cucumber, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, rutabaga, squash, and turnip seeds.  In September, the list slightly changes, by eliminating climbing beans, cucumber, kale, and squash, while adding broad beans, garlic, onions, and radish.   Accessing a gardening app, such as www.gardenate.com, will offer a means to know what to plant in zone 7b each month of the year.  

As you prepare to plant, take into consideration the following information or instructions: 

  • Soak seeds hours before planting to increase germination rates. 
  • Lettuce is the ideal cold-weather plant, with a shortened harvest period.  Try planting a crop of lettuce every two weeks to ensure you have fresh produce without feeling overwhelmed.  
  • Use companion plants to utilize garden space while accommodating the needs of certain plants.  For instance, carrots and onions are perfect growing partners, while lettuce, spinach, and arugula create the ideal “salad bed.”   
  • Hearty herbs like cilantro and parsley are green companions for pansies and other winter flowers.  Additional cool-weather herbs are sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender, and mint.  Think about a future pot roast with a few fresh sprigs of thyme or crushed garlic.  As you plant, consider your family’s favorite meals during the week or throughout the holiday season.  

Extending the Growing Season 

Low temperatures can’t stop a gardener from growing food year-round.  An insulated cold frame box is the solution.  While constructing your box from a variety of materials, such as wood, concrete blocks, or bricks, start looking online for a blueprint that accommodates your location.  While some people use old windowpanes to disburse light while retaining heat, others combine a handmade wooden frame and six-mil plastic.  (Lower-grade plastics won’t provide the greenhouse effect you seek.) The goal is to insulate your vegetables and keep them safe from the elements. And, most importantly, extend the season of fresh homegrown vegetables. 

Next Month: Canning and Supplies

 

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