Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Late Fall Planting 2014

Yes, the weather has cooled and the days are short. The rain makes me crave hot tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and begs me to curl up with my book rather than don the rain suit for more gardening. The average gardener is calling it quits for a few months.  In typical fashion, most folks will be  finishing their harvest of root crops and kale and will be pulling out the near-dead eggplant and limp tomatoes to create a massive compost pile of old weeds and spent plants in one corner of the yard. Having a siesta from gardening does have its appeal but it is far from necessary; even at this time of the year. When you truly love to eat what you sow, there is always a way to make the season last longer.
If there has been proper planning, a tenacious gardener with hopes for a winter harvest or an early spring crop, are still working in their plots. Produce still abounds for those who have planned ahead.  This sweet spot of the year is when harvest continues but the work of weeding (and for the most part watering) no longer exists. It is the pot-o’-gold; Late Fall Bounty. This window of time can carry on all the way to Thanksgiving.  It is during this time that sowing for early spring crops takes place.

Early Spring crops are those who can tolerate lower temperatures but will still germinate in cool, damp soils. Greens are best suited to these conditions.  From now until Thanksgiving (or until the ground is frozen and can no longer be worked) seed for specialty greens can be sown.  The best case scenario is to begin sowing seed in October so that germination takes place before winter. Cotyledon stage or first true leaf stage tend to over-winter well and allow the plant a jump start in the spring for when the weather begins to warm.  For the greatest chance of success, Late Fall sown crops need to be kept from drying out. In the Upper Valley, rainfall is enough moisture to keep the soil damp enough for good germination. In drier parts of the county, additional watering may be needed to achieve good germination.  A covering such as a little hoop house or cold frame also increases the likelihood of a successful Early Spring crop as it holds in solar heat and keeps the soil from freezing too deeply. For fun, try a late fall planting of cilantro, miner’s lettuce, mache’ or spinach.  Spring greens may be closer than you think.... Happy Fall and keep on gardening! 

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