If you are unfamiliar with the idea you might be thinking, planting in the fall? Is that possible? And the answer is most assuredly yes!
There are several easy ways to extend your growing season, without the large costs of building a greenhouse. These include hoop houses, row covers, mulches, and cold frames just to name a few. The idea with any of these methods is the same: keep the soil from freezing to allow the vegetables to continue to derive nutrients from it, as well as raise the temperature in the covering a few degrees to keep the plants from freezing.
There are also several vegetables that are actually cold and frost-hardy, and some that even prefer growing in colder weather. Crops that enjoy a cooler growing season include (but are not limited to): beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. To me, this list seems to be mainly filled with vegetables I am more accustomed to eating in fall and wintertime, so it is no giant leap to make the connection that they enjoy growing in cooler weather. Several vegetables, such as carrots, can actually be stored in the ground over winter with the proper care so that they can be picked as needed.
Jason and I will be experimenting this fall with a simple and cost-effective way of making raised row covers with hula hoops. We’ve purchased the supplies, but as the season has not cooled to a temperature where they are needed yet, this is a stock image that is similar to what we will do. It is as easy as purchasing hula hoops (ahem, Dollar Tree), cutting them in half, and staking them in the ground. As our raised beds are made from cinder blocks, we will anchor the hoops in the holes in the middle of them for easy access.
Then you purchase and attach high-quality (read – not cheap) greenhouse plastic to drape over the hoops. You want the plastic anchored for windy days, but done so in an easily accessible way so that on sunny or warm days the cover can be raised for airflow.
With this idea in mind, on September 3rd, with two nearly empty beds from summer crops, we gathered our planting supplies and “helpers” and got to planting.
First step is making your trenches or holes for the crops. You can make this as accurate or as simple a process as you want. For my industrious husband, this means our broom stick sand broom head. Do take notice of the crop spacing guidelines on your packet of seeds. As we were planting carrots in this entire bed, we knew that we could go three rows deep in spacing.
Again, since we are backyard gardening, we keep our processes simple. Gather seeds in your hand. No fancy tools needed.
Sprinkle seeds throughout trenches. Jason and I take a liberal approach to seeding. This allows more chances that seeds will sprout. If overcrowding occurs, we thin the plants as a dominant one begins to grow.
After seeding, fill in your trenches by sweeping the dirt back into the hole with your hand. Gently pat down.
Give those baby seeds a good watering. Make sure to use a watering can with a rain spout until they are established plants. This is much gentler on your seedlings than a hose which can over water them or wash them away.
We also planted a mesclun mix and spinach in the second bed. Once the fear of frost sets in, we’ll set up our row covers and be good to go!
As always, I highly recommend getting your children involved in all steps of the process! Their little minds are sponges and they want to learn everything! They may dig a hole in the wrong place or spill some seeds, but it is the family time that you’ll all remember! Plus, they’ll be much more likely to try something new if they had a hand in the process.
I took several more pictures on planting day, so feel free to scroll on for a “planting day gallery”!