Afternoon! It is here and now, anyway. This is Tisha at ASPI. This year when we offered a Season Extension workshop for our GA participants, they jumped at it. Really, they sat in their seats, had a discussion, then took a walk around the demonstration garden. . . . but I could see that they wanted to jump. Like many other sites, we were hit hard by the June and July deluges. Learning how to start now to produce fresh food in October and November – even December and January is exciting.
The main tenets of extending the season we discussed were
1. Growing cold-hardy crops
2. Starting with enough days to get a good start – big enough leaves to keep photosynthesizing
3. Using mulches, cold frames, and other structures to create mini-climates
4. Making sure seedlings and mature plants are getting enough water – ironic, ey?
5. Regarding snow as an insulator
6. Planting some crops to get just a little growth and protecting them over winter for an early spring harvest
Last year we covered the demonstration garden here at ASPI with cover crop for the winter. Since there was so much excitement about getting much of anything out of some of our participants gardens, we are installing a fall and winter demonstration garden. (Don’t worry GA headquarters, we’ll cover crop some, too!)
We have some beets and carrots poking up. We’ll plant some cover crop between those rows, so there will be some roots in place to hold the soil after we harvest. One -quarter of the garden is greens – kale, chard, lettuce, arugula, etc. surrounded by fava beans – for yumminess and soil nitrogen.
Along our Floridian-woven tomatoes we are going to add some compost and peas – the supports are already in place, after all. We’ll be doing peas along a few other supports, as well.
Turnips are serving as both cover and produce. Radishes are marking rows and serving time between the slower-growing fall crops.
Along the edges we are trying some low-growing, extremely winter-hardy greens.
The high tunnel will be planted a little later – last year kale and onions made it all the way through the -22 degree March days – with no extra insulation.
Incidentally, if you are interested in the Power Point presentation that goes with our discussion, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send it to you.
The truth is though, that some of us had our gardens exposed this summer – me included. I cleverly thought that I’d plant the tomatoes at the bottom of our garden – in case there was another drought. Tomatoes do not like being ankle deep in water, turns out. Some folks saw their their topsoil go downstream – even if the garden wasn’t under water. Clay doesn’t drain well. So in September we have a scheduled Cold Frame workshop – and we are adding an unrelated, but pertinent segment. A few volunteers are going to pre-cut pieces, so we can make the frames pretty quickly, then we’ll head on out to a section of the demonstration garden and commence lasagna-gardening. Basically, we’ll pile on 24 inches of organic material in layers, so in the spring we’ll have 6 more inches of soil. I think that amount – plus being good, crumbly humus – may have saved my tomatoes this year. Fall is great for accumulating organic material – it’s drier around the barns, if you can convince a farmer to let you clean them out, leaves are raining down, the last of the grass is being cut, and chicken coops may need a raking before winter.
Happy Fall Planting