Just because there’s now a nip in the air, doesn’t mean it has to be the end of your growing season! There are plenty of methods to extend your growing season into those brisk fall months before putting your garden to bed for the winter. Here are some we recommend:
Cloth: Frost kills the more delicate herbs and vegetables (basil and tomatoes, for example), and can be inhibit the growth of the hardier ones (spinach, kale, and Swiss chard). Come late fall when nighttime temperatures can drop to below 32 degrees F, a way to take precaution is by using garden fabric over beds. They come in a variety of thicknesses and are easy to blanket directly over the plants. Can’t find agricultural cloth? No worries! Use nylon netting from the fabric department of any store! This method provides protection from temperatures as low as 25 degrees F and can add up to two months to your growing season.
Hoops: Another preventive frost method is to use tunnels made from metal hoops arching over the bed and draped with agricultural fabric. The fabric deters frost from settling on the leaves of crops, while allowing air, moisture, and sunlight through. Hoops are the solution to keeping full-grown, mature plants alive and producing throughout the fall months. You can substitute agricultural fabric with plastic drop cloths (available in any hardware store), or even dark plastic bags, but you'll need to uncover the bed during the day to allow light and moisture. Keeping the cold winds and frost off the leaves is your goal.
Other Tips and Tricks: There are also many DIY solutions using household items such as gallon milk jugs and bleach containers. Cut the bottom off the container and place them around younger plants and seedlings. During the day, take cap off to allow for air movement.
YouTube has some great sites detailing how to create garden hoops and many websites offer tips and tricks. Here are a few we recommend.
Don’t forget about cool weather crops: Crops such as kale, spinach, chard, and radishes germinate best in cooler weather. These crops can endure short periods of frost, so get them in the ground as soon as you can while the daytime temperature is still in the 70s. You may need to purchase seeds online since most local garden supply stores have sold out of their seeds by October. And don't forget to plant garlic now to overwinter and be harvested next summer!!