How to Extend Your Harvest All Year
This time of year, as the gardening season winds down, it can get very difficult to find seeds. Worse than that, try walking into the garden section of your local Lowes or Home Depot and ask where their seeds are. You’ll get odd looks and snickers from the frequently unenlightened floor attendants.
“Seeds?” they’ll say, ‘It’s almost winter! You can’t plant anything now.”
Shows what they know. Planting and growing vegetable gardening can and does take place all year long! With the right materials, you can keep growing your own food right through winter. o here are some places to find those elusive seeds:
Your local co-op.
These people cater to farmers of all sorts, and are well aware that many people continue planting through the winter. It shouldn’t be difficult to find fall and winter crops here.
As these are often runned by farmers themselves, they know that planting doesn’t have to end with summer. Many continue to sell seeds into the fall.
Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and other such stores often get the leftovers from bigger stores. Hunt around and you’re sure to find one that still has seeds in stock.
Drug and grocery stores.
You can often find seeds here for severely discounted prices off-season.
I’d recommend this as a last resort method, as shipping costs can offset the discounted prices.
What to Plant
Knowing what to plant isn’t as difficult as it may sound. There are a wide variety of crops that can not only grow in cool weather, but flourish in it. Then again, what you plant is determined also by where you live. As a general rule of thumb, here are some cool weather crops that can keep your garden active right into winter:
Check with local co ops, farmers markets, or even university horticulture departments to find out what other vegetables are good for your zone!
How To Extend Your Harvest
There are a number of ways to extend the life of your vegetable garden. Cold frames are a good, solid option. They act as miniature greenhouses to keep small groups of plants warm. They are semipermanent and provide heavy protection against cold and wind. However, buying them is expensive, and building them is arduous if you’re inexperienced with building. Also, they can be susceptible to window breakage.
Another good option is a plant cover. These are almost exactly what they sound like–covers for your plants. They often look like little bags that you drape over your plants. These are good for individual plants, or sometimes rows. They also allow some sunlight and rain permeation, and provide light wind and frost damage. This allows easy watering while protecting from light frost. However, if you’re not careful, you can rip leaves and stems when taking them off. In addition, they aren’t the best option for sunloving plants–they allow some light penetration, but not all.
Another relatively new option is to try a plant tent or tunnel. Again, these are exactly what they sound like. Like the cold frames, they can cover many plants at once. They’re reusable, and relatively inexpensive, which potentially makes them the most economical choice. Also, like cold frames, they allow in plenty of light. However, watering can be a bit trickier than cold frames, which have lifting doors, or covers, which are permeable. They’re susceptible to rips and tairs, as well–so be careful with your tools!
Another way to potentially extend your harvest is to bring your crops indoors. If you think when you plant them that you may bring them in when it gets chilly, you may want to consider planting them in a container to begin with. If not, you can try transplanting them into a pot and bring them indoors. Read the labels and research your crops, though–some may need special care to bring them indoors, without which your plants may suffer from transplant shock.
When to Plant
Planting times are possibly the easiest part to determine. Look up your zone’s average first frost date, then look on your seed packet for “Time to Harvest” or “Time to Maturity.” Simply count backwards from there! For example, if your average first frost date is November 1st, and your seed packet says it takes about sixty days to harvest, you’ll want to plant in September. Not so tricky, is it?
Also, keep in mind that many plants, such as certain lettuces, can not only tolerate a light frost but will actually taste better if you let it sit through the frost! Research the vegetables you’re planting to determine which ones need to be babied and which ones can handle a bit of tough lovin’.