Keep Your Vegetable Garden Growing Year Round

No need to limit vegetable gardening to just the spring and summer. Extend your vegetable gardening through the first frosts.

| November/December 1972

This Nebraska vegetable grower says you are cheating yourself if you grow only a spring and summer garden!

Much of my very best vegetables, fruits and berries are harvested long after the first fall frosts. On a recent crisp late October day, my garden provided me with sweet corn, three kinds of summer squash, beans (green, wax and lima), peppers, beets, salsify, parsnips, potatoes, Swiss chard, spinach, celery, strawberries, garden huckleberries, turnips, green peas, black-eyed peas, radishes, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, winter squash, pumpkins and good, big cantaloupes and watermelons!

The Three Easy Steps to a Lush Late Garden

My first step toward having fresh, healthful garden produce in abundance through October and November — even into December — was to stop thinking of autumn frosts as impossible-to-defeat garden-killing monsters.

Frost is beneficial. For one thing, my insect problems halt abruptly when the thermometer drops to 32 degrees the first time. Mature produce, on the other hand, will stay in prime condition on the plant for a much longer time during cool weather.

(l used to pick all my tomatoes just before a predicted frost. Then, a few weeks later — after they had rotted on the shelves — I tossed them out. Now, after following certain rules, I leave 'em on the vines where they stay in good condition even at peak ripeness.) I take a big second step toward enjoying lush late fall and early winter harvests by planting my fall garden in mid and late summer so that the plants are mounting the crest of vigor when first frost comes. I even find that radishes, leaf lettuce and turnips for greens have done well for me when sown after early frost. The third and final step to a successful ultra-late garden is made by taking reasonable natural precautions to reduce the damage caused to plants by frost. I say reduce because a little frost damage is not going to lessen the yield of your fall and early winter gardens. Don't run out and pull out your tomato and squash vines just because the upper foliage has been ruined!

Reduce Frost Damage in the Vegetable Garden

Early temperature plunges always cause less damage close to the ground and the first half-dozen frosts usually nip only top foliage. So, I don't stake my late tomatoes and I grow only the kinds that sprawl instead of rising tall and bushy. Late cucumbers are grown on the ground, never on trellises. Bush beans and peas are more logical late garden crops than the climbing varieties. I make my fall garden rows and hills closer together and encourage the plants' foliage to overlap so that the leaves on one plant protect those of another.

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