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

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    With care, you can extend your vegetable garden well past the first frosts of winter.
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    It's well into the light frost season, and this patch of summer squash continues to bear abundantly. Only the foliage has been damaged. The fruit and lower fruit-producing parts of the plants have not been injured. The soil around the squash is mulched with fine wood chips, which when wet tend to generate heat around the base of the plants. Little tricks like that can really stretch the ole growing season right into early winter.
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    The first light frosts of the season have come and gone . . . and there's still plenty of peppers in this garden. Pick late fruits and vegetables from the top of plants first and leave those lower down until last. Produce that is closer to the soil (especially if that soil is moist and covered with decaying organic material) will be protected from cold weather further into the chilly months. Decomposing organic matter creates heat as it breaks down.
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    Don't stake late tomatoes . . . not if you want them to survive frosts. Let the plants sprawl as close to the ground as possible, and on a bed of decaying organic mulch if you can. Frost has nipped the leaves of this Roma plant, but 90% of the fruit is still undamaged. Soon, however, it will be time to pick the remaining unripened tomatoes, wrap them in newspaper and store them in a cool room for use as late as Christmas or later.
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    Here's the way smart gardeners plant radishes and turnip greens for fall use: broadcast or sow the seeds in broad, foot-and-a-half wide swaths. The carpet of foliage reduces chances of frost damage to things like the crisp radish roots and I've even found that radishes, leaf lettuce and turnips broadcast this way have done well when sown AFTER early frosts. The same plants grow better in the spring when seeded this way too.

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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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