Over the last four or so years, my gardening strategy was simply to plant in the spring, harvest when ready, or just before the frost came. It’s how I remember my Grandfather doing it when I was a kid, how it was done by the rest of my family when we used to rent a garden space out in the country again when I was a kid, and how many people around the world do it.
There’s nothing wrong with growing that way, it’s nice and simple and reminds me of my soccer and futsal coaching days where the team motto was always K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid – not that I thought any of the teams I coached were stupid, just that it’s how I learned the acronym) focusing on winning through fundamentals over fancy plays that are easily messed up. Growing from spring to harvest is gardening fundamentals, you can win championships with it, and it works great, but to get the most out of the game, a little razzle-dazzle can come in handy.
That’s how I view things in gardening like fall planting, or early spring planting, growing under cover, etc. All of the fundamentals are involved, conditioning the soil, proper watering, trimming, harvesting, etc. but the razzle-dazzle comes from the plants getting extra heat from a hoop house, greenhouse, plastic tent, or whatever it is that extends the season beyond that of the fundamental gardeners are doing. It’s a strange analogy, but it makes sense to me, hopefully it does for you as well.
My plans for my fall garden, which I hope will extend into the winter, are pretty simple:
- First I will be putting some cardboard down on the greenhouse “floor” (it’s still just that tarp) for a little extra insulation from the frozen ground that I will set the containers on.
- I will then place some jugs or buckets of water near to the plants so that they can be used as heat sinks inside each tent to keep the temperature that much warmer overnight.
- Next I will be putting two small plastic tents overtop of the containers, one I used in the spring to start radishes early, you can read about that here, the other is a bit bigger and is made to go overtop of one of the planters in the new garden spaces I put in back in June.
- Last, I want to disturb the spaces as little as possible, checking only when necessary in order to water and harvest from it in order to keep as much heat in as possible. Though we do get Chinooks where I live, so sometimes the temperature outside spikes well above freezing, and I may actually have to vent the tents and greenhouse.
That’s it. I am confident that it doesn’t have to be anymore complicated than that. I have mixed good soil with worm castings and some left over potting soil, so the plants will get a good start. I may at some point add a bit of fertilizer to the soil if I feel it needs it, but I don’t even think it will come to that.
The fall garden freshly planted on September 1, our front step is not its permanent location. That would be a hazard.
The picture above shows the containers I have decided to use, originally I was going to plant my fall garden in the raised bed that will be in the greenhouse one day (next year), but I was unable to get it finished, as I went well over budget on the gardens this year. I think these containers will work out fine, everything I’ve read said that just having something planted in the greenhouse over winter should bump it from zone 3 to zone 4, and inside the little tents should be closer to zone 5.
In the containers I have planted 14 “Grand Rapids” green leaf lettuce, two in each of the seven containers behind the radishes, in the containers down the step, I have planted one “Matador” spinach each. I also have an unknown number of “German Giant” red radishes planted in the white planter (I think it’s somewhere between 20-30 plants). I have planted all of these before and they have all grown well during the spring, so I hope the fall and winter garden can lead to some extra fresh greens and radishes into the dreary winter diet we have here of seal meat and snow.
That last bit is a Canada joke, but it stems from a bit of truth, the vegetables we get here in the winter, while good quality, just can’t touch anything picked fresh from the garden in the taste department. I am sure it is like that most places where growing year round isn’t generally an option.
I don’t know if I can make this continue to grow all year long, if we have a week or two of -30 C temperatures with clouds, it might be impossible without adding in a heater out there, which I have access to (it’s out there right now so that my watermelon, cantaloupe, and peppers aren’t affected by the cold nights we have been having), but I don’t really want to use, as I want to see how far I can extend the season by just putting plastic domes over everything.
My reasoning for doing it this way is that putting plants under plastic is something that most gardeners will have access to. They might not have a greenhouse, but hoop houses are much cheaper and easier to make, so hopefully someone reading this will see how it goes with the rest of the upcoming posts on the progress of it all and can try it out with a couple of hoop houses at their place, or in their greenhouse next winter.
UPDATE: As of today (September 4) the radishes have already started to sprout. Check out those little beauties. I am also particularly proud of how that picture turned out, I think it’s an interesting angle… But then again, I might be biased.
They haven’t all come up yet, but they’ve started already!