The fresh produce you grow in your garden is full of nutrients, free of chemicals, tastes better than anything you can buy, and can beat the hundred mile diet by up to one hundred miles! It is an amazing feeling to produce your own food, and you can continue this on into the fall and winter.
If you are an avid gardener, by this time of year you have been working in the yard for months. The middle of summer is a wonderful time of year in the garden. You have done all your planting, and you are left with a bit of weeding and watering. When it first starts to warm up, many gardeners feel the urge to get outdoors and work. But as the summer gets warmer the frenzied desire to work in the yard that overcame you in spring dissipates, and you are left with endless watering and weeding that can dull your enthusiasm for the garden. It is easy to sit back, relax, and wait to bring in the harvest. But if you want a longer harvest time you can’t fall into that rhythm.
For the first few years that I was producing some of my own food, I stopped working in midsummer, and just waited for the harvest. Over the years though, I have learned instead to start a second wave of action. This is the time to start digging, and adding manure and compost to the garden all over again. The second time around is easier though, because the dirt hasn’t had the winter to compact itself.
Not everything will grow in the fall and winter; sun loving plants like tomatoes or cucumbers are out of the question. But peas, cabbage, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach and various greens are just some of the plants that you can harvest during fall and winter months. You can take a gamble with some other plants as well; sometimes you can squeeze in an extra late planting for things that wouldn’t normally grow in the fall. Depending on the timing of the first frost that year, you may even be able to sneak in a late crop of corn or beans. If you are willing to risk some wasted effort and seeds then you may be rewarded with a late season crop.
Not everything will grow in your yard at any given time of year. You need to experiment and try out different kinds of plants and different varieties. Only by experimenting will you be able to figure out what your yard can produce and when.
Your plants will not continue to grow all year in the yard; they will only keep growing in the fall. Once the ground freezes nothing is going to keep growing. But if you did a second planting in the mid-to-late summer, then you can protect it and keep it fresh and alive in the ground for a few more months. All you need to do is add a few inches of straw mulch. By doing this, you will be able to harvest many kinds of vegetables, including carrots, leeks, onions, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, and parsnips. The earth will keep your food fresh and ready to eat, as long as you know how to make the dirt work for you. There is nothing better than wiping some snow away, moving some hay and pulling up fresh carrots in the middle of winter. If you want to reduce you carbon foot print and feed yourself and your family wholesome nutrient rich food, try a winter garden this year.
It is fun, rewarding and health. You will eat better than you would otherwise and you will save on your grocery bill too. Remember to take risks!
Angie is an obsessive compulsive gardener.