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The season is drawing to a close, but there’s still work to be done. You can plant certain vegetable and flower seeds now to overwinter for an extra-early harvest next year. Garlic needs to be planted in fall. And you can extend the season of your current crops by being ready for the changing weather ahead.
Get ready for frost
The weather cools off, you get a little rain, and suddenly your crops start looking fantastic again. Too bad the first frost is fast approaching. If you’d like to buy time to extend your harvest season, be prepared for the autumn ritual of pulling row cover over your plants. Here’s some advice on how to make it easier.
Row cover is available in different weights, which determines the amount of frost protection it provides. Heavier weights provide more protection, but also cost more. So figure out how low the temperature is likely to go before you can get your crop harvested, and purchase the appropriate weight.
If your fall crops are grouped into a single area, consider buying one big piece of row cover that you can pull over multiple beds. It’s available in sizes as large as 50’ x 1,000’. Be sure to anchor it carefully so the wind can’t get underneath and carry it away like a big kite.
For light frosts and low-growing plants such as spinach and lettuce, you can lay the row cover directly on the plants. Heavy frosts, however, can freeze plants where they touch the row cover; to prevent this, put hoops over the crops to hold the row cover above them.
Upright plants can have their growing tips damaged by abrasion of the row cover. Suspend the row cover above those plants with hoops or posts.
Spreading row cover is best accomplished with at least two people. While one person unrolls or unfolds the row cover and lays it on the crop, the second person should be following with weights to hold the edges down.
Row cover will last many years if handled carefully. As soon as your crop is finished, roll the row cover back up and put it in a barn or other building. If you worry that mice will get into it during the winter (they love to nest in it!), put it in a bag and suspend it from the building’s rafters.
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage October 2010