The next time you hear someone utter “it’s a bird” or “it’s a plane” take caution, it likely isn’t Superman. Grocery prices are sky bound with increases from 4 to 5 percent in the U.S. and up to 15 percent globally. Experts have attributed the 2011 price hikes to a number of factors including global warming, increased global food demands and high production costs. Growing your own fruits and veggies is a great way to keep your pocketbook and belly full year-round. Your garden doesn’t have to end at first frost. With a little preparation you can learn to extend the seasons and teach your fruits and veggies how to bear and bare all.
1. Late Fall Early Winter
There are a number of veggies that not only survive harsh climate changes, but thrive also. Beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, endive, kohlrabi, cabbage and kale are cool-season vegetables that withstand frost. According to Iowa State University, the flavor of cool-season veggies is actually enhanced by light frost cover. These veggies can generally withstand temperatures that reach 20F and some will germinate until 40F. If you live in a region that gets significantly colder you will need to cover crops with a cold frame, garden dome, row cover, bell or garden fabric – as a temporary fix – to prevent damage.
- Check the general first frost dates in your area and allow time for your veggies to germinate before then.
- Cold frames can be made from anything that blocks out the cold. In Four Season Harvest, organic gardening expert Eliot Coleman says night temperatures can be as much as 20F warmer inside a cold frame; Daytime temperatures around 10-15F warmer.
2. Potted Fruit Trees
Citrus fruits – orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, clementine, tangerine – generally come into season in the winter. Unlike many other fruit trees, citrus fruits do not require cool temperatures to set fruit. Potted fruit trees maximize space and reduce pruning time. You can obtain harvests from dwarf citrus trees year-round if you plant them in pots. The challenge to potted fruit trees comes every two years when you will need to repot and trim the tree’s roots. Plant citrus trees in a quality potting mix – remember to choose a pot with a drainage hole – and be sure to add coir peat to improve water and nutrient retention.
- If you purchase a fruit tree that is already in a pot, remove it from the pot and examine the roots. You will need to prune a root ball that is densely packed and repot.
- Keep pH soil balance between 5 and 7 and use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen with moderate amounts of phosphorous and potassium.
- Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is moderately dry.
3. Winter Veggies
This group contains all of the perennial “bulb” veggies that add great flavor to meals. Garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, chives and leeks can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before first frost. They will be available for harvest in the spring.
- Winter veggies will still benefit from mulch and other organic matter.
To learn more about how you can extend your gardening season, locate a Master Gardener in your area.
-Li St. Michael