A Good Summer, Starts in the Fall

From all reports, this year has been one of the better growing seasons. However, if your green thumb is still itching to do some gardening, here’s an experiment you can try to prolong the fun.

For a few years, I have been aware that a vegetable grower in Whitehorse has been experimenting with planting seeds of crops such as carrots, beets and radishes in the fall. The theory of a fall planting is to give the seeds a head start in the spring.

The seeds get planted late enough not to germinate and, in the spring, when there are so many other gardening activities that need doing, the fall-sown crops are well on their way to growing.

The snow melt over the garden helps to moisten soil and seeds so, as soon as the soil reaches the appropriate germinating temperature, these seeds will germinate and grow.

This summer, as I visited a local backyard grower, I saw this theory in action. The main crop this gentleman had seeded last fall were carrots. Along his row of fall carrots, he also had planted a row of carrots in the traditional time frame: late May.

When I saw his garden in July, the fall-planted carrots were significantly larger than the spring-planted crop.

If you try this method, there are some potential pitfalls that can trip you up. The timing of the seeding has to be late enough so that the seeds do not germinate, but obviously before the first snow fall.

In the spring, if we get unusually warm weather in early May (which has happened) followed by some unseasonably cold weather, the germinated seeds could die off.

As this type of project is an experiment, my suggestion would be to try it and if it works, great; if not, all that’s been lost are the seeds. I would still plan to grow spring-seeded carrots, just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

As the harvest is being wrapped up and you put your greenhouse and garden to bed, I have some suggestions:

Remove all plant debris from greenhouse and garden, and shred the plant residue before putting on your compost pile.

Once the rhubarb is totally frozen and the leaves are wilted enough that they lay matted on the ground, dump a bucketful of horse manure right on the centre of the plant. In spring, the snowmelt will percolate the nutrients into the soil and, along with lots of water, rhubarb stalks will grow nice and thick.

Another helpful idea is to record the type of plants planted, the location, how well the plant grew, the yield and anything else that will help in next year’s planning of your garden.

Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening, greenhouse and flower-arranging workshops. Contact her at [email protected]

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