Extending the growing season

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(Host) Commentator Ron Krupp says that with a little extra work and planning, you can harvest vegetables late into autumn.

(Krupp) Most gardeners gave up on the garden path back in mid-September. Of course, I understand why. They were tired of planting, weeding, watering, mulching and harvesting through the growing season. I hear their call: Let the hard frosts continue. The season is over. It’s time to move on.

But then there are those gardeners who are filled with melancholy at the passing of the season. They aren’t ready to give up on the garden path. Like them, you too, could be digging sweet carrots in November and listening to them pop out of the earth. With a little extra work and planning, you can harvest vegetables late into autumn. You can extend the growing season another six weeks by planting fall root crops in mid-summer and by planting lettuce and spinach seeds in your cold frame in August. And cool-weather vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chard and kale can be left in the garden and harvested well into November and sometimes December.

Speaking of root crops, one of my favorite winter keepers is Lutz Green Leaf, a large beet, which will last until early next summer if properly stored. How about carrots like the thick Danvers variety and one of the Oxhearts called Short and Sweet? I don’t want to forget those sweet Guilfeather turnips, developed in Wardsboro, Vermont, or hardy rutabagas called Laurentian. And some of us know how sweet parsnips taste when you dig them up in spring from your garden. Why not grow late fall hardy cabbages like one of the Savoys? Remember to plant the cabbage seeds in the ground by the end of June.

There are a number of lettuce varieties which will last well into late fall and winter. There is North Pole, a small butterhead variety, as well as other butterheads like Red Montpelier, Winter Density and Winter Marvel. They need to be cared for in the confines of a cold frame.

I remember one winter in the 1970s we had early heavy snows in November, and my fall cabbages got covered and lasted all winter. But that’s a rarity.

Fifty to seventy-five years ago, most cellars weren’t heated, and you could store your root crops, cabbages and potatoes all winter long. That all changed with central heating. Yet some folks still store their fall crops in a separate room in a cool part of the basement – or in an outdoor root cellar.

It used to be that gardening was more of a necessity than a luxury. Gardeners needed their fall vegetables to last a good part of the winter. Extending the growing season with a couple of fall crops allows you to take part in the annual cycle of gardening.

Sure, the supermarkets of the world provide us with lots of choices; but when have you seen a Lutz Green Leaf beet on a supermarket shelf in January?

This is Ron Krupp, the northern gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.

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