Don’t put you garden to bed for the winter while there is still time to grow food in the late summer and fall. When the hot season garden favorites, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are done producing, there is still plenty of warm weather left to grow another cool season crop in their place.
Prepare the Soil
Garden soil nutrients have been depleted during the summer growing season and will need a little TLC so it can nourish a second crop. Remove all spent plants and debris from the garden soil and work in some compost or other organic material to replenish and aerate the soil.
Cool Season Crops
There are many cool season crop choices that are perfect for planting and growing in the late summer. Broccoli, Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach grow well in cool weather and will provide you with an abundance of fresh dark green, leafy vegetables. Root crops also grow well in cooler temperature, so plant some radishes, green onions and short carrots to round out the home-grown salad fixings. Pretty and edible flowers like pansies, nasturtiums and calendula will also have plenty of time to mature before the first killing frost of the season.
Start with Plants
When planting cool season crops to extend your garden growing season, it’s best to start with seedlings instead of seeds. The seedlings will have enough time to mature even if an early frost arrives.
To keep the garden growing even past the first frost and well into late fall and early winter, consider building a DIY cold frame over your garden. With PVC pipe, clear plastic and a little elbow grease you can fashion a hoop-style cold frame to protect tender garden plants from cold nights and frosty mornings so they can soak up the afternoon sun and produce food for you and your family.
Think outside the garden plot and consider creating some DIY mobile gardens that take advantage of the afternoon autumn sun, yet are easy to move to a sheltered location at night. Create a garden box on wheels (any size that you can handle easily), install wheels on the bottom of planting containers or set the planting containers on wheeled dollies for easy mobility. The wheeled containers allow you to take the mobile garden to the sun, water and shelter for bolstered vegetable production.
Sunny window sills and/or grow lights will also extend the growing season and can actually keep some type of herbs or vegetables growing year ’round. Most herbs can be grown in containers indoors, so can loose leaf lettuce and shallow root vegetables.