Friday, August 12, 2011

Autumn Gardening

After a very hot and dry summer, we are finally getting a bit of
relief. There have been thunderstorms almost nightly for the past few
nights. It is a welcome thing. Humidity is higher now, but that will
pass soon enough.

There has been a lot of talk on various blogs and on facebook about
families especially in the drought areas planting autumn gardens. If
you are blessed to live in an area where you have a late frost, you can
grow for autumn harvest nearly anything that you typically plant in the
spring. It may take a bit more protecting of the plants if your summer
temps are still extremely hot, but you CAN grow a garden in late summer/
early autumn.

I have a surplus of seed left from spring. I am planting this week a
few things that are more costly to buy in the produce dept. The main
thing being winter squash. Butternut squash is one of our favorites. I
use it both as a squash and as a substitute for pumpkin in pies. The
kids love it especially. If planted on Saturday, August 13th, the
squash would be ready to use in pies for Thanksgiving. One tip to help
speed up the germination process - soak large seeds overnight in warm
water. The softened seeds will sprout much faster. I remember my Dad
cutting down the germination time in half by using this method. He did
it with any large seeds that he wanted to sprout faster, peas, beans,
corn, etc. Inoculated seeds (ones that have been dusted with a
treatment against various plant issues like mold) cannot be soaked
without losing the inoculate.

You can also plant root crops such as beets, carrots, and parsnips.
Salad greens can be planted anytime after the excessive heat has
passed. If you have a way to protect the greens from the heat, you can
try growing it in the heat of summer but I find it bolts too fast and
you do not enjoy a harvest. All of your faster growing vegetables like
green beans, peas, sugar peas, and waxed beans can be grown easily
before frost if planted now. We are blessed in that our first hard
frost usually occurs about mid-December.

If you want a year round crop of salad greens, consider building a cold
frame. You can leave it opened during the warm weather but once frost
or cool nights becomes a concern, you lower the lid to turn it into a
greenhouse of sorts. The easiest way to make a cold frame is to build a
box with bales of straw or wood. Fill about 2/3s full with good soil.
Plant your seeds and place an old window over it. The straw will help
to insulate the soil in the winter as the windows will provide the heat
for the soil. My Dad build one out of wood that had side walls on a
slant so that the lid was slanted towards the sun. The lid was on a
hinge at the back. He would prop the lid open on days when the
temperature inside the cold frame could get too hot for the plants.

In a time when so many of my neighbors have lost their gardens to the
drought and excessive heat, autumn gardens are becoming a necessity. I
know families who depend greatly on their gardens to feed their family
through the winter. Even those who do not garden are feeling the sting
of higher costs in the stores. I am so grateful to the Lord for the
blessing of having the land to be able to garden. While I may not be
able to manage a large one on my own with Joe on the truck, I am able to
manage a smaller one. I am learning quickly that it is a matter of
being choosy about what to plant. Certain vegetables will give you a
large harvest with few plants. These are what I am going to start
focusing my planting on.