Fall gardeners can easily extend growing season

Fall gardeners can easily extend growing season
ETTRICK—There’s good news for those currently cultivating a garden: they can extend their growing season into late fall with a few helpful tips.

Paul Meyers, an urban farmer and owner of Virginia Vegetable Co., said he keeps his lettuce growing throughout the fall and winter by using black ground covers and low tunnels.

“I plant strong, robust lettuce varieties that are cold-hardy,” Meyers told Christopher Mullins on Real Virginia, the weekly television program produced by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. Mullins is a Cooperative Extension greenhouse specialist at Virginia State University and host of the “From the Ground Up” garden segment on the show.

Meyers raises his own transplants from seed but said home gardeners can buy transplants as well. The plants should be ready to go from the tray to the ground by early September through the end of the month. Meyers uses black plastic or weed cloth to keep the soil warm in cooler temperatures, and even simple cardboard can help retain moisture and reduce weed problems.

“I actually use a lot of cardboard, or a sheet of brown painter’s paper on all my flowers and everything I have. I just put it around the plants and wet it down. Then I pop holes in it and plant lettuce or flowers or anything,” Meyers explained.

To protect his lettuce plants from freezing or snow, he puts metal or plastic hoops over his rows and covers them with thin plastic or cloth.

“I found during the winter months when it snowed that just the cloth worked better than the plastic because plastic heated up the plants too much,” he noted. “And if you can’t get the low tunnels, or you don’t want to spend the money, there’s another alternative. On a really cold night I’ve taken a light blanket, put it over the lettuce, and then in the morning when the sun comes up I removed it.”

Another trick to extending a growing season involves effective watering. Meyers runs drip-tape irrigation lines under his weed cloth to water each plant equally. “I don’t have a well, I use city water. But I just have a little timer with a garden meter. It turns the water on at 9 p.m. and waters everything for an hour,” he said.

Media: Contact Mullins at 804-524-5834 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.


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