For most of the country, fall signals the end of the growing season and an end to gardening. For many, it’s a relief to be done with all the chores that go into gardening. But here in Georgia, we are blessed with mild weather most of the year which means our growing season is longer. Most of the state is in USDA hardiness zones 7a to 8b. That means that in addition to a spring garden, you also can plant vegetables in late summer or early fall for a second crop.
Having a fall garden gives those of us with a green thumb fresh homegrown vegetables late into the fall and even the winter. One of the benefits of gardening in the fall is that temperatures are cooler which makes gardening more pleasant. Another great benefit is that there are fewer pests to deal with in the fall. On the other hand, fewer insects mean fewer pollinators which means you can only plant certain types of crops.
Fall crops can do well late into the fall and even into the winter but you might want to protect them if your area is prone to frost. Here are some clever ways to beat the cold and keep your garden going all year long.
Cold frame gardening is an ancient technique that has been around for thousands of years but has recently been rediscovered by gardeners as a great way to keep your garden producing all year. The design is simple, requiring only a wooden box, either placed on the ground or partially in the ground. It is then covered with a lid made of glass or plastic to allow sunlight through. Most designs call for a hinged lid for easier access. Now that the area inside the box is protected from the winter elements, you can plant your crops, either in the ground or in pots. The box will work as a mini greenhouse and keep your plants nice and warm. This is a very easy and affordable way to keep your plants growing all year long.
Hoop tunnels work similarly to the cold frame garden in that they protect outside plants. Hoop tunnels require a little more work to make but they can cover a larger area than a cold-frame garden.
What you’ll need:
Drive the rebar into the ground at equal lengths along the outside of your garden. Each rebar should be directly across from its neighbor. Next, slide one end of the PVC pipe over the rebar. Then bed the PVC and slide it over the opposite rebar, creating an arch. Repeat this process with the other rebars. Finally, drape the plastic sheet over your arched frame and secure the ends of the plastic sheet with rope or zip ties so that it looks like a bag of bread. That’s it! Now your plants will be protected from frost and the harsh cold of winter.
You can’t just plant anything in your fall garden. Crops like tomatoes and watermelons will not grow this time of year because of the cool temperatures, for one, and the lack of pollinating insects these crops require. Knowing this, the ideal fall crops to plant are leafy vegetables that do not require pollination and are not vulnerable to frost. Some examples are:
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