Fall Garden

July 24, 2014

I started year-round gardening two years ago, after reading Eliot Coleman’s book, ‘Four-Season Harvest‘…. I’m sure there are many others who have made the same decision for the same reason. It is a wonderfully inspiring book.

Year 1 (Fall 2012)

Incredibly mild. We had kale and lettuce throughout. Broccoli was able to grow slowly throughout the whole winter and we were able to harvest some April 2013February 16 13 - 0067 February 24 13 - 0116 April 10 13 - 0032 DSC_2367

Year 2 (Fall 2013)

Incredibly cold and long winter. I was able to grow kale, carrots, and one cabbage that fall. It was being eaten by cabbage worms but the chickens attacked it right before first frost. They ate all of the worms and then it was warm enough for it to finish growing but cold enough, the cabbage butterflies did not come back. I was able to harvest that head with minimal damage. DSC_3474(notice: bottom left is where the chickens were pecking at it)

However, by January, everything had died (or so we thought) and we were unable to harvest anything from February until May. Turns out, the kale I thought had died did revive in the spring, so that was nice.

I am hoping this year will be different. I am not good at covering things. You have to remember to uncover them when it gets too hot…then remember to cover them again at night…then what is growing under the cover has to be watered…it’s just too much work and too much to remember!

However, if I want to ever harvest broccoli or cabbage, I need to get with the program in regards to covering them. I want to be done feeding the cabbage worms! This also means I need to plant them all together. I tend to scatter plants throughout the garden. This works for some plants (keeps the bugs confused for a time). But nothing confuses those stinkin’ cabbage butterflies!

Things I am doing differently this year for my fall/winter garden:

  1. Planting MORE.
  2. Starting seeds in shade and then I will transplant them to a place that gets full sun during the winter that I can cover properly.
  3. Having multiple hoop houses so covering crops will be easier (hopefully?)

Planting More

My goal is to not go to the grocery store anymore one day. I try to plant more and more each season in order to achieve that goal. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yearly for inspiration πŸ™‚

The other day, I wrote down the minimum amount of what we will need to grow in order to feed our family of 8 in a year. The bare minimum. And then I doubled that. I figure by doing that, it will take care of any failed crops and it will feed others around us in need (another goal of mine).

So, the plan for this fall is to plant:

  • 100 celery seeds (or keep planting until I figure out how to get them to sprout. grrrrr)
  • 34 cabbage seeds
  • 40 kale seeds
  • 52 broccoli seeds
  • 484 carrot seeds (you can never have enough carrots!)
  • 85 beet seeds
  • 26 lettuce seeds
  • 40/50 square feet of peas
  • 260 spinach seeds

I have planted the celery, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and carrot seeds already. For my zone (7b), they had to be planted by the end of July in order to mature fully before winter. That is the goal with fall/winter gardening: getting plants to full maturity before it gets so cold, they will not grow anymore. That way, you can still harvest out of the garden in the dead of winter even though nothing is technically growing.

Starting Seeds in the Shade

I don’t plant seeds indoors (our house is tucked in the woods & I am not shelling out $$ to buy lights, shelving, heating pads…) but the summer sun is so intense, I have to figure out how to grow these delicate seedlings outdoors in the middle of our hot, North Carolina July/August.

I tried planting some in the sunflower bed, thinking they would get dappled sunlight but still stay cool enough to survive. Turns out, it was not enough sunlight.

The next round of seeds went on the east side of the potato patch. The potato patch is on the edge of the woods so it gets shade in the morning and then the seedlings were shaded enough in the afternoon by the potato plants. However, now that they are dying back, the seedlings are getting less shade. We’ll see if they survive. I am shading them from the afternoon sun with old window screens propped up by sticks right now.DSC_4888 DSC_4891(some kale in the foreground…the rest are just coming up)

My latest attempt is to plant some seeds under the apple tree. I know things grow well there. We have harvested some of our best beets, spinach, and lettuce from under that tree so far this year.

Hoop Houses

If you have been following this blog for over a year, you know we used to keep the chickens in a chicken tractor.April 13 13 - 0024 It is a great idea (fertilize lawn while enclosing chickens) but it does not work as wonderfully as we had hoped. Come to find out, this is the case with everyone I know (personally) who has tried using a chicken tractor.

My neighbor suggested covering the chicken tractor with plastic and turning it into a greenhouse. Genius! That is exactly the plan for this winter. I am thinking I will transplant some of the cabbage and broccoli into an area of the garden (Where? I don’t know yet.) and put the chicken tractor over them to keep them safe from cabbage butterflies in the fall and freezes in the winter.

I have three or four extra PVC pipes left over from various garden projects. I am thinking I can make another small hoop house by putting rebar into the ground and slipping the PVC pipes over them, then have a cover over that. Maybe I can fit the rest of the broccoli and cabbage under there.

Kale can stand cold weather better than other crops so I think I’ll use extra wire from our electric fencing and just cover those plants when temperatures get really cold.

I think I’ll plant lettuce and spinach in my 4×4 raised beds. Those are low-lying crops and easy to cover with wire and a row cover/plastic.

I don’t need to cover the root crops. My ground does not really freeze with all of this mulch insulating it so carrots are pretty easy to pull, even in the dead of winter.

Of course I am hoping that once all of these things are harvested, I will be able to use the warmer hoop houses to get seedlings started in the spring! I will keep you updated on how everything is going. Are you planting a fall garden? We can learn from each other! πŸ™‚

I am linking up with Green Thumb Thursday to see what other gardeners/homesteaders are doing this time of year.


2 thoughts on “Fall Garden

  1. daphnegould

    I’m in zone 6b and kale will overwinter here without protection reliably if I grow the curled types (winterbor, scotch curly kale). In 2012 when we were really zone 7b that winter I had red russian over winter too. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean the leaves on them are really all that appetizing over the winter. They get tough. I don’t eat the over wintered leaves, just the spring ones. I think you would need protection to make them something you want to eat.

    I wish I could pull carrots all winter long. That would be so much easier than trying to store them long term. But we just get too much cold. It is frozen solid for 3-4 months. For the most part I can eat from the garden through much of December and then January I really need to eat totally from my stores.

  2. Margaret

    I’ve heard quite a bit about Eliot Coleman’s “Four Season Harvest” book – used to LOVE his series with Barbara Damrosch back in the 80’s. I’m going to be trying some overwintering kale & spinach this year – nothing too adventurous. Our garden (and my experience) is just in the early stages, so I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.


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