It seems summer is in full swing in the Okanagan. We have just gotten through our driest summer on record, just 1.1 mm of rain. Despite temperatures often exceeding 34 degrees Celsius, our crops are flourishing and the harvest is beginning to roll in. We are getting tomatoes daily, the plums are plump, peppers are almost ripe and the zucchini…oh the zucchini. To keep these crops producing longer you can simply harvest more often to keep the plants going.
It is inevitable some crops are finishing up such as: garlic, lettuce, peas and turnips. As you continue to harvest and crops finish, gaps start to open up in your garden and there lies an opportunity to get on succession planting. I know no one wants to think about it but it is also time to start planning for fall and winter crops.
Succession planting is simply adding more plants to your garden where ever there is room. In Permaculture we refer to this as filling niches. Be sure to observe how much sun and shade a site is receiving and remember the days are getting shorter so that same spot my have more shade in a month or so. Also remember to observe your first frost date and calculate backwards to make sure you have enough time for your crops to mature. In Vernon, zone 5, we are reseeding beets, bush beans, carrots, cilantro, lettuces, mustards, radishes and turnips.
If you are really ambitious you can go right now and start fast maturing brassicas indoors and transplant them out at the end of the month. Some fall crops we are preparing to start include: asian greens, corn salad, kale, swiss chard, radicchio and winter lettuce blend. By starting now we can enjoy all of these crops into the fall, some even into December!
If you do not live in such a favourable climate or you would like to enjoy more veggies even later into the season the consider some season extension ideas.
To protect your crops well into the fall and even through the first few frosts consider the use of cold frames, greenhouses or row covers. Cold frames are basically garden beds that can be covered by a window or sheet of poly to keep the soil warm and retain heat during cool evenings. Row covers will essentially do the same but instead of glass or poly you will be using a cloth, usually made from UV stabilized polyester. Row covers will give you 1-2 degrees Celsius protection from frost. Finally you can consider planting your fall crops into a greenhouse to provide your plants with a controlled growing environment.
To take season extension to the next level look at the Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Coleman uses both movable greenhouses and row covers to grow almost all year round in Maine (zone 5). He explains that each layer of protection you add, in the form of poly or row cover, you gain 1.5 growing zones. So a greenhouse will move you to a zone 6.5 and row covers inside a greenhouse will move you to a zone 8! For the hardcore gardeners our there this is a must read.
Best of luck on your gardening endeavours this fall stay tuned for our next article on cover cropping to maintain your soils nutrients.
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