One of the most enjoyable elements about late season is that there is generally lots of harvesting. Depending upon your crops and what you are growing will affect how long this `harvesting` time continues. The weather will also have a large bearing on crops slowing down in production as we move into autumn.
In the UK we have experienced a fabulous summer which arrived a little late and unfortunately seemed to be moving into autumnal weather in September. All the crops which were slow did catch up, may be the cropping season has not been as long as it would with an Indian summer. Yet it has actually been a good growing year.
Cropping of certain vegetables can be extended. Especially for leaf and salad with the addition of protection from cool weather. For instance fine mesh can be supported over leaf and lettuce to protect from cold winds. If the mesh is very small it will give some help to prevent frosts settle on the leaf. Horticultural fleece is especially good for this latter protection. My late season cut & come again lettuce are all blanketed with 2 layers of fleece. For double protection one can use both of the above. Lettuce can also be grown under cloches. These may be glass as the old traditional ones. Or plastic which can be generally found in most garden centers. However specialist vegetable garden suppliers offer a range of larger cloches which give greater diversity as to the type of vegetable due to the size.
The original glass cloches are bell shaped and look pretty in the vegetable garden; however the sizes do restrict what will fit under them.
Today one will find a large variety of options, to name a few;
*Long linear cloche tunnels made from rugged steel frame covered with corrugated PVC.
*Baby Victorian bell cloches emulating the traditional style normally available in a number of sizes. Available in a number of differing grades of PVC/Plastic.
*Square Cloches in a pop-up system with push-in connectors to allow the tubular metal frame sections to be assembled and with plastic cover.
*Pop open individual cloches with the heavy duty polyethylene cover ideal for individual plants. Or a group.
*Pop open frost cloches supplied with steel ground pegs, these mini igloo-like designs are ideal to just pop over medium size crops when frost is on the horizon.
*Overwintering Plant Tents; it really is amazing what ideas are dreamed up !
*Various polycarbonate constructions ideal to protect the plants from wind and frost damage.
Many of these are perfect to protect crops and young plantlets early in the season as the temperatures are warming up.
I will always, unless we have very stable warmth, protect out-door cucumbers, courgette, pumpkin and squash with bell cloches.
One can also turn plastic storage containers into cloches. This is another element I use. Whilst they will degrade eventually with UV light shown by them becoming brittle, you will have at least 2-3 if not more seasons of use from them. One just needs to ensure water can get in and that there is air circulation.
*Cloches to aspire to may be the mini greenhouse cloche tunnels, which are respected, will last for many years to come. These are sometimes designed in sections to give flexibility. Allowing one to use individually or connect as a longer run.
Bell cloches & cabages protected under fleece.
If you are lucky enough to have space for a greenhouse and time to keep up watering in warm to hot weather this is a fabulous way to extend you’re cropping season and expand the selection of what you can grow.
If you have not room for a small greenhouse, mini green houses and lean-to structures are invaluable. Especially to start seeds and protect young plantlets. For seed trays of sprouted greens, baby lettuce leaf, saladini leaf and baby oriental leaf. Tender herbs can also be protected in a structure such as this.
A min lean-to system is on my wish list to have at home in my own garden which I could water each day or as needed as my vegetable garden is approximately10 minutes walk away. So this is perfect to have on hand to grow minimal crops and look after seedlings not grown straight in the ground.
As you see there are lots of options for the cooler seasons and we will discuss further options next time. Yet in the interim and no cloche to hand a simple material such as hay can be placed over and around crops which are showing signs that they do not like the weather. Whilst this may not be enough for the coolest weather it can protect enough to extend cropping. Whilst sourcing straw ensure that minimal chemicals and fertilizers have been used in production.
Harvested apples before the frosts & winter hardy kale.
Until next time keep those late season crops warm.
And keep warm in the garden.