The days are getting shorter and the nights a little colder. Fall is on the way. Does the first freeze mean the end of gardening in Santa Fe? Gardening is an activity that can include all four seasons. There is still time to plant a fall garden and even prepare to extend the season into the winter.
The first question for extending the season is how to protect the garden from the cold, wind and snow. This can be achieved in a raised bed with a thick cover. There are several options from the most complex of building a bed with heat coils to buying a pre-made system or a simple solution of a mini hoop house. To buy local, contact Ken Kuhne from Grow Y’ Own for raised bed systems with summer and winter covers for 2’x4′ up to 4’x8′. This will get your started with a complete structure and ideas for a soil mix. He also has great online tips for growing food in the winter and keeping the inside of the growing system warm.
If you want to create a basic way to add a cover to your existing raised beds, a frost protection row cover and 8-gauge wire (from Empire Hardware) are all that you need to buy. This can also be called a mini hoop house. You can extend the season for greens this way with the same materials for years. Measure the wire to be a round tunnel. Cut enough for one every foot in the existing raised bed. An example is a 3ft x 9ft raised bed would have six or seven wires to create a tunnel and leave space at the end to close it. The wire sinks into the ground to create a small tunnel. Row cover can be trimmed to fit, with extra feet on each side to tack down. Rocks or bricks can be used as weights to hold the row cover down along the wires.
What can you plant in September?
Greens are the best plant to extend the season because they will still germinate in September weather, are quick growing plants that will be up before winter, can grow in colder weather and can be harvested at any size of leaf. Hardy cooking greens have the best chance to live in the fall and winter. Kale, Swiss Chard, Arugula, Mustard Greens, Spinach and stronger lettuce such as Romaine are good selections.
Let us know if you have tips for starting a late fall garden. Keep blankets ready to place over your mini hoop house for below freezing nights. Enjoy your greens.