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Keep Your Fall Crops Producing right into Winter!

One of the garden's great pleasures is when the crops you thought would be gone by October keep feeding your table right past Thanksgiving. Of course, much depends on your climate, weather, and what you're growing. But there's lots you do to improve the odds of a fresh-picked salad or stir-fry in December – even January. Here are a few ideas. Some you can implement this fall; some you'll have to remember to do next spring and summer.

* Choose Crops Wisely.

Select seed varieties that grow well for fall harvest. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and fall-winter cabbages are started from seed in June; pak choi can be started from seed about 8 weeks before first fall frost.

Sow collard greens in midsummer. Kale, mustard greens, spinach and most lettuce varieties can be planted in late summer for a fall crop. Pick leaves as you need them and the plants will keep producing for a long time. In frost-free areas, lettuce can be grown all winter with little trouble. Check seed packet instructions for best timing of planting for fall crops like beets, carrots, leeks, onions, peas, parsnips radishes and turnips as each variety has its own length of growing season. When planting seeds or transplants in warm weather, be sure to keep the soil moist until plants are up and well established.

Reality check:

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, melons and many others make best growth and stay productive only while the sunlight and warmth are sufficient for their needs. You can keep them going for a while with row covers or nighttime blankets. You'll know when to admit defeat ant turn your attentions to your thriving fall greens and root crops.

* Rotate Crops.

Some vegetables are subject to similar diseases and insect infestations. You can avoid some potential trouble by rotating your crops wisely. If you grew early cabbage this year, don't plant broccoli or other cole crops in the same space. Grow peas, carrots or lettuce there instead.

* Fertilize!

All vegetables need proper feeding, but to keep crops productive over a long season, they may need several applications. Use the plant food designed for them, such as, our exclusive Vegetables Alive!, Garden Plenty, Root Crops Alive! and Herbs Alive!. If your fall crops are planted where earlier crops were grown and harvested, add some extra fertilizer to replenish the worn-our soil.

* Row Covers.

With a little luck from the weather and help from our Floating Row Covers, you can enjoy cool-weather crops right into early winter. What a treat it is to pick fresh lettuce, spinach, chard, cabbage, beets, kale, herbs, radishes, carrots and turnips even after the first snow-fall. For extra protection from frost, use your Heavyweight Row Covers.

* First Frost Date.

Find out from your local agricultural extension agent or garden club when the first fall frost is expected in your area. This will help you plan when to sow your crops, remembering always that vegetables take longer to mature as daylight grows shorter in fall.

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