Today and tomorrow we’ll be talking about ways to get more out of your vegetable garden by extending the season, both in the spring and in the fall. Today we’ll cover ways to extend the season that do not require much investment in equipment. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about hoop houses and other slightly more complex ways to extend the season.
The easiest way to extend the season is to choose crops that produce early or late in the season. Spinach, arugula, radishes, peas and lettuce are all quick growers — some ready to harvest in four or five weeks. You can start these indoors, if you like, or in a cold frame to get an earlier start yet. On the back end of the season, kale, parsnips, onions, cabbage and radishes can survive frost, and some say they taste sweeter after nipped by frost. Many of these are fast growing plants and can be planted in midsummer for a fall harvest.
In addition to choosing which crops to grow in your vegetable garden, you can pick and choose among varieties to extend the season for vegetables you like best. Potatoes, for example, come in early, mid and late season varieties. Plant an early season potato, such as Red Norland or Yukon Gold, for eating, starting in midsummer, a midseason potato (sometimes called main crop) for eating and storage, and a late season potato, mainly for storage. Many of the potato specialists on the web, such as Maine Potato Lady and Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, have thorough information available about how to grow potatoes for maximum yield. (You can find a directory of Minnesota’s certified seed potato growers here.) Tomatoes also come in early varieties, and planting a range of tomatoes from cherries to big slicers, also extends the season.
Planting in Succession
We had a complete post on planting in succession, but basically this means planting over several weeks in the spring, sowing a few seeds or plant starts at a time, then sowing again in summer for fall crops. By timing your planting, you can ensure that the harvest season will last a longer time and that you will not be overrun by a single vegetable at any one time.
—Mary Lahr Schier
Follow Notes from Northern Gardener throughout January as we offer our series on 31 Days to a Great Northern Vegetable Garden. Tomorrow: Extending the season with hoophouses and more.