Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gardeners Face Shutdown Dilemma Sow Seeds of Autumn, or Rest the Weary Soil

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gardeners Face Shutdown Dilemma Sow Seeds of Autumn, or Rest the Weary Soil

Article excerpt

How, and indeed whether, to shut down the fall vegetable garden can be a bewildering decision for new gardeners and a recurring dilemma for seasoned ones.

Some literature exhorts the cultivator to continue sowing and planting as long as possible, like the subsistence farmer of yore, so fresh food can enrich a meal even as cold wind and snow blow outdoors. By selecting cool-season varieties and using props to extend the growing season, gardeners can keep many plants growing until Christmas and some root crops and spinach right through the winter.

Other experts counsel restraint: Let the soil alone during frigid months. Instead, take time to plan for next year. Garden and gardener have worked hard, and time is better spent in careful review and preparation. Both approaches are valid; the choice is the gardener's. And it will differ from autumn to autumn, depending on the clemency of the season, the gardener's vigor and desire to try new varieties and whether the summer season has been successful and gratifying. The gardener who's on a roll may want to keep it going into winter. Alternatively, some might want to forgo the continuing commitment, especially in uncomfortable winter weather, and wind down the season by amending the soil for next year, a task that is typically in conflict with growing a new food crop. Of course, many gardeners excel when facing a challenge. In some people there always will bloom the romantic notion of bringing bright and fresh harvests to the table at what might seem the unlikeliest of times. Before choosing whether to put the garden to bed, here are some thoughts. First, extending the growing season involves some expense. The gardener will need plastic row covers, available from garden centers and supply catalogs. The plastic is placed over metal hoops to form tunnels over vegetable rows, acting like little greenhouses to trap the solar heat. The really serious gardener will build or buy a cold frame. Gardening in late fall and early winter also involves a lively commitment from the gardener, who will be going out in cold, wet weather, removing snow and ice from the garden, harvesting cabbage, lettuce and carrots when the ground is all but frozen and cold rain is falling. …

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