The bounty of summer is over, but that doesn't mean that fresh veggies are a thing of the past. When the sun sets early and the nights get chilly, there are still many ways to grow your own food.
Patryck Battle, director of Mills River Educational Farm and teacher at Living Web Farms, has some practical ideas for keeping the season going in our mountainous climate.
First of all, choose the right plants. Tomatoes aren't going to make it, but there's still time for chard, beets and carrots. Battle suggests selecting varieties like tango lettuce, white lady turnips and others that are designed to weather the cold.
The next step is protecting the fledglings. Floating row covers are a great way to keep the heat in and the frost out. Now is the time to get row covers in place, Battle says. He suggests rolling landscape fabric towards the windward side of the rows now so everything is in place before the temperatures dip. No one wants a hectic I Love Lucy panic when the first frost comes.
Erect hoops over the rows and cover them with greenhouse plastic (construction plastic will disintegrate quickly). The idea is to make a sandwich of landscape fabric, hoops and plastic so that the weather stays out and the heat stays in. But don't cover the crops willy-nilly. Battle encourages growers to pay attention to the temperature when they step into the garden, and trust your skin over the thermometer.
And if you're exhausted from the summer growing season, or prefer to let the professionals grow your dinner, many local tailgate markets stay open through the end of October, with larger markets like Asheville City Market running through December. Check out buyappalachian.org for farmers market locations and end dates. Or grow your own veggies with videos on season extension and many other topics at livingwebfarms.org.
Putting the garden (section) to bed
Xpress' expanded Farm & Garden section spent the season uniting home gardeners, farmers, livestock producers and the curious public. With features on everything from beekeeping to miniature sheep to burgeoning farmers, the section celebrates Western North Carolina's passion for local food and farming.
But this week is the final Farm & Garden print edition for the season. To all the passionate growers, locavores and garden-lovers who have made this year’s coverage possible, thank you. Keep sending your garden news and ideas to email@example.com and we’ll keep digging deep into the issues that keep our farming community growing.