Season Extending for Your SHTF Garden

So, you’ve got your back up food production going strong through June, July and August. (Yes, I mean your garden.)   September and chilly nights are here, October and frosts are just around the corner.  How are you going to keep food production going for as long as possible? Without spending all your SHTF gold?

Plant hardy crops – You can plant crops that don’t mind a bit of frost.  Beets, kale, turnips, spinach and swiss chard have all done really well for me. I grow a Red Russian Kale, it’s mostly green, but it has a tinge of purple to the stems . It laughs off freezes and often times is still harvestable in December.  This is the easiest route to go. It does require that you eat things like Beets, kale and turnips.  I’ve found that the crux of  the matter often lies there. My advice would be to keep trying methods of cooking/preparing until you find one or two you like and don’t be shy about repeating those favorites.  There are a lot of ways that I don’t like turnips prepared.  But, I find when one adds enough butter and milk and salt/pepper, mashed turnips can be stomached. Dicing one super fine and hiding it in soup or stew is also a family approved use of turnips.  Beets, have you tried borscht?  Planting crops like these will ensure that you have fresh produce coming in after frost.  Sure, it’s not fresh basil on sun warmed tomatoes, but if you can’t make it to the grocery store, or can’t afford anything there, some beets look pretty great.   Deep mulch can help retain soil heat so they’ll stay healthy and strong.

Covers – Everything from blankets to floating row cover (reemay) can help retain ground heat and keep frost off of tender veggies.   Often protection from the first few frosts can extend tomato season by a couple of weeks.  Eventually the return on investment lowers and it becomes a better idea to take the green tomatoes somewhere else.  You have two options here, you can rip the whole plant up by the roots, and hang it upside down someplace warmish. Or you can harvest the green tomatoes and put them all in a paper bag to ripen in their own gases for a couple of weeks. Both will slowly ripen a large percentage of the unripe fruit.

Cold frames – Another use for those windows I know you collected for the solar dehydrator. :-) You can put them on top of boxes made of hay bales, or made of brick. They’ll keep wind and snow off and keep light and heat in. I’ve kept spinach alive through winter in zone 4 with just an old window and unmortered bricks.

Tunnels – Made usually with ribs of something like rebar or pvc pipe, and plastic sheeting on top.  I’m not convinced these are worth it for those of us who have to deal with strong winds and large snow loads.  The plastic sheeting dpesm’t seem to stand up to the weather or weight and has to be replaced every year, totally wiping out any monetary savings from growing your veggies through the cold season.

Hot Bed  – Take your cold frame and add something that will compost and give off heat.  This is a hot bed.  Leaves and grass work better than wood chips, manure works really well too. It can be hard to judge the amount of material needed for the level of heating you want.  Practice is the key here.

When all else fails, sprouts in your kitchen window can add a dash of fresh to winter storage food.

Did I miss any? What have you had the best luck with?

– Calamity Jane

9 comments… add one
  • Joe September 1, 2011, 7:45 am

    Nice, Calamity Jane! I love a good garden and although most people think of it in terms of summer tomatoes, corn, and watermelon, a fall garden is just as nice and important.


  • 101st Airborne Division September 1, 2011, 8:36 am

    Hoop houses can be reinforced with a main connection along the inside top as well as 2×4 bracing on the ends. I have a 40×100 here in TN with winds that can exceed 75 mph and an average snowfall of about 8-12 inches….use 6 mil plastic don’t waste $$ on 4 mil. I grow into January with no additional heat source – use mid JAN to mid FEB for cleaning the entire greenhouse and begin the process again close to the end of FEB. We save about $2500 in groceries a year farming both in ground and in greenhouse. Lettuce, onions, broccoli, brusels, maters, taters, beans…all can be done deep into winter…it’s a matter of timing and shaking the plants for pollination….

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. September 1, 2011, 8:43 am

    In the south, you can plant some in pots that can be taken inside your garage or home during cold spells. I live in extreme deep south Texas, hard up against Mexico near mouth of the Rio Grande so we don’t get nearly the cold weather you Yankees have. :^) During some forecast hard freezes, we’ve covered our citrus trees with bed sheets and use lit votive candles to help keep them warm enough to prevent damage. Worked so far – Valley Lemon and orange trees are still going strong.

  • guiding_guardian September 1, 2011, 11:11 am

    Hey yall, in the south we enjoy a late fall garden and I found that spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower are good crop’s for fall, and this year I’m experimenting with planting pumpkins and sweet potatoes later in the season to see how far they will extend into the winter months by keeping them in/on the ground, without freeze burns blah blah blah…… that’s that.

  • Henri September 1, 2011, 12:29 pm

    In Eastern Canada we have a short growing season, like New England. We’re doing cold frames for the first time this year to grow lettuce and spinach to start. 4×8 raised beds are easy to setup with row covers (mini hoop house) using 8ft 1″ pvc and a cover. These are nice cause they are easy to put up and store.

  • tingy September 2, 2011, 1:05 am

    Collard greens! Oh’ boy, these are my favorite winter veggies and they grow surprisingly well. They stop growing about November, but in the early spring, they just start growing as soon as it warms up.

  • Rhinehart Fox September 2, 2011, 2:46 pm

    I got back into gardening this year after almost 20 yrs off. I built two 5 x 10 raised beds and cannot believe the amount of produce so far. Three potato hills have yielded ~ 20 lbs of red potatos. Three tomato plants – I’ve canned 3 batches and have lots still coming. I’ve also canned carrots and beets. Beans didn’t produce much but vine. I got more turnips and lettuce than I could use. Anybody need bell peppers or chilis? With what I’ve frozen, we’re good for a couple of years.

    The key was I filled my wooden frames with old horse manure (bottom of last year’s pile). This was covered with six inches of top soil. I then worked calcium into the dirt but didn’t till it. When the plant roots hit that compost, they really took off. I’m going to build a 3rd raised bed for next year. To extend my season, I left a few inchs of post sticking up in the corners. I can easily tack an old sheet or piece of plastic over the whole bed when frost threatens. I have 2nd plantings of spinach, beets & turnips that will last long enough to serve with fresh venison, if you ge my drift.

    C.J. Thanks for the tip on the turnips. So far nobody will help me eat them.

  • Laura September 3, 2011, 10:19 pm

    I’ve had the same experience as Tingy with collards. In fact, the way I found this out is by overlooking some collards for picking, not getting around to turning the garden bed when I meant to, and voila! the next spring there were beautiful collards ready in March.

    I hope to get a greenhouse (got my eye on one listed on Craigslist) so we can REALLY extend our season on both ends.

    Great topic.

  • Chubbyhubby September 4, 2011, 5:38 am

    “Fresh basil on sun-warmed tomatoes” haha ;)


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