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