As much as we would like to deny it, the end of summer is upon us. Labor Day marks the last gasp of summer festivities, and a warning sign for gardeners to start preparing for the colder season. We still have a bit of growing season left for fall crops like potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, but it’s time to start planning ahead for how to protect and regenerate your garden over the winter.
A great way to regenerate your soil over the winter is to plant cover crops. Cover crops are planted at the end of the growing season, and then tilled into the soil at the end of winter instead of being harvested. Erosion, planting, harvesting, and foot traffic inevitably damage your garden’s soil structure. Cover crops help to reverse this process by restoring aeration and drainage to your soil, as well as preventing nutrient leaching. Some crops, like clover, also help to fix nitrogen in the soil, which is critical for growing crops like tomatoes. At the end of the winter, when the cover crops are tilled under the soil, the organic matter acts like compost, restoring more nutrients to the soil and preparing your garden for another healthy growing season. Check out these pages explaining cover crops and helping you decide which one to plant!
If you want to extend your growing season and get the most out of your garden, you may want to consider building a cold frame. Cold frames are small, insulated boxes with a transparent lid that act as miniature greenhouses. Most cold frames are small enough to fit on urban properties, as they are much smaller than traditional greenhouses. The lid allows heat from the sun to enter the frame, but prevents that heat from escaping by convection. It also protects the plants from the excessive moisture that we often experience in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re interested in building a frame, check out this page on how to build a good frame. This fall, try planting crops from the Brassica genus, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts, or radishes, lettuce and spinach in your cold frame. Let us know how it goes!