Trailside Organic Farm – October 2022
Written by Ian Frederick, Farm Manager
During the summer months, Katie and I often received inquiries about the time of year our lettuce will return to the Manor Café and Trailside Farm Market. Our answer: During the fall! A fall lettuce crop’s ease of growing, few insect pests, and crisp, sweet taste make it a gardener’s favorite. Although lettuce is a cold-hardy crop, it is still possible for a cold snap burn and wilt the leaves. As a result, we will be using a few simple supplies to minimize this risk and extend our lettuce crop’s season:
·Floating row covers
·Sheets of plastic film covering
·Stakes or sandbags
Not only are these tools valuable for us to extend the season at the Trailside Organic Farm, they’re also perfect for extending the growing season in your raised garden bed. Setting up your own ‘caterpillar tunnel’ will capture the sun’s heat energy to keep soil warm, provide a physical barrier to frost, and trap heat in during days where there is little sunlight.
To equip your raised bed for an extended season, you may first place your hoops over your bed every two-to-four feet. This will create a sturdy frame to hold your covering in place. Then, drape your covering on top. Use stakes or sandbags to anchor you covering down, protecting from wind and keeping a tight seal. This covering may be removed at any time to allow full sunlight for crop growth. You could choose between two covering types, or use them together. Your first option are row covers, or fibrous woven blankets which trap heat but allow water to permeate and air to circulate. For more severe cold snaps, plastic film is able to capture and insulate even more heat. When using plastic film, we recommend lifting or removing it during the day. Regardless of your choice of covering, increasing soil temperature is the name of the game.
These are a few common crops that could be grown later into the season with the help of hoops and coverings:
To learn more about extending your fall growing season, I suggest the following read: The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming. Fortier, Jean-Martin. New Society Publishers, 2014.