Friday, July 10, 2020

Fall Gardening for Mountain Communities

By Yvette Henson, San Miguel Basin, CSU Extension

If you are like me, you may follow a few gardening/homesteading YouTubers. The one I watch the most lives in the SE United States. She plants her regular season garden in March as well as a fall garden in August. For her fall garden, she plants a second planting of cool season plants as well as a second round of warm season plants like beans and even winter squash!  Wow!  Those of us who garden in high elevation areas with short frost-free growing seasons and cool night temperatures are blessed to get any squashes, summer or winter, during our short main season!

Shelling or 'English' pea. Photo credit Pixabay
One of my favorite family recipes is creamed peas and spuds, basically mashed potatoes with ‘English peas’ mixed in.  Since potatoes are ready to harvest in fall, I want my peas to be ready in fall too so I can make this dish with my own fresh, home-grown potatoes and peas.

According to most gardening references, August 1st is the recommended timing for planting fall peas, based on my average first frost date.   Several years ago, I planted them then.  They were just starting to bloom when the temperature plunged to 15 degrees in October, which killed the plants.  The next year I planted pea seeds in mid-July.  They were just beginning to produce peas when the killing temperatures came.   By trial and error, my ‘fall crop’ of peas has become more like a second ‘succession’ planting.  I plant them by the beginning of July, when my late-April, early-May planted pea harvest is just getting started.  This extends my harvest of fresh peas over a longer period, ensuring I have fresh peas when I dig my potatoes in fall.

Fall-planted succession of Lams' lettuce. Photo credit Yvette Henson
I have had similar experiences when planting leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce, mache, etc. Spring planted greens will do well in my garden until mid-summer high temperatures result in bitter-tasting, tough greens that may start to bolt.  So, around July 1st I plant a second crop of spinach, kale and arugula.  I succession plant lettuces every three weeks to get heads of lettuce from summer through killing frost.  I can plant the quicker maturing greens like mache and arugula anywhere from mid-July to August 1st.

We mountain gardeners all have our own unique growing conditions and may have different experiences with fall gardening.  I would love to hear about your experiences and so would other readers!

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