By Marianne Binetti
I do not like winter. When it comes to cold weather and dormant gardens, I am not a fan. This is why I use season-extending tricks in my autumn garden to keep the veggies protected and the color continuing.
Adding a hoop house to a raised-bed vegetable garden is an easy and inexpensive way to protect summer squash, tomatoes, and lettuce from winter weather. Start by securing metal brackets to the sides of the raised bed. One method is to add the brackets to the outside of the bed.
The other is to screw the bracket to the inside of the bed and add a short length of PVC pipe. The white pipe becomes a permanent part of the bed. You can remove the hoops, made from repurposed flexible-irrigation tubing, in summer when you no longer need plastic covering.
I drape a clear plastic covering over the hoops in mid-October, before the first hard frost. Now I can continue to harvest leaf crops, zucchini, and tomatoes until Thanksgiving—sometimes longer.
Don’t forget: You also can extend the season of your flower garden. I keep a window box under cover and protected from the wind. By harvesting dried hydrangea blossoms and the rusty dried blooms of ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, I can display these autumn blooms simply by poking the cut ends into the moist soil of what otherwise would be an empty container.
Another way to enjoy your summer blooms into autumn is to fashion dried plant material into a wreath. An artistic friend at Matley Farms (Country Garden Bouquets) teaches wreath-making classes to garden clubs using dried flowers from the autumn garden. Harvesting summer flowers is yet another way to extend the growing season. Displaying summer blooms in wreaths can make winter seem just a bit more colorful. Sign me up!
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