By Therese Ciesinski, In the Dirt Newsletter editor
If you planted a fall vegetable garden this past August, you know that many crops are ready to be harvested soon, right in time for the Thanksgiving table. Once mature, certain crops – cole crops, root vegetables, and greens – grow well in the sunny days and frosty nights of fall. They will even taste sweeter after a nip or two of frost, which concentrates the sugars. Here are three vegetables that don’t mind the cold:
The knobby, bumpy stalks of Brussels sprouts growing in open spaces of a fall garden look more like otherworldly trees from a Dr. Seuss book rather than vegetables. They are ready when they are 1 to 1 ½” around. Harvest the bumpy mini-cabbages from the bottom of the plant up.
Patiently waiting underground, carrots get sweeter while they wait to be harvested. Once the night temps dip into the 30’s, a heavy mulch of straw over and around the tops will protect them.
Savoy type spinach, with its wrinkly leaves, resists frosts better than the flat leafed types. Growing in a cold frame or protected from the chilliest nights, spinach is best harvested by snipping individual leaves once they are about two inches tall with scissors so the plant can continue to produce leaves.
If consistently low nighttime temps have you concerned that your harvest won’t make it to the Thanksgiving table, use row covers, lightweight quilts, or frost blankets to protect them on the chilliest nights. Uncover in the morning.
If you live in the South, you likely won’t need to protect the crops from consistently freezing nights, but will have to contend with second or even third generations of insect pests that don’t have those consistently cold temperatures to kill them off.