Extend the harvest season for fresh vegetables

Many gardeners, even in the colder regions, are getting closer and closer each year to the goal of increasing their vegetable stocks throughout the year.

Corn, peppers, green beans and okra are put in the freezer, tomatoes are canned, and turnips, beets and winter squash can be stored in “fresh” storage in refrigerators and even in cool mud, garages and cellars.

However, the best are vegetables that can still be taken fresh from the garden. There’s no reason to throw in the towel yet: These vegetables can continue to snow and the temperature falling on teenagers.

What to create for the fall (preferably in winter)

Lettuce, endive, spinach and parsley are among the hardest vegetables. With the exception of parsley, which requires a long season and therefore needs to be sown earlier in the summer, planting of these cold-hard vegetables could begin in late summer when tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other warm-season crops have declined. This row of parsley may no longer resemble a dense green, miniature Rococo landscape, but it is still delicious.

Other vegetables complement fresh salads. The rocket or arugula is quite cold resistant. Some radishes are still crispy and pungent.

One of the hardest fresh salads is green, and at the same time the most delicious is mache, also known as corn salad. The delicate taste and gentle, spoon-shaped leaves impair the plant’s tolerance to harsh weather. Instead of not planting, I just let it plant itself: overwintered plants sow in early summer, but the seeds only germinate during the cool period of later summer. I transplant the young plants in early autumn.


Over the years, my own autumn lettuce vegetables have received the cold weather under a variety of protective structures. One year they were held under wires in homemade plexiglass A-frames, another year under miniature greenhouses, and another year in bottomless wooden boxes covered with clear glass.

This year, I stored “floating row lids” – translucent materials that keep some heat, yet allow air, light, and water to pass through – metal circles over my salads and endives. Some beds get metal rings covered with clear plastic that let in more sunlight, but not so much cold protection. It is not too late now to install a protective cover for these cold-tolerant plants.


The leaves of lettuce plants in sheltered rooms are often greenish and winged for a long time after their peers living in open spaces have become water green and flabby. For example, spinach and lettuce planted with their backs to the wall of a house or garage don’t ripen as cold as more distant plants. And any structure, even a low stone wall, absorbs heat as the sun hits it during the day and then gradually releases this solar energy during the night for the benefit of nearby plants.

Plants exposed to the east at this time of year have the least tender, edible leaves. Leaves frozen at night cannot stand the direct thawing of the morning sun.

Although spinach, lettuce, macaque, endive and parsley live, they do not grow. The weather is too cold and there is little light. The leaves of these plants are just sitting, waiting to be harvested.

Soon the temperature will be low enough to end the harvest of fresh vegetables in season, at least here in Zone 5 (average minimum temperature -20 Fahrenheit).

The roots of most spinach, leek, parsley, and corn lettuce plants, and perhaps some lettuce plants, survive outdoors even though their leaves freeze. In the spring, these roots feed the growth of succulent new leaves, the first harvest of the next season, long before the new seedlings are large enough to be harvested.

I claim that these first spring pickings and these last fall pickings taste better than any salad green.


Lee Reich regularly writes about gardening for the Associated Press. He has written several books, including “Weedless Gardening” and “The Eternal Curious Gardener”. Blog at http://www.leereich.com/blog. Available at [email protected]