Extending your garden growing season gives you more fruit and vegetable choices

There is nothing better than that fresh-from-the-garden or farm flavor in our food. Through succession planting and season extending practices, you can get fresh foods longer in the season.

Owsainy Farm Market, near Mattawan, Mich.Now is a great time to begin a second crop of lettuce and herbs, and extend your garden growing season. You have probably already harvested many of your vegetables leaving space for other cool season crops to be replanted. Look for spring mixes, spinach, radishes, and if you have a full service nursery nearby, even starter packs of broccoli and cabbage may be available. If you are succession planting, planning ahead for continuous harvest will keep your garden productive well into the cold weather.

Now is the time to start setting up your row cover framework for crops still producing, as well as your newly planted crops to protect them from early and light frosts. This can extend your harvest well past frost dates. To achieve the best results in harvesting a successful succession and fall crops, count backwards from the first frost date to calculate the final planting of the year. In Michigan the average first frost date is October 11-15 in most parts of Lower Michigan; Upper Michigan is about two weeks sooner.

Plastic mulch helps to keep the soil warmer longer. Generally mulching is recommended as an important practice for gardening because it creates a barrier between your plant and the soil helping to protect your plants from soil-born fungus and disease. Mulch conserves moisture and shades plant roots keeping them cooler in the summer heat. Now is also the time to seed in cover crops in your garden space to help build the soil during the winter months.

If you are buying your food from local farmer’s marketsfarm markets or a community supported agriculture (CSA) they would have been putting in succession crops in order to make a particular vegetable available more frequently and to extend the season on that particular crop. Some crops to expect to see still available now are Swiss chard, tomatoes, squashes, apples, pears, eggplant, new crops of lettuces and greens, green and yellow beans, sweet corn, potatoes, celery , onions, carrots, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, pumpkins, mums, asters, sunflowers, late blueberries and fall raspberries.

Whichever way you choose to get your fresh local food, by growing it yourself or buying it from a local farm, succession planting and implementing ways to extend the growing season can keep the foods you love available longer.