The weather forecast says cold temperatures are on the way, but there’s still time to grow a few tasty vegetables — no matter how small an area you have to work with. However, don’t worry too much about frost. Unlike tender annuals, such as tomatoes, once cool-season crops like spinach, lettuce, radishes and beets are up and growing, they can take some cold. They won’t grow as much in cold weather, but all of them will keep producing until the ground begins to freeze. That’s usually at least several weeks after a frost hits. But before that, if you want to keep your plants warmer, and growing faster and longer into the fall, cover them up at night.
During the day, soil stores heat from the sun. As the sun goes down and the air temperature drops, heat leaves the soil. A fabric covering can hold that warmth closer to your plants when it gets cold. Even a bed sheet or piece of floating row cover — available at garden centers or www.gardeners.com — will work. For the best protection, keep the fabric from touching the plants. If it gets wet it can transmit the cold from the air to the leaf and damage it. In the photo above, the cover is supported by an overturned wire basket. To capture the most heat, put the covering on just as the sun goes down in the evening. Be sure to remove it after the sun comes up.
Check out a great tool for planting, weeding and more — the Soil Knife at right!