We had a very warm Fall here in Dallas Texas, one of the warmest on record. Because of this my Fall seeds had a hard time germinating. Meaning I put down a lot of seed and not many beautiful green plants came up. However over at the Community Garden those that started their Fall garden with little plants from the nursery did great. I noticed this last year too; those that planted little plants got a jump on Fall. How about you, How does your garden grow, Dallas?
To counteract this low germination problem I tried a trick, my friend in
Colorado Springs showed me, of laying down burlap over the seeds and keeping it moist. Sadly this technique was a bust.
I usually start my own little plants, but this year it was so dry and warm that I still had germination issues and it was impossible to keep these starts moist.(perhaps I was also a tad bit busier this year with, hum, maybe bees!) Placing the sprouts in the shade solved the watering problem, but produced a leggy sprout.
Next Fall maybe I will leave it up to the baby plant growing pros and buy little starts for my garden or maybe I will have a lighted indoor seed starting rack of my own by that time? Or maybe next Fall will be cool and moist like usual!
After these attempts at an awesome Fall garden I am left with some baby plants and a looming first possible freeze on the horizon(First possible freeze in Dallas is November 15, Yikes that’s today) What is a gardener to do? Become a Winter gardener that’s what!
What you will need to take your plants from Fall into Winter:
- pvc pipe:I use 1/2″ x 8′ pvc, 4 poles per bed, bending them over to make a kind of covered wagon looking frame.
- frost cloth: Now for the cover cloth. Cover frost cloths (polyester fibers bonded loosely together) come in all sorts of different lengths and thicknesses. You will base your thickness on how harsh your Winter is. Obviously the lower the temperatures/severe your weather is, the thicker your material will need to be. However, you want to get the most light in that you can possibly get. After much research I found that the right thickness for my area is 1.0 oz and the light it lets in is 78%. When purchasing cloth keep in mind that it has to be at least 10′ wide to go over the hoops and have enough left to anchor down on either side. I know this by experience ,as I sat at my sewing machine piecing mine together one year, because it was not the right width. FUN! This year I bought mine the right width here. Don’t forget when you cut it to leave several extra feet at the end to gather around the opening and anchor down with a brick. In this area Northhaven Gardens in Dallas also sells frost cloth by the foot.
- bricks to weigh down cloth around beds or clips to secure cloth
A reader asked: Don’t the plants need more light than they can get under that cloth?
In answer: Yes, they do. I only put the cloth up in the evening that temps are predicted to drop below 32. In the morning, after I feed the animals, I go out front and remove all the cloths from the garden so they can soak up that lovely Texas sun!
Another question; Can I use plastic drop cloths to cover my garden?
Cloth vs Plastic covers could be a whole different post. Briefly some things I like about cloth covers are: lets moisture in, lasts season after season and doesn’t blow off so easily because the air goes through it some what. The final and most compelling reason I like cloth better is because on those beautiful warmish days it REALLY heats up under that plastic. The Winter crops LIKE it a bit chilly, NOT Texas greenhouse hot!
If you have never gardened through the Winter before I challenge you to try it this year. It is fun and easy. Your friends will be amazed as you show off your harvest of kale and Brussel Sprouts and exclaim confidently, “Jack Frost, I scoff at you! Bring it, my frosty friend!”