Extending the Season-Making a Low Tunnel

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These broccoli transplants were put in on Aug 24, 2106

I taught a class in late August on Planting for a Fall Harvest where I showed the students you don’t have to have a Greenhouse to extend the season. You can also have a cold frame or even simpler is what I call a low tunnel. Now with the cold nights, you definitely need something over your new fall transplants.

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Here is the frame of the low tunnel before row cover-just fencing material curled into a u-shape ready for plants underneath it

I like to make my low tunnels out of 2″ x 4″ fencing or even concrete reinforcement wire.  I just open up the fence roll, cut off enough so it will be curved above my plants and turn it upside down on the soil.

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row cover over the low tunnel protects crops at night

Cover it with winter weight row cover (1.0 ml).  I put rocks on mine to keep it from blowing away. Now you have a secure low tunnel that will protect your plants during the shoulder season that is closing in on us quickly. What is a shoulder season? It is the time of year when the temperatures can drop quickly at night near freezing and then heat up in the day. The temperature shifts can swing wildly during the shoulder season. We have a shoulder season in spring and fall. By making a low tunnel, you can extend the season and grow vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, bok choy, mustard, mesclun, radicchio and other cool season crops much later. Fall is a great time to plant cool season crops and it’s not too late if you get transplants now. It might be too late if you start from seed unless it’s lettuce. Try to pick varieties that are cold tolerant.

Red Orach-More info and pictures

A gardening buddy of mine is growing Red Orach and I thought it would be good to see pictures of it as it is coming up. Mine just reseeded itself so it grows everywhere. It will get quite tall  (3-5 feet) if left unattended and that is how it has reseeded it self everywhere at my place. I let a few go to seed 2 years ago. That’s ok with me. I can always pull it if it grows somewhere I don’t want it to be. But don’t wait till it gets tall to pick the leaves. Pick them while they are quite young and they will be tender.

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Red Orach (mountain spinach) and Bright Lights Chard

I just picked some Bright Lights Chard that overwintered in the coldframe and with the chard were a few plants of Red Orach (also called mountain spinach) that have been reseeding itself.  The variety of orach I grew came from Baker Heirloom Rare Seed company and it makes a great red addition to salads or used as steamed greens. I steamed the chard and Red Orach on top of some pasta tonight yummy. It tastes like spinach and you should pick it when it’s young and tender to eat. Red Orach really is an incredible deep magenta red color. Look how beautiful they look together!

Chard and Red Orach for dinner tonight