The Vegetable Garden
Growing vegetables and fruits is very satisfying, as well as providing healthy food for your family. The vegetable gardening season can be extended from the last frost of spring to the beyond the first frost of fall through season extension with the use of row covers. The normal frost-free growing season in our part of the Virginia Piedmont is 182 days, starting with the last spring frost (usually between April 20 and 30) and ending with the first fall frost, usually between Oct 20 and 30. Season extension means growing outside these dates, before the last frost of spring and after the last frost of fall. Vegetables that tolerate frost are called “cold hardy”. Examples include cabbage, onions, spinach, lettuce and carrots.
Many of our favorite vegetables will not produce outside the normal growing season, including tender summer annuals, such as, tomatoes, basil, peppers, corn, beans, eggplant, melons and squash. If planted too early, the frost will kill these vegetables. If you plant them too late, the frost will kill them. The determine when to plant each type of vegetable for the longest growing season and optimal results, consult our planting calendar, below, developed by Master Gardeners in Prince William for optimal seeding, planting and harvest times for fall – winter success.
Tender summer annuals include any crop that will germinate in late winter (inside) until early spring and grow to a mature yield before the first frost in late October, or about 3 months growing time. We also recommend the following techniques and teach them in our classes:
• Cover crops
• Sanitation (cleaning up diseased plant material)
• Crop rotation
• Scouting regularly for pests