Category Archives: Garden Advice

Easy Season Extension For Fall

Red Acre Cabbage

While many people would love to grow food year round, building a greenhouse isn’t always an option. Just because you lack the time, space, or money for a new greenhouse doesn’t mean you can’t extend your gardening season into the fall and winter. Here’s some easy ways to create the fall garden of your dreams without breaking the bank.

Cold Frames

These simple mini-greenhouses have been used for centuries often to harden off seedlings in the spring. Traditionally they were often placed along the southern wall of a heated green house but they can be used in south facing spot in your garden. They’re an excellent way grow root crops and leafy greens through the winter.

You’ll find many plans for cold frames available online or you can make one yourself. Many people build the walls out of wood, stacked blocks, or even just old straw bales and use old windows or sliding glass doors as the top.


Hotbeds are basically cold frames with the addition of fermenting manure. To create one you dig out the inside of a cold frame and place a thick layer of fresh manure in before covering it back with soil. The manure fermenting beneath the soil will actually heat the cold frame. The layer of soil is important. Don’t plant directly into manure.


Mulch helps your garden in a number of ways but when you’re looking to keep your garden growing in the fall mulch is an excellent way to insulate the soil and keep it warmer longer.

Select Cold Hardy Varieties

Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale

Even among the same crop different varieties handle cold weather better. Let’s use kale as an example. Though kale is generally known as a cold hardy spring/fall crop Red Russian Kale is only slightly cold hardy while Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale can be harvested under a foot of snow.

If you want to make the most of your fall garden carefully research varieties and select those most able to handle cold temperatures.

Use Low Tunnels

Essentially just small hoop houses, low tunnels have the advantage of being easily movable, vent-able, and very affordable. You can use anything from PVC pipes to saplings to create hoops over your garden beds and then cover them with row cover or clear plastic.

Use Micro-Climates

It may sound odd but many gardeners actually have a number of different micro-climates available in their own backyard. For fall gardening you’ll want to look for places that get the most sun and hold heat well. A southern facing wall will protect plants from wind and help hold heat. Large rocks will also absorb heat during the day keeping nearby plants warmer as they cool through the night.

Set Up a DIY Hoop House

If your up for a larger project there are a couple affordable DIY hoop house options that require very little construction knowledge to set up. Check out our article, Easy, Affordable Hoop House Options for more detail.


  • With any option where you’re limiting air flow like a cold frame or hoop house you’ll want to monitor the temperature closely especially on sunny days. You will need to open or vent your your season extender as needed.
  • For more ideas we highly recommend Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest.

No matter where you live you can have a fall and even winter garden without spending tons of time or money. A few simple projects can keep you in fresh, homegrown food year round!

6 Varieties That Were Grown at Monticello

Among the many reasons to grow heirlooms is the way they help us connect to us to culture and history. You don’t have to be a re-enactor to experience a piece of the past. The simple act of growing heirlooms is an easy way to live a part of history and connect with the daily lives of ordinary people.  A great resource on historic gardening in the United States is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson was extremely interested in horticulture. Just in the terrace garden at Monticello there were over 330 vegetable varieties grown. His passion for plants led to the founding of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello in 1986. They work to preserve historic varieties and encourage appreciation of garden history. A few of the heirlooms that SESE carries were actually grown at Monticello.

Cucuzzi Edible Gourd

This Italian heirloom makes a wonderful, bug-resistant zucchini substitute.  It does have big, sometimes 20 ft. long sprawling vines so you’ll need quite a bit of space. At Monticello they’re grown up sturdy, 10 ft. tall, wooden arbors.

Red Pisa Date Cherry Tomato

This variety isn’t directly from Monticello but it may have been served at Monticello as a dessert, sliced and dusted with powdered sugar. It was given to Dustin Swanland by his Italian aunt and introduced by SESE in 2013.

Red Wethersfield Dry Bulb Onion

Grown at Monticello, this onion has excellent flavor and is a good keeper. It’s named for Wethersfield Connecticut where it was developed by local farmers.

Monticello White Sesame

Sesame isn’t common in the modern backyard garden but Thomas Jefferson loved growing it. This variety is vigorous and heat-loving.

Sieva (Carolina) Pole Bean

Another of Jefferson’s favorites, this delicious lima bean is productive and drought-tolerant. It can grow up to 10 ft tall and requires a sturdy trellis.

Tennis Ball Batavian / Crisphead Lettuce

This variety is best grown in the spring. It was grown at Monticello and dates back prior to 1804!

Whippoorwill Southern Pea (Cowpea)

This variety was actually brought to the Americas from Africa during the slave trade. As it is drought-tolerant and does well in nearly all soils it was once the standard southern pea. It can be eaten green or dried.

If you’d like to learn more about heirloom varieties, Monticello’s gardens, or historic gardening in general please consider making a trip to the 12th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello on September 22nd!



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Organic Integrated Pest Management

As lovely and romantic as organic gardening can be it can also be really tough. A huge struggle for many organic gardeners is dealing with pests in an efficient and economical way without the use of pesticides or rodenticides. Developing an organic integrated pest management system or IPM can help.

Monitor & Identify

The first step is to monitor your garden and identify any pest issues. Record any problems in a garden journal and be as specific as possible. Research the type of pests you’re seeing and their life cycles. Are they cabbage worms or cabbage loopers attacking your broccoli plants? Also record dates and conditions when they attack your garden. Do aphids destroy your fall crop of lettuce or do the only impact your spring sowings? The more you learn about these pests the easier it is to prevent them. You should also consider at this time if the pests are actually a problem. Having to pick off a few tomato hornworms may not be worth putting major preventative measures in place if they’re not actually affecting the productivity in your garden and are otherwise easily managed.


This is the most important part of an IPM. Once you’ve gathered information you can put preventative measures in place. Knowing a pest’s habitat and life cycle can be key. Examples of of preventative measures include planting a crop late or early to avoid a major pest season (ex. planting quick maturing cabbage early when it’s too cold for cabbage moths), attracting certain bird species to keep pest populations in check, encouraging or purchasing native predatory insect species (ex. ladybugs can be purchased online and are excellent at reducing aphid populations), growing pest resistant varieties, or using row cover over your most vulnerable crops. Sometimes you’ll need to employ a combination of these strategies. Often a well planned preventative strategy can keep your garden productive without a lot of additional work.


In severe situations where pest prevention has been ineffective control measures are used as a last resort. These controls may be very effective against pests however they’re typically costly in other ways. Some, like handpicking can be very time consuming while others may actually be pricey for the small gardener like neem oil. Even though they aren’t as problematic as chemical pesticides they also may have unintentional environmental impacts despite the fact that they’re organic. Organic pesticides like neem oil, diatomaceous earth, or milky spore powder may be implemented with the intention of only harming a single pest species but unfortunately there’s no way to protect the good species. These organic pesticides can still kill beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, parasitic wasps, predatory beetles, and more.

Using integrated pest management can help you successfully maintain an organic garden. While no strategy is perfect, researching and recording your specific pest problems and then implementing preventative strategies can be effective.

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