Sowing Seeds Mid-August For A Winter Harvest

de cicco broccoli

It’s mid-August already, but there’s still time to sow a number of different vegetables for a winter harvest. If you’re growing your own food for your family or for market, you’ll want to take advantage of the remaining season and get these crops in the ground right away. If you haven’t tried it yet, seize the opportunity and overwinter a bed of vegetables for fresh harvesting all winter. If I can do it, you certainly can!

sowing mid-august for a winter harvestKnow your Persephone Period

Aside from temperature, the most important thing to consider when planning your winter garden is day-length. Most plants need at least 10 hours of daylight for active growth to occur. Eliot Coleman dubbed this the “Persephone Days” after the Greek vegetation goddess.

mid-august sowing for winter harvest

The key is to schedule your plantings so that your crops will be 75% mature by the time the Persephone Period begins. Your day-length will vary depending on where you are, so the point at which your Persephone Period begins will likely be different from mine.

Note: To determine your own Persephone Period check out Johnny’s Winter Growing Guide, where they walk you through how to figure it all out.

Plan Ahead

First you have to decide where you’re going to put these crops. Are they for harvesting throughout the winter? Or are you trying to overwinter them for an early spring harvest? Do you now have empty beds where your spring crops formerly sat? Which beds could be freed up? and which ones will be available once the summer crops have been harvested?

Think about how you’ll protect them from the cold. Do you have a high-tunnel or hoop-house, or are you using low-tunnels? Do you have all the supplies you’ll need? You don’t want to be scrambling for row-cover in the event of an unexpected frost-warning; take advantage of the fall season-extension sale going on right now at Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

If you don’t have a high-tunnel or hoop-house, the low-tunnels are a super easy and affordable option for gardeners and commercial growers. Learn more about using Agribon in the Garden in this article I wrote!

9 crops you can sow mid-August

Now you’re gung-ho to grow! Boo-yeah! But what can you plant this late in the season?

Quite a lot as it turns out.

From Seed:

  1. Beets
  2. Turnips
  3. Carrots
  4. Leeks
  5. Broccoli raab (this is a little different from your typical heading broccoli)
  6. Radishes
  7. Parsley
  8. GREENS: spinach, pac choi, mache, lettuces, mustards, etc.

From Transplants:

de cicco broccoli
This is De Cicco broccoli I direct-sowed in July, followed by another sowing mid-August.

I can’t get fall transplants in my area because most folks still garden primarily through the summer around here. If I had started these myself back in July I could have put them in, but by mid-August it’s just too late to try growing these crops from seed. However if you can get them where you are, or if you know a local farmer who grows fall transplants you should totally jump on that and get these crops in the ground. Often people have less trouble with them in the fall because the pest pressure is all but gone and these plants really do like the cool temperatures.

  1. BRASSICAS: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (brussel sprouts have a 110 day maturity, so even from a transplant there’s just not time to produce a crop).

Just sow it!

At this point in the season we’re beginning to get worn out, tired from long days toiling in the sun and late evenings in the kitchen preserving the harvest. Yet I know that if you make the effort to get these crops in─come January when you’re harvesting fresh greens for salad or a side of fresh steamed greens─you’ll be glad you did.

Whatever the reason for growing your own food─whether it’s to save money, eat better (as in fewer preservatives, less sugar, less salt, and to avoid cancer-causing pesticides), or to promote a more sustainable food system─you can extend your growing season to extend into the fall and even through the winter with a little strategic planning, and some initiative. So get out there and get those seeds in the ground!

Have you tried growing for winter harvest? Share your insights with us! Leave a comment below; together we can grow better!

Tufflite greenhouse film: tuff stuff!

using-tufflite-greenhouse-film
hoop-house-in-snow
Tufflite film on my new multi-purpose hoop-house structure, currently in use as a chicken coop.

Two years ago I bought my first roll of Tufflite IV greenhouse film and have since used it in a variety of ways around the Runamuk farm and homestead. As I’ve progressed along my journey towards a sustainable life I’ve looked for ways to extend my growing season, ways to improve upon the things I am already doing, and methods for stacking systems on my farm. The Tufflite plastic has served as a multipurpose and rugged piece of equipment that has allowed me to do just that.

For years I used the clear 4mil or 6mil contractor’s plastic so widely available at local hardware and garden centers. I learned the hard way the limits of that type of plastic when I used it to cover my first-attempt at a small hoop-house during the winter of 2013-14. The plastic became brittle and one careless swipe with the shovel was all it took to shatter the covering; I was picking up bits of plastic by hand come spring. Not fun.

Enter the Tufflite IV greenhouse film available at Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

What is Tufflite IV?

diy-high-tunnel
Here are some of the high-tunnels at the Johnny’s Selected Seeds research farm in Albion, Maine.

A broad range of farmers and gardeners are using this plastic on their greenhouses and in the construction of their high-tunnels. It provides protection for crops and seedlings from rain, wind, and frost, enables them to extend their growing season and allows for improved production of heat-loving crops in northern climates.

Tufflite Advantages:

  • 6mil plastic is heavy duty and durable.
  • UV-resistant
  • Light transmission is comparable to glass
  • Won’t discolor over time
  • Lasts a minimum of 4 years
  • Protects crops/seedlings from increment weather
  • Allows for season extension
  • Versatile

Tufflite Disadvantages:

  • Expensive stuff!
  • Used with PVC voids warranty.*
  • Not a tarp! It can rip if not used correctly.
  • Hard to find very small pieces.**

My experience with Tufflite

tufflite-greenhouse
High-tunnel at Sidehill Farm in Madison, Maine.Photo credit: Jessica Paul.

The Tufflite was a bit of an investment for Runamuk, but when used properly it lasts for years and it’s versatile enough that I’ve been able to use it in a wide variety of applications: mini hoop-houses, cold-frames, my new hoop-coop, and even the windows of the barn at our former location in Starks. I’ve also seen it in action on the high-tunnels of friends and at the Johnny’s research farm; it’s always a marvelous experience to step inside a high-tunnel to see the variety of crops that can be grown in those conditions.

*Johnny’s actually doesn’t recommend or even warranty this greenhouse film for use with PVC because they’re not sure how the polyethylene that the plastic is made from will react with the polyvinyl chloride that the PVC piping is made of. That being said, I have been using this plastic on PVC for the last 2 years and have had good luck with it.

**You can find the Tufflite film available from greenhouse supply companies including Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It comes in a range of sizes, though if you’re a home gardener with a small plot you may be disappointed that it’s difficult to find a very small piece. And forget getting a piece of scrap material─typically if there’s anything left over employees are quick to snatch that stuff up. My best recommendation if you’re looking for a small section is to go in on a roll with other gardening friends, or invest in the smallest roll you can get and then look for alternative uses for the plastic as I have done.

Tufflite does degrade over time and at some point it’s no longer suitable for seedling or crop production. However, often when farmers replace the film on their high-tunnels or greenhouses there’s still a lot of life left in the plastic. If you’re intending to use the greenhouse film for a project other than growing crops (such as on a chicken coop) you may be able to score a second-hand piece if you are friendly with local farmers.

Two thumbs up!

The Tufflite IV greenhouse film has opened up a number of opportunities for my farm: from production of seedlings and season extension in my garden, to portable livestock shelters that allow me to rotate my chickens on pasture. It may cost more, but the Tufflite is superior to the contractor’s plastic and has proven it’s worth here at Runamuk. I would highly recommend this plastic to anyone who is looking to extend their growing season or who is looking to create systems on their homestead or farm that allow for stackable functions. I give the Tufflite an emphatic two thumbs up!

Have you ever used greenhouse film? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below for others to learn from.

Quick Hoops Benders – Check out this video from Johnny’s Selected Seeds to learn how to bend your own EMT to construct a high tunnel for your farm or homestead!

Winter Growing Guide – Here is another great resource from Johnny’s which helps you schedule planting that allow you to extend your growing season into the winter months.

High Tunnels – A pdf from the University of Vermont about growing in high tunnels.

High Tunnel Management Pointers for Vegetable Growers – Worthwhile article with insights and tips from GrowingProduce.com.

Extending the Garden Season with High Tunnels – Detailed resource from the Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension.