What Fall Equinox Means for your Garden
by Sandy Swegel
Fall Equinox is upon us which suddenly spurs me to lament all the gardening I didn’t get done this year. In particular, I don’t have much of a winter garden growing. Am I going to have to start buying store-bought greens? I thought maybe I could outsmart Mother Nature by using row cover and soil heating cables to get some lettuces and kales going, but a farmer friend broke the bad news to me. Can’t be done. Sure I can get some growth. But lettuce and other greens are affected more by photoperiodism, than heat. Huh? I asked. She said Farmers know to get all their Fall and Winter plants going well before Fall Equinox because once the days start getting shorter, plants don’t grow as vigorously. (This, of course, doesn’t apply if you are further South where your days stay longer.) The farmer said I can get the lettuce to grow, but I won’t have the vigor and growth I need to provide myself with enough food for Fall into Winter. Lettuce is what they call a “long-day” plant. This is also the reason, more so than heat, that lettuce goes to seed in the middle of summer….because the days are long.
Who knew? Well, farmers and people who live off the land know. They start their winter lettuce in late summer.
Besides me, there’s another group of people who want to outsmart Mother Nature. Astronauts. One of the obstacles to living in space and inhabiting other planets is food. NASA has run food experiments on the Space Station for years, but now for the first time, astronauts are growing their own lettuces to eat instead of just to experiment on. What a treat for them instead of all those dried space foods.
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