Check the seed packet or the plant tag to make sure that your crop will mature before it is slowed by cold weather or killed by frost (if it is frost-tender). Cold-tolerant plants, such as the cole crops and greens, will survive frost, but it is best to get them close to maturity before the cold weather stops their growth.
The plant information should include "days to maturity," which can vary by variety and can be a good indicator of how long it will take for a harvest to start. But wait -- it's not just that simple. That maturity rate is for plants started in the spring. You are going to have to do more math.
Because plant growth will slow down with the cooler fall temperatures, add 14 days to the count. Then, to make sure you have a long enough "harvest window" (you are not likely to run out and harvest everything in one day), add at least 14 more days. That's 28 days so far. Now, if it is frost-tender (like beans and tomatoes), you may want to add a few more weeks just to be safe. You take your resulting sum and count backward from our projected "first killing frost" date, which for most of Southern West Virginia is Oct. 20.
To extend the garden fun even further into the fall and winter, consider using protection. Frost row cover is a spun-fiber material that can offer several degrees of protection. I often tell people it looks like a big roll of dryer sheet material. Clear plastic can create what is called a low tunnel, which offers even more protection. Both of these are usually available at feed and seed stores or from online garden/farm retailers.
Farm and garden pest clinic
I will be holding a clinic for folks who want to have their insects, diseases and weeds identified and their garden and farm questions answered. WVU Extension specialists Dr. Rakesh Chandran (weeds), Dr. Daniel Frank (insects) and Dr. M.M. Rahman (diseases) will join me from 3 to 6 p.m. July 9 at Capitol Market to answer questions, identify pests and offer solutions. Be sure to bring your questions, along with your bugs, plants, weeds and pictures.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at john.por...@mail.wvu.edu or at 304-720-9573. Twitter: @WVUgardenguru.