Cut & Paste: Extend your Greenhouse Growing Season for Fall & Winter

Soil in a shovel

greenhouse soilSome people consider the first day of school or even “back to school” shopping as the real start to fall. But for me and my garden, the first day of fall comes when wasps appear at my outdoor dining table and I am extending the greenhouse growing season.

Suddenly we have wasps galore. Just as we sit down to eat, like fleas on a dog, wasps are all over my smoked salmon appetizer. Now don’t get me wrong. I love wasps. They eat nasty bugs like caterpillars on cabbage and aphids on everything. But they are not welcome to join us for dinner.

This reminder of fall triggers the cut and paste season in the greenhouse. “Cutting” out the things you no longer need and “pasting” in new plants to enjoy later in fall, winter or even next spring.

fall flowers

Here are three cut and paste jobs I'll enjoy this fall:

shade cloth

#1. Cut:

Remove greenhouse shade cloth

Even if it is still warm where you live, the days are getting shorter and shade cloth blocks 40-50% of the light coming into your greenhouse. When light is blocked, plants take longer to grow, so take off the shade cloth, roll it up and put it away for the season.


#2 Cut:

Remove less-than-perfect plants

Plants prepped on garden bench

The ugliness of the zinnias I popped into a gap in my greenhouse a couple of months ago shocked my friend Susan. I had a small space and a few leftover plants so I put the two together and – well – they are a bit jarring.  So, these zinnias and some of the bedraggled tomatoes and lettuce going to seed are coming out today.

Plants let you know when they are done. I have one tomato that is wilting and has stopped blooming… probably because I dug around it to plant a few late-season beans a while back.  No point waiting on new tomato blooms at this time of year from a plant that is borderline, so this one is getting the axe – it is coming out today.

Give everything in the greenhouse a good hard assessment and – as Marie Kondo says – remove anything that is not bringing you joy!

#3 Paste:

Add Plants

If there is still a full and thriving crop in your greenhouse, you’ll hesitate to take anything out to begin replanting. But the truth is, as the days shorten and the night temperatures cool, you’ll be caught with your plants down come October unless you prepare now to replace your perfect plants.

If the greenhouse is still full, start winter plants in containers or flats for transplanting later. Green onions, bok choi, spinach or mustard greens are all easily started indoors and transplanted into the greenhouse as gaps appear. Or, if you have a greenhouse growing  potting bench, you can start them on your bench and wait to move them into the soil as older plants are removed.

Save a step by simply sprinkling leftover seeds into the gaps between plants today. I did this with lettuce a few days ago and the sprouts are already up! It is honestly amazing how fast things grow in warm fall soil.

If you are dreaming of full and colorful pots of bulbs next spring consider planting Lasagna-style pots filled with bulbs to tuck under your greenhouse bench now and bring out into the world next spring!

Cutting out the least likely plants to bring joy and “pasting” via seeding or planting keeps our greenhouses fresh and vibrant. Heat and floating row covers will be added soon enough but today, as we enjoy the last sunny days of summer and fall into the next season, the fun of growing is upon us.

More from Donna

For more greenhouse growing tips from Donna, visit

You can also read Donna’s gardening books: No Guff Vegetable Gardening with Steven Biggs and the Gardener’s Gratitude Journal:  Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide