#15 Extending the Growing Season

It’s August already, which means (dare I say it) that we are getting closer and closer to the soul-sucking depths of winter. Thankfully, we still have a couple of months of warm summer weather before the cold weather sets in, but that doesn’t mean we should plan our gardening accordingly. You don’t have to let the cold weather entirely shut down your garden, there are plenty of ways to extend your growing season into late October and even mid-November before your plants call it a year.

Cold Frames

At our garden, we use cold frames almost every year. Previously ours consist of simple PVC piping that is placed in an arch shape over our garden beds and then a plastic sheet is draped overtop. The plastic sheet provides protection from the immediate cold and frost, allowing us to extend the growing season an extra month or two. Generally, cold frames allow for you to keep you plants in the ground, rather than having to harvest everything all at once at the end of the growing season. This works best with root veggies like carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, etc. The ground essentially acts as a refrigerator and allows you to store your veggies in the round.

Cold frames can also be used to get your seedlings started early in the spring (using our cold frames, we got our garden started in April this year), over-winter plants and harden your indoor plants to the outside weather. It is important to note that cold frames can get pretty warm when the weather warms up and can bake your plants pretty easy. Just make sure they are properly vented when the days start getting warmer but the nights are still to cold to do away with the frames.

Many cold frames I have seen have been pretty make-shift like ours, but some people build real frames the have lifting doors and everything. This allows for much easier access and saves plenty of frustration. See the pictures below!

Green Houses

This probably sounds obvious, but green houses also allow you to lengthen your growing season. Obviously, not everyone has access to a greenhouse and so this may not be the best option for everyone. But you can buy home greenhouse kits from hardware stores and although they are a considerable investment, they will help you really get the most out of the year.

There are two kinds of home greenhouses – lean-to or attached greenhouses and freestanding greenhouses. The distinction is that an attached greenhouse is simply an extension of your home or garage. It’s would not have 4 greenhouse walls, but would instead make use of an existing structure. The freestanding greenhouse is a 4 walled structure. The benefit of a lean-to greenhouse is that it is more economical and is easier for everyone to obtain. Freestanding greenhouses are a bit more expensive, but benefit in that they have more space and get more light.

When finding a spot for a greenhouse, ensure that it will get at least 6 hours of sunlight in the winter time to get good growing year round. Deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves in the all) are great for greenhouses because they can provide much needed shade in the heat of summer while still allowing adequate sunlight in the winter after they have lost their leaves. Avoid placing your greenhouse to close to coniferous or evergreen trees as they will shadow your greenhouse in the winter when they DO NOT lose their leaves or needles.

There are many things to consider when getting a greenhouse. Check out this website for more information!

Seed Starting

This last year we started all of our seeds for the garden in my apartment. I had every window in the place packed with seed trays! This allowed us to get started much earlier than we otherwise would have been able to, so I recommend getting those seeds started early if at all possible. You don’t need a greenhouse for this either, which is great! Just keep your home warm and place the seed trays in the brightest window you got!

Getting a head start on your tomato and pepper plants will mean they produce earlier in the year. It also means that you can make delicious food with your own home grown produce sooner too!

Conclusion

Get creative! Find some plastic sheeting and makeshift something if you have to! It’s fun to still be getting your own veggies in the late fall, and you don’t necessarily need an expensive greenhouse to do it. And as we see our summer coming closer and closer to an end we need to consider how we can get the most out of our garden!

~Landon Getz, External Coordinator

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