Extending the Growing Season

Oct 12, 2015 | Growing Tips

by Sam Thompson, SCMG
past Coordinator

Harvest season is typically a time of bounty and for some it is a relief because the hard work is nearly over. If you’re like me the relief is short-lived and I quickly regret the season is over. The solution is to extend the growing season a bit longer. There are a variety of ways to do that.

Cover the Plants Directly

One of the easiest approaches to plants protection is simply covering the plants. The key is to protect from cold and especially frost which tends to put an end to most vegetables and herbs. You can use a variety of materials – blankets, fabric or plastic sheets, cardboard. Take into consideration the strength of your plant when selecting your material – a heavy blanket might be a poor choice for a delicate plant while it would be acceptable on a seven foot indeterminate tomato plant (yes, I’ve had experience with that) When using material that can absorb water it can lead to cooler temperatures as the moisture evaporates so prompt removal of wet material can be key.

When using heavier materials or plastic it is important to remove them during the day to allow the soil to heat up.

Another approach is to use row cover. Row cover is easy to handle and may be placed directly on plants. Row cover is available in a variety of thicknesses that offer protection for temperatures below freezing. For plants requiring insect pollination, row cover needs to be removed during the day. The only drawback to row cover is the cost, but if care is taken with its handling it may be used for multiple growing seasons.

Build a Structure to Support a Cover. There are many different ways you can protect plants in the garden. For low growing plants, such as greens, you can create a tunnel structure and simply drape with a plastic sheet or row cover that can be easily opened during the day and closed at night. It is extremely important that the tunnel is opened during the day to avoid an excessive heat build up. If you have the space you could surround the plants with bales of straw or hay and protect the plants from the cold by laying protection over the top (e.g., plastic sheet or old windows).

Transplant. Last year I had a lot of volunteer basil in my garden. I did not come close to using it all. Since I really love fresh basil I selected one of the smaller plants, carefully dug it up and placed it in a pot. I left the plant outside for a brief period then brought it into my sunroom where it provided fresh basil until the following spring. It’s a simple approach that you could try with smaller plants, particularly your favorite herbs. {