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© 2014 Shanna Lea
Living in areas with distinct seasons can pose challenges when growing vegetables outdoors. Spring can be wild in temperature fluctuations and you have to wait until the threat of frost has passed and soil has reached the right temperature before planting. Then, before you know it, autumn has brought shorter days and cooler temps back again that signal the end of the growing season.
It’s much easier to work with Mother Nature, if you hope to have a productive and abundant harvest. If you learn to work within the boundaries she sets, you can utilize successful ways to extend the vegetable growing season.
3 Easy Ways to Extend Your Vegetable Growing Season
You can’t prevent a late spring freeze or an early blast of winter, but you can mitigate a lot of the damage caused by the shift in the seasons. You simply need to be prepared to protect your tender plants when those temperatures suddenly drop.
Mulch: The easiest way to provide protection for your plants is to add a heavy layer of mulch. The mulch around your plants provides a layer of insulation for the soil when the temperatures drop to freezing. Mulch also holds in moisture when the temperatures rise again, reducing your water usage.
There are many types of mulch available for your garden.
- Shredded leaves
- Wood chips
- Grass clippings
- Compost, etc
Whatever mulch you choose to use in your vegetable garden, be sure it is free of chemical pesticides and herbicides. For example, you would not want to ask for lawn clippings from a lawn service where you don’t know the source of the clippings and if it had been sprayed with chemicals.
Cold Frames: Cold frames also extend your vegetable growing season. A cold frame is a four-sided structure with a glass or plastic lid on top. Cold frames trap heat from the sun inside the box to keep plants warm during a cold snap.
Cold frames are easy to build. Just build a rectangular or square box out of wood and attach an old glass window or door on top with hinges on one side. This keeps it from blowing off in the wind. It also makes it easy to open and shut as you remove plants. You can also brace a stick to keep the top open for a time during the day for air circulation. Place your potted plants and seedlings inside to harden them off before planting, or help them survive the sudden dips in temperature.
Another easy way to make a cold frame is with straw hay bales. Simply arrange the bales in a rectangle and cover with a glass window or door panel. There’s just enough space inside to house your seedlings. Weigh down the glass on both ends so it doesn’t fly off in high winds.
If these are not good options for you, there are ready-made cold frames available online. You’ll pay a little more for this option, but sometimes the other options are not convenient for your time constraints or physical challenges. This way, you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding materials or investing time to build it yourself.
Greenhouse: For many, a greenhouse is the ultimate dream for the garden. Wouldn’t it be great to have a permanent year-round space to grow your favorite plants? A well-designed greenhouse enhances your property with beauty as well.
But, hiring a contractor or purchasing a high-end greenhouse kit can be expensive. You also need to heat the greenhouse in colder climates. And if you rent or have a small outdoor space, a permanent greenhouse is not a viable option.
You can still enjoy the benefits of a greenhouse with a portable mini-greenhouse without the high price tag or putting in a permanent structure. There are several mini-greenhouses available now that are lightweight, portable and have a small footprint. They utilize vertical space by providing four or five shelves to house your plants.
Plan to Extend Your Growing Season
With a little planning, these three methods can extend your vegetable growing season. Once you get started, you’ll be surprised by how much more productive your garden becomes!
Check out these cold frames, greenhouses and books from Amazon to help you extend your growing season.