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Have you ever wished you lived in a place where the growing season was a little longer?
When I lived in Texas, I would study the charts about last frost in the spring and first frost in the fall. I knew when to plant my tomatoes. And I had no worries about having enough time for my cantaloupe to ripen.
I was pretty darn happy with the fact that my growing season was so long. But I was even happier that I didn’t live up North where the warm season was so much shorter than in nice, warm Texas.
Well, lo and behold, I married a gal living in New York City. And a couple of years later we moved to Connecticut.
What was this good ole Texas boy doing up in the land of long, cold winters?
Hey, I know lots of other places are way colder than the Nutmeg State, but at the time, I thought my gardening days were going to be severely hampered by the shorter summers.
Actually, as it turned out, my growing season was only about 30 days shorter than in my part of Texas. I could live with that. I just had to be a little more careful to picking things to plant with shorter maturity dates.
And that worked fine…
But in the years since, I have learned a few tricks about stretching out the growing season and getting more out of my garden.
That’s the point, isn’t it? To grow more food throughout the year so you don’t have to buy as much at the store.
Everybody talks about buying local. But there’s nothing more local than your own garden.
Extending your growing season
Okay class, it’s time for some very simple math: LGS=MF
Translation: Longer Growing Season equals More Food.
However long your summer growing season is, it only lasts so long.
What if you could start your growing season earlier in the year and extend it into the winter months?
Well, get out your gardening creativity and open up a fresh jar of elbow grease (you won’t need too much) because it’s not as hard as it might sound.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #8: Extend your growing season by planting earlier and harvesting later.
There are lots of ways to extend the season and grow more food as a result.
You will still need to know when your first and last average frosts are. And I recommend coming up with a plan and a specific schedule written down in your Gardener’s Journal so you will know when to perform each part of your plan.
If you don’t write it down, the end of the growing season can easily get away from you and you wont have your season extenders in place soon enough. I’m just saying…
How far North will this stuff work?
I have to tell you, I know folks up in New Hampshire and Maine who harvest all winter long from their garden using the techniques described below.
No, they’re not growing tomatoes in January, but they get a variety of greens and root vegetables throughout the winter.
Here are seven basic things you can do to harvest fresh, organic produce all year long.
Use protective row covers in the spring to start seeds or set out transplants earlier than normal. In the fall, row covers will protect from frost so you can keep harvesting greens, etc.
- In the spring, you can cover individual plants at night with bell jars (or plastic milk jugs, etc.) to protect from frost. Some people love the wall-o-waters for their tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants.
- Use a cold frame to get a jump-start on the season in spring. In fall, you can keep growing lots of salad fixin’s in the cold frame.
- If you have a greenhouse, you can use this a place to get things started earlier in the spring and go later in the fall and even into the winter months. There are some very affordable mini-green houses now on the market if you don’t have the space or budget for a full size one.
- Many farmers (even in Minnesota) are using high tunnels to extend the garden season into most of the winter. And some are using solar panels to heat them. A big project if you’re just a home gardener, but some gardeners I know get pretty creative.
- On a smaller scale: Pot up some of your herbs in the fall, bring them inside and put them in a sunny window. Or grow them under some plant lights.
- In the absolute dead of winter when the ground is hard as your cast iron skillet, you can sprout some seeds to use as salad greens. You can do this all year long, but I especially love them in winter.
These are just a few basic ideas. As always, you’re going to need to do some research. And you will have to experiment a little to figure out what works best for you.
Build a cold frame and start with a row cover or two for your garden beds. See how it works and expand from there.
And watch out, you may grow more food than you know what to do with.
Please leave a comment below if you’ve found this helpful or if you have any questions.
If you are already extending your growing season, I’d love to hear what has worked for you.
Here’s to your garden all year long!James Early Organic Gardening 365 Dedicated to helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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