Extending The Growing Season
Posted December 27, 2012
Weather it be spring or fall, we seem to always want just a few more weeks of growing to get a jump start in the spring and to extend the harvesting in the fall. Sometimes we plant to early in the spring time to find that one late frost has taken our crops or damaged them and we find ourselves planting again. Our saying for this is "plant early, plant often". But, what true gardener doesn't try to push the weather on occasions.
Transplants and newly sprouted seedlings are also vulnerable to both the unexpected late frosts and hot, sunny weather. There are commonsense strategies for extending the growing season short of warmer weather or extreme hot conditions! Floating Row Covers are among our most popular to use. They are quick, inexpensive and easy to use. They are made of lightweight fabric. They not only protect against frost and hot sun rays, they also keeps crops protected from birds and many flying insects. The covers are permeable to sunlight, air and water. Plant & Seed Guard protects plants from frost down to 28 degrees F and allows 85% of sunlight to be transmitted to the plants and is used for light frost, protection from the hot summer sun for new transplants and existing crops, to help seedlings germinate and insect control. We use this thinner row cover to protect our tomatoes from curly leaf virus. As soon as the tomatoes go in the ground we completely cover the plant for the season. Our temperatures reach 105 degrees for a couple of summer months or more, the cover shades the plants, bringing the temperature down a few degrees and protects the tomatoes from sun-scald. We also cover the tops of our peppers to prevent sun-scald. After planting very shallow seed such as lettuce or carrots, simply lay Plant & Seed Guard directly over the newly planted bed. This helps keep moisture in and birds won't bother your newly sprouted seedlings. Keep covered until plants are approximately 1" tall or more. N-Sulate is considered a frost protection down to 24 degrees F with 50% light transmission. N-Sulate should be removed during frost free day-light hours to ensure enough sunlight. We plants a very late crop of broccoli (October) and cover with N-Sulate and harvest in mid-January here in Zone 8. Beautiful bug free delicious broccoli! Row covers are designed to be laid directly over seeded beds or plants or you can support them with stakes to elevate the cover off the plant. If you plan to leave the floating row covers in place for any length of time, allow enough extra fabric so the plants can push up the cover as they grow. Secure the edges by burying them with soil, using earth staples or place a 2x4 on them to hold them in place to seal out insects and keep them in place when the wind blows. Plants that require insects to pollinate their flowers such as melons and squash, remove the row cover when blooms appear.
At the end of the growing season, row covers help plants survive the first frosts of fall, allowing those last tomatoes to ripen or that fall-seeded lettuce to be harvested over a longer period of time.
For more protection, cold-frames add more warmth and are a more permanent "fix" for winter growing. Just about any cool season crop does well under cold frames in most climates. Secure cold-frames to the ground for windy conditions and open the vents, or top so the plants don't get to hot on sunny days.