Three ways to extend your gardening season

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Harvest time will arrive sooner than we know. If you’re not ready to part with your plants at the end of summer, consider extending your garden into the fall and winter.

The biggest hindrances to a healthy, full garden are insects, wind, heat and frost. Autumn’s biggest threat is frost, but wind can also dehydrate plants. Several methods, including raised beds, tunnels and greenhouses, allow you to protect your fruits and vegetables and continue to grow them after summer’s end.

Options

Gardening needs vary by region, gardener and plants, so several options are available for those wishing to continue gardening into the cooler months.

Raised beds

According to The Ohio State University Extension, raised bed gardening involves a portion of soil that is higher than the rest of the soil, and is in a place that will not be stepped on.

Raised beds are normally up to four feet wide and are raised six inches to several feet above the ground. The soil is warmed more quickly by this method.

The benefits of raised bed gardening include higher yields, ease of working and water conservation.

Hotbeds and cold frames

Purdue University Extension explains that hotbeds and cold frames, which are build the same, can be used both in the spring and in the fall.

Hotbeds get heat from the sun as well as another source, while cold frames get their heat solely from the sun. In the fall, hotbeds and cold frames can be used without heat but with proper insulation and ventilation.

A hotbed or cold frame should have full sun exposure, protection from the wind, a water source and good drainage. A hotbed or cold frame can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deep in the ground and four to six feet wide. The base can be built out of wood, concrete or concrete block.

High Tunnels

Penn State University Extension explains that high tunnels are a fairly new method for extending the growing season. They can protect plants from excess precipitation and cool temperatures.

A high tunnel is made of a metal frame and a plastic covering, much like a greenhouse. Raised beds can be used inside high tunnels, as well as thermal blankets and cold frames.

Typically, there are fewer pests in high tunnels, so less pesticides need to be used. Also, ventilation and temperature can easily be controlled depending on the types of plants grown. Since the plants are always covered, they must be watered by hand or drip irrigation.

Advice for winter gardening

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association offers advice for winter gardening, including notes about raised beds, high tunnels and other methods for extending the growing season, as well as the types of plants that have been known to grow well in the fall and winter.

Overall, trial and error must be used to determine when certain plants should be planted and how they should be protected from the elements once summer ends.

Have any other tips for extending your gardening season? Let us know in the comments section!

Related story: How do I grow vegetables indoors over winter?

About the Author

Katie Woods is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. She grew up in Columbiana, OH. Katie likes reading, enjoying the outdoors, and experimenting with craft projects. More Stories by Katie Woods

2 Comments

  1. John says:

    I never thought of raised beds. My only problems are that they would be more open to the wind and also they’re hard to make aesthetically pleasing (or at least expensive). Any tips/comments there?

  2. Katie Woods says:

    You’re right about the wind. One way to protect raised bed plants would be to choose a location that has some protection from the wind, like a hillside.

    Raised bed gardening can become expensive, especially since soil and materials for frames may have to be purchased. However, many people who have tried it have experienced long-term benefits like better drainage and less ground-dwelling pests than if they had a traditional garden.

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