5 simple season extenders for the home garden

cold hardy crops

After a summer of good eating, I don’t want my garden to end. These 5 simple season extenders can prolong the life of your garden through fall into winter.

Cold frame

A cold frame provides cover, insulation and protection to plants. The temperature inside a cold frame can be up to 10 degrees warmer without adding supplemental heat. Cold frames can also be used to guard tender plants from frost damage, and to protect perennials over winter. For best results station cold frames facing south to optimize winter sunlight.

Cold frames can be constructed out of common hardware store materials or leftover materials found around the farm. Free DIY cold frame blueprints are just a Google search away.

Bell cover

glass bells
Bell covers pictured in a French farm scene circa 1900 (Wikimedia Commons)

A bell cover surrounds an individual plant to create a greenhouse atmosphere. Clear bell covers allow sunlight in while locking cold air out.

DIY bell cover
DIY bell cover

Make your own modern bell cover from a 2 liter soda bottle. Clean bottle well, cut off the top spout and place over plant.

Row cover

row covers
Row covers (Wikimedia Commons)

Row covers are portable and easy to store. Fabric covers allow sun, water and air to pass through.

Row covers can be utilized multiple times of year; to extend the season in fall, and again in early spring to protect seedlings.

Field hoop house

Field hoop houses are mini hoop houses that can be moved to cover new rows of crops as the season progresses. They can serve a dual purpose to harden off seedlings in spring. Lightweight, affordable field hoop houses can be made of PVC pipe with a 6 mil polyethylene plastic cover. Free field hoop house blueprints are available online.

Cold-hardy crops

Cold-hardy crops with well-established root systems can survive frost and even snow. Several seed companies conduct hardiness test trials and identify the best winter harvest varieties in their fall catalogs.

My top picks: spinach, escarole, endive, and baby greens. Hardy loose leaf lettuce varieties and beet greens thrive in cold frames. I’ve successfully used row covers to push cabbage and leeks to full maturity, several weeks after frost. Radish and carrots taste sweeter when harvested after frost.


Related: Three ways to extend your gardening season Aug. 19, 2014

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