Extend Your Growing Season

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Knock Knock

Who’s there?

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe who?

Can’t elope tonight… Dad’s got the car.

Cantalope vine growing into fall

Isn’t my late season cantaloupe cute trying it’s best to trail over the edge of the raised bed?

This wasn’t a late addition, on purpose, in this bed. It was where I buried some kitchen waste, tea leaves, cucumber peelings and apparently cantaloupe seeds!

This cantaloupe vine probably won’t have time to produce any fruit before the first frost but I’m leaving it as the bees and butterflies like the flowers.

Here in Oklahoma we have distinct seasons however the merging of the seasons sometimes overlaps. This week saw high’s in the 70’s and this morning my vehicle said ‘Hey watch out for ice, it’s 39 degrees!’ So one never truly knows.

Let’s touch on a couple ways to extend your growing season.

mulched cabbage
mulched cabbage

Mulch

Mulch is a great option. Adding a layer of mulch adds some insulation holding the soil temps a little bit higher than the surrounding area. Mulch also helps hold in moisture, a boon to your garden.

There are many different kinds of mulch available. As you can see above, I’ve used raked up yard leaves. Cheap and abundant. You can use wood chips, grass clippings (that are free from insecticides and other sprayings), straw (not hay as it has seeds). One year I used ‘store bought’ cotton seed hulls as it was heavily suggested by someone. Well, that cotton seed hulls bagged content was thick with seeds. I pulled cotton seedlings for days!

Cold Frames

Another method to extend your growing season is with the use of cold frames. A cold frame is merely a ‘typically’ four sided structure with a glass or plastic lid on top. They trap the sun’s heat and keep plants warm when temperatures plunge. Some vegetables can be kept good in a cold frame most of the winter.

And of course

Greenhouses

What gardener wouldn’t love a greenhouse? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a year-round garden?

There are small greenhouses that can be easily set up quickly in your backyard. There are some that are the size of a small shed that can be put together in hours (ok, maybe days…) and of course big fancy greenhouses. I have my eye on a geodesic dome… …

And of course hoop houses. Many of the small growers, those that sell via the Farmer’s Markets and or CSA have both a small greenhouse to start seeds and a hoop house that they grow in. There are even small farm grants available for small growers to aid in setting up a hoop house. However a hoop house may be too much for a home grower.

Whatever method you choose to extend your growing season will help you realize your goal of harvesting more food for your family.