Ever since reading Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables West of The Cascades I’ve had visions of extending the harvest. I even, briefly, flirted with the idea of year-around gardening.
But only briefly, as I learned this about myself:
I don’t want to be out in the garden when it’s 35 degrees and raining. As much as I wish I could enjoy cold-weather gardening, I’d much rather be knitting in front of a fire. Though if I could have a huge greenhouse attached to my house so I never had to walk outside like Elliot Coleman, then maybe I could be that person who eats from their garden year-around.
For now I just try to get spinach, lettuce, onions and peas in the ground as early as I can and experiment with fall and overwintered crops (overwintering requires me to plant a variety in the fall that grows slowly all winter and starts producing in early spring- I have two growing right now: cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli).
Here are some season extenders I’ve used (photos courtesy of Territorial Seed*):
1. Wall-O-Waters- In my old garden I would use these faithfully with all six tomatoes I planted in my 3′x6′ beds. I really saw a lot of early growth with these that my neighbors who didn’t use them never saw. In fact, the year I got closest to the “4th of July Ripe Tomato” goal (I think it was the 10th) was the result of planting in mid-April in Wall-O-Waters.
The drawback? It takes A LOT of time to fill all those water chambers. I remember the first year I planted 18 tomatoes after we moved to our current house and built our garden. I started with the covers as I normally would and had to call it quits after two hours, frozen hands, and only 10 plants covered. I came up with my crazy tomato covers instead and my poor wall-o-waters have since been collecting dust.
Though I do keep thinking I will use them on peppers…
2. Row covers have to be my most favorite thing to use not only to extend the harvest, but to keep cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, & cabbage) from being infested with aphids and loopers. I use them for the aforementioned tomato covers, for early sowings of lettuce and spinach, and to try and keep the rain from ruining the late lettuce.
You can rest the row covers directly on top of crops (I like to do that with older plants) or use small hoops to hold it over newly planted areas. I have a set of inexpensive wire hoops that hold the cover about 2-1/2 feet above the bed which I use a lot for the early spring crops.
3. Cold Frames- I’d sure like to be able to say I use these effectively! I’ve had two in my garden that we made out of old wood windows and I found out why most of them are made with plastic. All of the glass panes have fallen out due to the weather wearing away the glazing and the weight of the glass as I’ve dropped the lids closed.
I still have hopes of using them for hardening off and growing some extra-early greens- but we have to find some plastic panels to replace the broken glass panes first.
4. Bell Jar Cloches- Aren’t these the cutest things? I’ve never been willing to spend the money or the time to cover individual plants, but I continue to think they are sweet. Maybe in a small garden on a few pepper plants?
Do you use cloches, covers, or cold frames or have any plans to?
*Territorial Seed, is a great resource for information, ideas, and of course, seeds. And I am not affiliated with them other than the fact that I have ordered from them from many years and feel confident in recommending them.