With all the hard work and money we put into our gardens, we naturally want to get the most bang for our buck. That means researching and utilizing some clever ways to stretch out both the garden season and our budgets, and lucky for you, we’ve already done the researching. Check out our top 10 ways to extend your garden season.
10 Inexpensive Ways to Extend Your Garden Season
Succession planting. Plant everything all at once, and guess what? You’re harvesting all at once, too. So plan to plant some veggies this week, then several more in another week or so, and more two weeks after that. Pay attention to the “days to harvest” information on the plant tag, though, and aim to plant those with higher numbers first.
Start seeds indoors. This can be done year-round, of course, but starting your own seeds indoors not only saves money but it allows you to hit the ground running when it’s planting time. Just remember to use grow lights, as that method of seed-starting encourages strong seedlings that will fare much better once they’re planted outside.
Use a coldframe. While this might be a tad more expensive, if you live in a colder climate, it’s the way to go. These small structures are less expensive than a full-on greenhouse and allow you to continue gardening even after the snow falls.
Plant early. Mature roots have a much better chance at surviving sudden dips in the temperature than do newly-planted ones, so keep an eye on the calendar and the weather forecast, and plant as early as possible. Plant too late and your harvest will suffer. To be extra sure your plants will tolerate winter stress, use varieties suited to colder weather, or that are hardy to two zones cooler (to the north) than your zone.
Interplant crops. This is the way I plant — smaller plants among the larger ones, and all different types of crops. They’re all the same 4” size going in, but the small greens produce and are done by the time the larger broccoli plant nearby is starting to take up space. Why waste all that space because you’ll need it in a couple of months?
Build raised beds & utilize containers. Raised beds offer a number of advantages when trying to extend your garden season — root veggies have more room to develop, soil is not compacted, and weeds are less of an issue. Any time you use a technique to protect your plants from common pitfalls, they will grow faster, more healthy, and give more produce or harvest — and raised beds solve many problems at once. Container planting, especially in larger pots, help delay and prevent freezing. Soil in a larger pot will do a better job at insulating the plant’s roots than soil in a tiny 1-gallon container. Place your containers on soil rather than pavement for more stable soil temperature. If your only option is to put containers on pavement, consider covering them with freeze cloths.
Protect from frost. Use a variety of methods to protect your plants from frost — who wants to baby plants along only to lose them when the mercury drops? Sheets, freeze cloth, and row covers are your best friends here. It always pays off to know your hardiness zones, water lightly the night before an expected frost or freeze to create insulation, and throw on some string lights to offer a bit of extra warmth to your tender plants.
Use row covers. Row covers can simultaneously protect from frost and from animal damage. Every time you lose a young transplant to nibbling critters, you have to replace it and start over, resulting in wasted time.
Weed. If plants have to compete with weed growth, their own growth can suffer. So stay on top of those weeds to give your seedlings and transplants a good start.
Water correctly. Watering incorrectly (sprinkling water on the soil surface, overwatering) keeps the plants’ roots at the surface, rather than encouraging them to grow deep into the soil. Surface roots dry out more rapidly, leading to unsatisfactory plant growth. Aim to water less frequently but more deeply. Container plants will depend on you even more for their survival. Water during the day when temps are above freezing, and plan to water before a hard freeze or particularly windy conditions.