As we mentioned in an earlier post, gardening tips abound but once we have experienced the benefits of our own small space gardening efforts, enjoyed the ease of raised bed vegetable gardening, or have exhibited our creative talents through container gardening or pot gardening, then one of the elusive gardening tips we are all seeking is how to extend our growing season.
In that previous post we talked about the cloche, a means of protecting individual plants or small groups of plants, and the floating row covers which protect a larger gardening area.
Included in our gardening tips is the use of the Cold frame. What is a cold frame? Just like with the term cloche, the term cold frame may not be a familiar one with the new gardener. With this post we want to take a look at another means of extending our growing season.
A cold frame is a transparent-roofed enclosure, built low to the ground and is used to provide protection to plants from cold weather. A cold frame functions much like a miniatture greenhouse to extend our growing season. The transparent top allows sunlight in and prevents heat from escaping that would otherwise occur, especially in the evening and night time hours.
Since the purpose of a cold frame is to increase the warmth of the soil and to make efficient use of what sunlight there is, our cold frame would ideally be situted against a wall that faces the south to capture the winter sun. The southern facing wall of a heated building would naturally enhance the effectiveness. We need to ensure that whatever site we choose has adequate drainage.
While there are commerically available cold frames, they are fairly simple to make for someone that is handy with tools. Most do it yourself cold frames are constructed from old windows. The cold frame size will be limited to the dimensions of the window used. We can make the cold frame as simple or as elaborate as we wish, but the basic design concept is the same.
- Select a well drained plot of soil, preferably next to a southern facing wall.
- Build a frame to hold the window chosen for the top. This frame whould be constructed 1 to 2 feet hight with a slope from the back to the front to caputure maximum light and to allow for rain and snow runoff.
- The top window should be hinged or arranged in such a manner as to allow for raising the window frame to allow for adequate ventilation during the day.
We need to remember that the glass on top of the cold frame will increase the temperature inside. Consequently, on an unusually warm sunny day it is possible that our plants can “cook” if we neglect removing the glass cover. On the other hand, if there is a continued cold spell with freezing temperatures, unless we cover our cold frame with old blankets or burlap sacks it is possible our garden plants will freeze. When the cold spell is over, we need to remember to remove the coverings. If our garden is not in our daily line of sight, we may wish to put a reminder on our daily calendar or PDA.
With some careful planning and tending, our garden can provide cold weather vegetables throughout the winter months.
Also included in our gardening tips for extending the growing season is one that specifically applies to container gardening or pot gardening. These two syles of gardening allow you to move your plants from one location to another . On those days when the temperatures are not suitable, we can move our plants to an area that lest susceptible to the inclement weather, even inside. We need to be sure that we move them back when the danger is over and we need to ensure that they get maximum direct sunlight daily.
In summary, our gardening tips for extending or stretching our growing season include the following:
- For individual plants or small sections of your garden, use cloches.
- For larger garden areas use floating row covers.
- Use a cold frame, either commericially purchased or home built.
- Move your container garden or pot garden plants to a less hostile environment during those cold months.
Let’s utilize every option available to maximize the use of our small space gardening space.