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.
When the temperatures start falling and there isn’t quite as much sunlight as we or our plants would like, we may think it is time to pack it it for the season. With a little ingenuity and crativity we can use some established tricks of the trade to extend our growing season or get a jump start on the next gardening season.
A heated greenhouse is probably beyond the means of many of us home gardeners. Asided from space considerations, heated greenhouses can be quite expensive. However, there are a couple of alternatives that can be quite handy in extending our growing season or allowing us to get an earlier start on starting our spring gardens.
For the first of today’s gardening tips, let’s take a look at cloches. This may be an unfamiliar term to many gardeners but the term comes from it’s original shape. The French invented the glass cloche, or bell jar, fabricated out of a single piece of glass in the shape of a dome. By covering plants with this cloche they are protected from the colder weather elements that effectively end our growing season. Glass cloches, can be quite expensive and can be delicate to work with in order to prevent breakage. However, there are some do it yourself alternatives:
- Cut the bottoms off 2 liter soda bottles or 1 gallon plastic milk bottles, remove the lids for ventilation, and place over the plants to be protected.
- Make several hoops out of 1/2″ PVC pipe approximately 5 feet long. Place these hoops over your plants keeping a distance of about 3 feet between hoops. Secure both ends of the hoop in the ground at least 6 inches. Cover the hoops with plastic securing the edges with whatever weights are available. Monitor the cloches daily as temperatures can rise dramatically during the day. Allow for adequate vetilation.
We will also include floating row covers in today’s gardening tips. Made of spun-bond polyester or spun-bond polypropylene, this fabric has pores that allow water, light, and air to permeate through it but are small enough to discourage those pesky insects that attack our plants. The fabric comes in varying weights but will float over our garden plants. Ends should be secured to prevent being blown away by wayward winds. For adequate frost protection use a minimum weight of 0.5 ounces for each sqare yard of coverage.
One additional advantage of the floating row covers is that when their usefulness as a cover (about 2 seasons) is over it can be used as a type of mulch on bare ground for germinating seeds.