Are you interested in having fresh-greens in the winter, right in your own back yard? Season extension practices can allow you to have fresh food at any time of the year in almost any climate. While it might be early in the growing season – now is the time to start working on your plan for colder months so you can keep your bounties growing throughout the year.
What techniques are employed in season extension?
Employing a few simple strategies and selecting the right plants can provide you with free, fresh, delicious and healthy food.
Season extension strategies like using a hoop house, small hoop frames covered with plastic or a cold frame, can create micro-environments that act like plant growing zones hundreds of miles south of your current location.
Steps to take in creating your own season extension scheme
If you are interested in attempting to extend your season, you should make some careful choices about the location of your cold frame or hoop house, the type of soil you are going to use, and the types of plants you plan to grow.
Factors to consider in season extension planning
When placing your hoop house or cold frame, you should consider things like the amount of protection your structure will have from the wind, as well as the amount of solar radiation your structure will be exposed to on a daily basis.
You should avoid placing your structure on the top of a slope as it will be exposed to cooler temperatures and stronger winds. You should also avoid placing your structures in the base of a slope as this will be a cooler region and also possibly a ‘frost pocket’.
Locations should also be sunny, avoid any areas of significant shade, the winter months will already be challenging for growing plants due to the shorter days in most regions; so carefully consider the location to ensure maximum solar radiation.
One of the most important selections you’ll make as a season-extension grower is the plants you want to grow.
Plants that need to flower and produce a fruit are typically not a good choice for cooler weather. These often require warmer temperatures, insects for pollination, and often cannot withstand cooler temperatures that are bound to occur in your cold frame or hoop house.
Plants like radishes, spinach, kale, mustard, and other greens are excellent choices. Select cool season varieties that can be harvested in a short time-frame. Some herbs are also excellent choices for cool season growing.
With some careful planning, including thoughtful placement of a cold frame or hoop house structure and some innovative strategies, you can successfully grow plants in the winter in almost any climate and enjoy free, fresh greens almost any time of the year.