Unless you live somewhere it never freezes, gardening season unfortunately has to end
And by the time August rolls around, gardeners are counting down the days until the first frost and asking themselves: what can I still get in before that looming date? But the good news is there are ways to stretch that date.
Whether you’re looking to start planting earlier in the spring or keep things going later in the fall or early winter, these tools and tricks will have you eating from your garden long after that first frost.
Grow winter hardy plants
There are plant varieties that don’t just tolerate snow and cold, but actually prefer those conditions. There are flowering kale varieties, winter choys, cold hardy leeks, and so many other veggies that will keep producing through winter, or briefly slow down only to start back up again in the spring. If you’re planting leeks or roots like carrots, make sure to heavily mulch them so that you can still pull them out if there’s a harder frost.
Extend the season with row cover
Planting a cold-ish hardy cabbage or root, but afraid of that harder frost approaching? A row cover is the perfect thing to use to briefly extend the gardening season. It helps to trap heat, which stays in the tunnel even when the night temperature dips, keeping your veggies nice and warm.
Have a smaller plot? Try a cold frame
Cold frames are easy to build from repurposed materials and windows, acting as a miniature greenhouse for your raised bed. You can often build a custom one to prop on top of your raised bed once the weather gets chilly, and they are easily moveable to other parts of the garden if need be.
Raised beds hold in heat longer
The summer months are harder on raised beds, as they tend to dry out faster, but in the fall the raised beds trap heat, which allows the plants to stay warm and alive for longer. If you already have a raised bed in your garden, then you likely have a longer season than your neighbours.
Build or buy a greenhouse
If you have the space and know that you love to garden even in the off-season, a greenhouse might be the option for you. Even in the coldest part of the winter, you can be picking fresh arugula, spinach, and other cold-hardy crops (and this is without a heater). Adding a heater can be expensive, but worth it if you want to grow some more cold-sensitive crops. Either way, you might want to get to DIYing a scrappy greenhouse now and you can still get those seasonal veggies in there for this winter.
Bring it inside
Things like herbs, greens, and even small varieties of tomatoes, can be grown on a windowsill or on the counter with a grow light. If you really can’t get enough fresh veggies, you can definitely set up an entire grow room to get your fix of your favourites through the cold months (although your electricity bill might be a deterrent).
No matter your budget, space, or time, there are ways to extend your garden harvests beyond that dreaded first frost date. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of picking fresh food long after gardening season is “over”.