For so many of us, the gardening season just isn't long enough. Seriously though, is the gardening season ever long enough?! Why can't we grow fruits and veggies 24/7, 365? Wouldn't that be nice! But climate reality says nope, so here are our top tips for extending the growing season so we can enjoy our gardening obsession as long as possible.
Six Ways To Extend The Vegetable Growing Season
- Start seeds indoors. This is a time-honored technique used by gardeners around the world. When you start the seeds indoors, you can get a jump start on the growing season. Plant them 4-6 weeks before they can go outside, and then when the temperature outside is amenable to growing, you have seedling starts ready to go.
Using this method, you can easily add 1-2 months onto your growing season. For example, peppers are a long-season crop, but if you start them inside, they should be 2-4 inches tall when you transplant them outside. This is 100x better than starting the seeds in the garden and hoping the peppers have enough time to mature.
Starting seeds indoors requires some minimal equipment – seedling trays, grow lights, and heat mats are highly recommended.
- Use floating row covers. Row covers are lightweight fabrics that can be moved around to protect plants. They are thin enough to allow water and light to come through but keep pests away. They help extend the growing season by keeping the heat in – so any fragile seedlings that aren't quite ready for colder temperatures can still be outside if protected enough with row covers.
- Invest in cloches. Cloches are simply glass or plastic bell-shaped covers that fit over plants to keep the heat in place. Like row covers, they allow more cold-sensitive plants to be outside earlier, thus extending the growing season. A cloche is basically a mini greenhouse.
Cloches can be expensive, but there are affordable options too. Look for used ones to get the best deals. And, if the plants are small enough, you can even make your own cloche with upcycled soda bottles or milk jugs!
- Use Raised Beds. Raised beds take a bit of work and investment, but they're fabulous once they're set up. They aren't usually built to extend the growing season, but a side effect of them is that plants can go into a raised bed earlier than in the ground. This is because the soil is lifted, so it warms up much quicker than ground soil.
- Build a Greenhouse. A greenhouse is one of the best investments a gardener can make to extend the growing season. Greenhouses don't have to be massive; they can actually be quite simple setups. The key is making sure it is in a place where it will get adequate sunlight to keep the plants warm and there is access to water. Check out these small DIY greenhouse ideas!
- Mulch, and Mulch Some More. Mulch is fabulous for so many reasons. It blocks weed growth, prevents moisture from evaporating super-fast, and adds excellent nutrients back into the soil as it breaks down. Mulch also helps extend the growing season because it acts as insulation to warm up the soil. This means you can plant seeds and seedlings a bit earlier and keep them in the ground longer. Learn more about mulching in our detailed guides.