How to Extend the Growing Season in Colder Climates

| September 19, 2012

winter crop carrots The shortening, cooler days don’t have to spell the end to your vegetable garden. Try the following horticultural tricks to extend the growing season in colder climates.

Plant in summer

While the days are still warm, plant crops that do well in the fall months and can take some frost, such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and root crops such as carrots and beets. Plants will grow quickly in the summer heat and set down roots, which makes the crops strong and ready to produce when the weather cools. This tactic is also important because it enables you to get plants to a large size before the daylight shortens and growth slows.

Carefully choose the planting area

Where you plant has a definite bearing on how long your vegetables continue to produce. Extend the growing season by planting in a raised area with excellent drainage. Cold settles in low-lying areas and poor drainage will lead to root rot, especially when temperatures dip.


Protecting the soil surrounding the plants with a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of mulch traps in heat, keeping the plant roots warmer than if you were to leave the soil exposed. Use shredded bark or straw and apply the mulch around the base of the plant at least 6 to 8 inches out. Replace the mulch if it washes away during rainy weather.

Protect your crops

A variety of methods exist for protecting your vegetable crops from the cold and extending the growing season. Try one or more of the following protection devices:

  • Hoop house: Hoop houses consist of a row of metal hoops that are covered with plastic that is secured to the hoops. Such structures are miniature greenhouses that protect the plants from rain and wind. They also keep the temperature inside elevated enough to extend the harvest into winter.
  • Cold frame: If you’re really serious about extending your vegetable-growing season well into cold weather, a cold frame is an excellent season extender. This type of sturdy structure can be composed of wood, brick, cinder block or cement and is essentially a box with a window on the top that lets in sunlight but keeps out the cold.
  • Greenhouse: The best way to extend the growing season through the cold months is to grow your vegetables in a greenhouse. Such a structure provides crops with even temperatures and bright light.

Outsmarting the weather and extending your garden harvest may take some work, but the tasty results are well worth the effort.

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Category: Gardening & Landscaping, Home & Garden

About the Author ()

Julie Bawden-Davis is a Southern-California-based writer specializing in home and garden, real estate, small business and personal finance. Since 1985, her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Entrepreneur and The Los Angeles Times. Julie is a University of California Certified Master Gardener and has written five gardening books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening.