How to Extend the Growing Season in Your Fall Garden

how to extend growing season

These techniques for extending the growing season in the garden allows you to enjoy fresh vegetables for longer. You can grow more types of plants than you might think through the fall.

Autumn is my favorite season in the garden. The colors of nature are changing and the cooler temperatures make working in the garden a pleasure. So why not extend your growing season?

Vegetables that are suitable for the fall garden include most spring vegetables and other plants that thrive in cooler conditions. These include peas, lettuce and other leafy greens, radishes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and onions.

1. Know your first frost date

The garden season usually ends with the first hard frost. Vegetable planting is therefore usually scheduled to produce a crop before the estimated first hard frost date. Depending on your climate, you can plan for the end of the growing season sometime between September and November. When planning the length of the season, it is also important to keep track of the time it takes for various vegetable types to be ready for harvest (this time can be found online and on each package of seeds). However, if you use cold protection techniques such as polytunnels, hoop houses, cold frames or greenhouses, you can delay the end of the season by up to 6 weeks.

2. Replace spent plants with new plantings

transplanting seedlings in fallRemove the vegetable plants that are no longer producing and prepare the soil for planting hardy plants just as you do in spring: add compost on top of the soil and level the surface so that the soil is ready for planting. When planting, keep in mind the correct rotation of the plants as well as the time needed for each plant to grow.


3. Transplant seedlings instead of sowing seeds

For autumn planting it is preferable to transplant pre-grown seedlings. Vegetables grown from seed would take too long to germinate. Using pre-grown seedlings will reduce the time it takes for vegetables to grow and produce by 4 to 8 weeks. For some vegetables such as peas or root vegetables (carrots, parsley...) transplanting is not suitable, so in these cases you'll need to schedule planting seeds a few weeks earlier.

4. Choose suitable vegetable types and varieties

Vegetables are available in a plethora of varieties that are more or less suitable for growing in colder conditions. For example, there are hundreds of varieties of leafy greens in different sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. Look for information on seed packages, in gardening catalogues, on the internet or in any good garden center.

5. Protect plants from cold

There are several ways to protect plants from cold weather and extend their growing season. Various poly-tunnels or hoop houses covered with foil or other materials, cold frames and, of course, greenhouses all prevent plants from being exposed to frosts. They all work on the same principle: maintaining a higher temperature during the day, as well as protecting plants from wind and low night temperatures. Their construction can vary considerably, from lightweight structures covered with foil or fabric, through the more complex structures of different types of cold frames, to large greenhouse structures. Their dimensions depend on the number and height of the plants to be grown under them.

Protect vegetables with poly-tunnels and hoop houses

polytunnel for vegetableThe advantage of these structures is their simple construction. A simple poly tunnel or hoop house covered with foil or non-woven fabric can raise the night temperature by up to 5°C (9°F) and protect the plants from ground frosts. You can also use recycled materials (various fittings, plastic water pipes, foil, non-woven fabric) to make them.

Make use of cold frames

cold frame in vegetable gardenA cold frame is usually a wooden frame placed on the ground on which old glass windows are fixed. These can be opened and closed so that the temperature in these mini-greenhouses can be easily regulated according to the weather. The cold frame allows you to grow seedlings in early spring/fall and leafy vegetables almost all year round.


Build a greenhouse

greenhouse in vegetable gardenThe most effective solution for extending the growing season is undoubtedly a greenhouse. With its help, you can prolong your enjoyment of fresh vegetables sometimes for up to two months after the first frost date. Their construction does not have to be complicated. Greenhouses can be made of metal or wood and covered with foil, acrylic glass or glass. They can also vary in height from 1 m to 3 m or more. They can be bought pre-fabricated, and if you're handy, you can make them yourself. In any case, they must be able to withstand wind and rain. Higher temperatures during the day and protection from low temperatures during the night will guarantee an extended harvest, even if the outside temperature conditions no longer allow it.


The more you know, the more successful you will be at growing vegetables. So try and learn new techniques and practices that will take you further in your gardening journey.


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