One of the many things that people love about the warmer months of the spring and summer is having their own gardens and being able to produce fresh homegrown vegetables. Living here in New England, we have a shorter growing season than those who live in a warmer climate. All of you who believe your window of opportunity to grow your crops is just too short, follow the below tips to extend your season without having to move south.
Forget the idea of planting once and you’re done. Try successive planting instead.
One method of successive planting involves sowing seeds and starting seedlings of the same variety at the same time. This way, your plants will not be ready for picking all at the same time, making your bounty last longer.
Another successive planting method will have you planting different vegetables at various times. If you plant one or two types once a week, then a different plant every two weeks, and so on, you will have a large variety of produce maturing at different times of the season.
Learn your soil and your personal garden’s micro-climate. If you have used a USDA map in the past to try to determine what you should plant and when, you might find that that works for the neighbors down the street but not for you. But how can that be? The only way to really know what is going to work successfully for your garden is to record data year after year. Yes, it will take time to figure it out and no two years will be the same; however, you will be able to get a general idea of your soil temperatures, shades areas, different areas within one garden that are more prone to frost and what area gets more wind. All of these things can fluctuate depending on temperature and weather patterns, what you have around your garden and whether your ground is flat or on a hill.
Be proactive and attack the weeds early on. Be vigilant in your work in removing weeds. If you follow this step, you will find your plants flourishing and your weeds diminishing after a few weeks of diligence.
Plant your garden in a raised bed. When people hear the words raised bed, many automatically picture a large garden area within a wooden frame. While this is certainly one type of raised bed that you can build, it can also be as simple as soil mounds that have paths cut in-between the rows for walking, or boxes made up of bricks or rocks. Regardless of how it is made, a raised bed means to raise the soil in which you are planting above the path you walk on. The theory here is to keep that soil that you are planting in almost untouched. You will not be tilling the soil, leading to less weeds to remove.
Try crop rotating. Instead of planting the same thing over and over, crop rotation prevents you from planting vegetables from the same family twice in a row. If one vegetable has a difficult time with pests and soil, then all vegetables from that family will too. Switching it up with prevent this from happening year after year.
Do not over water. Over watering your plants will do more harm than under watering your plants. Clearly, it is out of your hands if you have heavy rainfall, but you should only be watering sporadically otherwise to provide just enough for the roots. To make sure your plants are getting and retaining water to their roots, make sure to provide a healthy garden soil rich in organic matter and be sure to mulch heavily around the plants so water does not quickly evaporate.
Watch and prepare for an early frost. Even with the healthiest of gardens, an early frost can do irreparable damage and can bring your growing season to an abrupt half. You can purchase floating row covers for protection, or you can also use sheets of plastic or old bed sheets to protect your plants. Just be sure to remove the cover after the frost advisory is lifted.
Regardless of your method to try to extend your growing season, with a bit of preparation and work you can look forward to seeing more vegetables from your crops further in the fall then you are used to. While not all methods are easy or immediate, over time you will see your hard work and patience paying off.