Season Extenders

    • Rhododendrons are in full bloom now. Choose plants now for spectacular blooms in your shade garden.
    • When you plant your tomatoes, put a handful of bone meal in the bottom of the hole to help prevent blossom end rot on the fruit later on.
    • Wisterias are large, vigorous vines that are blooming right now with their long clusters of purple, pink or white fragrant flowers. Give them a strong arbor to climb on.
    • Spray roses every two weeks to keep them healthy and prevent leaf diseases. Neem oil is a safe alternative to chemicals.
    • Colorful Gerberas with their large, daisy flowers are a standout in containers. Water them infrequently and give them plenty of sun for flowers all summer.

Get Growing with Season Extenders

Most home gardeners are anxious for that first ripe tomato or early muskmelon. Gardeners who sell produce at local farmers’ markets also strive for the earliest crop possible because early produce often brings better prices at the market.

To get the most out of a garden, you can extend the growing season by sheltering plants from cold weather both in early spring and during the fall. Very ambitious gardeners harvest greens and other cool-weather crops all winter by providing the right conditions. There are many ways to lengthen the growing season and hasten growth and production in your vegetable plants. Your choice depends on the amount of time and money you want to invest.

Cold frames are simple structures providing a favorable environment for growing cool-weather crops in the very early spring and for hardening-off seedlings that were started indoors or in a greenhouse. This hardening-off period is important as seedlings can suffer serious setbacks if they are moved directly from the warmth and protection of the house to the garden. The cold frame provides a transition period for gradual adjustment to the outdoor weather.

Hot caps are cones of translucent paper or plastic that are placed over the tops of plants in the spring. These act as miniature greenhouses for small plants. Gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut off and the caps removed work well as hot caps. Originally a cloche, a bell-shaped glass jar, was set over delicate plants to protect them from drying winds and cold air.

The newest version of a hot cap is the “Season Starter”, previously called “Wall-O-Water”. They are larger than hot caps and provide much longer protection for the plant. They consist of a series of tubes that are filled with water, which collect heat during the day and release it at night. They can be set up in the garden 6 to 8 weeks before the typical planting date. Fill them with water a week before the transplants are planted in them to warm the soil in that area. It will protect plants down to 20º F, and last for 3-5 seasons.

Floating row covers are lightweight fabrics that are laid over a row of plants to protect them. They are composed of spun-bonded polyester and come in various widths — 6 feet or wider. Row covers keep plants 5-10 degrees warmer than the surrounding air and provide frost protection to a low of 28 degrees. They allow light and water through to the crop and protect tender plants from wind and rain damage as well as insects. They are intended to “float” over the row with edges held in place with soil.

With this unseasonable May weather, it is a good idea to provide some warmth and protection for your vegetable starts. You will be rewarded with juicy, homegrown vegetables once summer weather arrives.

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