How to Extend the Garden Season

Season extending FAQs

3-Season Protection Tent on Elevated Raised bedFreezing temps? Scorching sun? Where you live will certainly impact how you garden and what you grow. A few simple techniques and materials can help a gardener overcome extreme weather and extend the gardening season. Let's answer some frequently asked questions about season extension:


Season Extension Techniques

How can I protect my roses during the winter?

In the fall, stop fertilizing roses and allow hips to form. When the weather has reached freezing temperatures for about a week, then you can prune the canes back. Leave the thickest and healthiest canes at about 10-12 inches and prune the thinnest spindly canes right to the ground. Next, mulch around the plant with dried leaves or bark mulch, and cover the whole plant with something sturdy enough to keep the roses from being crushed by snow — try the Rosy Cozy Rose Cone!

What is succession planting?

Extend your harvest by staggering your planting times or swapping out crops depending on the season (once those spring peas are done, pull them out and plant your summer basil in their place, for example). This is a great way to maximize garden space and keep a consistent harvest over the course of several months. Learn more about succession planting here.

When can my tomato seedlings go outside?

It may be tempting to immediately put your tomatoes out in the ground at the first sign of sun. Resist that urge, and harden your transplants off first. Gradually acclimate indoor plants to outdoor conditions over the course of a week or 10 days. The first few days, place the plants in a sheltered spot out of the wind with light shade. Then, leave them out overnight in a sheltered spot such as a porch, if temperatures are in the upper 50s-60s. Tomatoes are tender — don't put them out until the threat of frost is well behind you. Learn six ways to accelerate your tomato plants!

What veggies can I grow in the winter?

You can grow many different types of herbs and vegetables in the winter, depending on your climate! If you live in a warm growing zone, you may be able to easily grow a variety of veggies year-round. If you live in a cold climate, try cool-weather crops like spinach, brassicas, peas, and radishes. Unsure of your growing zone? Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Map.

Do raised beds freeze?

Yes, the soil in a raised bed will freeze — but it will also warm and thaw more readily in the spring (one of the many reasons we love to grow in raised beds!). To extend your growing season in a raised bed and insulate the soil from temp fluctuations, install a cold frame or hoop house with a cold-rated garden fabric before the temps drop.

What is winter sowing?

Winter sowing is a season extension method that makes use of cold weather and sunshine to germinate seeds. Create a "mini greenhouse" with a plastic/glass dome (reuse those old milk jugs!), and in the coldest weather (before fear of frost has passed) insulate them by packing hay around them. This way you can germinate seeds outdoors earlier and get them established and ready to produce once the season is in full swing! Another similar seedstarting technique is cold stratification.


Season Extension Structures

What is a cold frame?

Cold frames are built of lumber or plastic with clear plastic or glass covers to allow sunlight in. These frames might fit directly over an existing raised bed, or they can be placed directly on the ground. They typically have one hinge and open from the top, but designs can vary. These are excellent for jumpstarting seedlings or dahlia tubers in spring, or growing a batch of fall greens. 

What do I need to know before building a greenhouse?

Consider the best location for your greenhouse in your space. The ideal greenhouse location is:

  • A level area that gets plenty of sunlight and is ideally not exposed to heavy winds
  • Close to a water source
  • Has a power source, if you have plan to garden year-round and install heaters and grow lights

If you wish to build a permanent greenhouse made of poly or glass panels you will need a suitable foundation to place it on, such as a level deck or concrete pad. It is important to check with your municipal and state offices to obtain proper permitting first!

What is the best greenhouse for a new gardener?

The type of greeenhouse you choose will depend on how many plants you'd like to grow inside, and whether you are looking for a year-round or temporary structure.

For popping up in the yard quickly: Sunbubble Greenhouse

For jumpstarting your seedlings on the patio: VegTrug Patio Greeenhouse

For an extra big, like really big, growing operation: MONT 8'x24' Premium Greenhouse

For an elegant backyard garden: Canopia Hexagon Greenhouse

I have a small garden on my balcony — what can I protect my few plants with?

Cold frames and hoophouses are great for protecting rows or large numbers of plants. However, they may be too large for some garden spaces. If you are looking to cover an individual plant, try a Pop-Up Accelerator or a Garden Cloche.

How do I use a hoop house?

A hoop house consists of rigid hoops (typically rounded, but sometimes squared off to provide more height, like our Zenith Garden Hoops) that create a frame over the garden space. Garden fabric or shade cloth can then be thrown over the hoops to provide plant coverage. A hoop house can be use in many climates — it all depends on the type of garden fabric used.

How much space do I need inside my plant protection structure?

You want to make sure that your plants are not too crowded, which could contribute to mold or other plant diseases. Keep in mind that air is excellent insulation. You also want to consider working room, that you will have the space to get in there or reach in there to do any watering or maintenance that you need, and that your plants need room to grow. A "high tunnel" is designed for gardeners to walk in and tend to plants while standing up. A "low tunnel" is typically no more than waist-high and designed to protect just the plants — gardeners will need to peel back the garden fabric to reach in.

How do I prevent snow from crushing my landscaped beds?

Before the snow flies, set up a sturdy, rigid structure (try the Cedar Shrub Guard!) over your fragile shrubs and small trees.


Garden Fabric and Row Covers

What material should I cover my plants with?

The material you choose to cover your plants will depend on your planting goals and time of season. Plastic will heat up very quickly and should be used only in early spring and late fall. Fabric and mesh covers are best for warm months, as they provide much more ventilation.

What garden fabric do I need?

The type of garden fabric will depend on your climate:

Type of Fabric What It Does Best For Suggested Products
Summerweight garden fabric Lightweight covering provide pest protection; suitable for mild temperatures down to 41 degrees F Gardeners in warm growing zones or those seeking protection from Japanese beetles, potato beetles, and other insect pests Summerweight Garden Fabric
Heavyweight garden fabric Thick fabric provides maximum frost protection for temps down to 24 degrees F Overwintering your salad greens and protecting tender strawberries GardenQuilt Cover; Maxi Garden Quilt
All purpose garden fabric A versatile covering that provides pest protection as well as "shoulder season" coverage for temps down to 28 degrees F Setting new transplants out in the spring and extending harvests into the fall All-Purpose Garden Fabric
Shade cloth UV-stabilized polyethylene netting cuts summer sun while still allowing air to circulate freely Keeping cool-weather leafy greens from bolting in the heat Shade Net; Maxi Garden Shade Fabric


How do I keep plants from scorching in the sun?

When extreme heat and scorching sun hit, plants will require plenty of ventilation and shade! The easiest way to give plants relief from heat and sun is to provide shade. Shade covers can allow you to grow spring greens later in the heat of summer and protect young plants from sunburn in early summer. You can choose from a variety of UV blocking fabrics, depending on your plant’s needs.

Can I use garden fabric for cold temperatures?

Garden fabric can protect against short term frosts and freezes. Midweight, all-purpose garden fabric will protect against temps down to 30 degrees F, and heavier, thicker ones that will protect down to 24 degrees F. Using garden fabric over a structure like a hoop house insulates the air trapped inside, creating a toasty environment for plants.

How do I keep row covers from blowing away?

Whenever possible, site your garden with protection from high winds or use windbreaks. When installing row covers or plastic greenhouses, be sure to secure all loose edges with landscapes staples, bricks, small stones, or simply by burying the edges in soil. In the windiest locations, you may also need to anchor the frame or hoops supporting your covers.

Wondering what to cover your crop with? Check our Season Extending Buying Guide.

Last updated: 03/08/2024