We’re thrilled to have been able to grow year round, simply by using frost covers for plants! Also called row covers and frost blankets, these plant covers absolutely work to extend your growing season, both in spring, fall and winter.
If you’re in the colder more snowy growing zones with lots of snow, this may not work as well, but you could try using the heavier frost blankets to extend as much as possible. Let us know how it’s going for you if you are using them or decide to try it.
We are still getting word from folks that they’re seeing very unusual weather patterns (freezing temps, snow, ice, and freezing rain). So, like the funny pic of the lady out in her snowy garden -caption “Screw it, I’m gardening!” We are too! So like the weather, we’ve jumped into spring fever early with a bit of help from frost blankets and row covers.
Frost Blankets vs. Floating Row Covers
What’s the difference between the two? Frost blankets are thicker and serve more specifically to help keep the plants warmer. Floating row covers are thinner and lighter weight, and while they also keep the frost off, they can be used during the day for growing under as well.
Here in Zone 7A (NC), the temperatures vary widely. We enjoy the variety and the many mild winter reprieves. With frost covers for plants we were able to extend the growing season way early for our squash plants which were planted the second week of April.
The tender squash will be covered with frost blankets when temps drop. By the way, it’s simple to set up a protected row by driving tall stakes at either end and running a line between them to drape the cloth over. Then pin the edges down securely. We like the long landscape fabric staples for pinning. Store bought tunnel systems like this Easy Tunnel work well also.
If you want to go with a bigger tunnel, you may enjoy reading about cattle panel tunnels.
Our first batch of straw bales is done curing and the bales have turned soft and mushy inside. Warm too. If you want to know more about the warm temps benefits of straw bales, you can read this article (near the end of it). These will host the kale, spinach, radishes, and, once temps stay mostly in the 50’s, we’ll plant the first batches of lettuce and tomatoes.
Speaking of radishes, this year we’re growing a fast-maturing variety, Radish Saxa II. It will be allow a smaller period between intervals before the temps get too warm (65 degrees and above consistently). We found out last year radishes will bolt and fail to form bulbs in warm temps.
Our flats of seedlings are all enjoying the spring weather when it happens. They’ve had a few overnights as well when the low temps remained above 50 degrees. We will bring all of the flats in for protection whenever the temps drop below the 50 mark. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive.
We planted kohlrabi transplants in the dirt yesterday. Two heirloom types, purple and white, went in on either side of the cloth house. Since the collards did so well in the same spots, we’ll try the kohlrabi, which are closely related. We are avoiding fertilizer on all our cole crops to see if they form better bulbs and florets this year. Also, we’ll make better use of the floating row cover fabric as a barrier against cabbage worms and loopers.
Tips and Hacks
In this video, Coleman talks about the kinds of frost covers for plants that we’re using, including the various support structures we’ve rigged up for it.
Grow well and harvest aplenty!
Coleman for GardensAll
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson