How to Extend Your Gardening Season

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fall gardening

As the weather gets colder, green thumbs may find themselves with limited options when it comes to continuing their hobby.

While it may be challenging to keep your plants alive past the traditional growing season, it’s not impossible, especially if you live in a more temperate climate.

How can you do it? Read on for some tips on how to keep gardening going even into the winter months

Start Before the First Frost

You’ll generally want to get seeds planted well before the first hard frost, while the ground is still warm, but that depends on where you live. Check out this handy zone map from the U.S.  Department of Agriculture to figure out whether cold-weather crops will thrive in your area.

If you live in a higher-numbered zone, you’ll likely be able to get away with planting fall crops later in the season. If you’re in a lower-numbered zone, you’ll want to get those seeds in the ground weeks or even months before the first frost to give them the best chance of survival.

Some seeds need to be started indoors. Be sure to read the instructions on your seed packet to learn how and when to plant them.

Pick the Right Plants

There are certain plants that just aren’t going to last in the cold, no matter how hard you try. If you want to keep gardening, you’ll want to focus on hardier crops. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious veggies that are up to the task. In fact, these plants will taste better when grown in a cold climate.

Summer Rayne Oakes, founder of Homestead Brooklyn and the YouTube channel “Plant One On Me,” said that it’s possible to keep veggies going into winter, usually by housing plants in a transparent enclosure like a cold frame.

“You can grow some cold-hardy plants like kale and spinach, for instance – and prolong the growth through November and even further into the winter months (like up until March!),” Oakes said.

Broccoli and peas need to be grown in a cooler climate. Plants such as parsnips, according to Oakes, actually need a few frosts to develop their sweet flavors.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the (ice)box. While growing veggies is a great way to keep your freezer stocked with fresh produce through the winter, planting some non-edibles is a great way to keep up with your gardening hobby when it starts to get chilly.

“Though it’s already starting to get a chill in the air in the autumn, it’s a really good time to plant certain plants, like trees, shrubs and native flowers, for instance,” Oakes said.

The fall is a good time to plant trees and shrubs in the Northeast, where Oakes resides, because it’s too cold for insects, so you don’t have to worry about infestations ruining your foliage, she said