The rewards for investing your time (and a bit of cash) in learning how to garden all year are extraordinary. With a bit of time and (if you’re industrious) not too much cash outlay, you can garden even in the coldest months. Whether one would like to admit it or not, we do tend to settle back into the idea that winter makes gardening off limits. At some level, we may know there is still something we could be doing, but if you’re doing nothing, do you know how much you’re missing out on?
Season-Extension Tools and Terms for Gardening All Year
Garden All Year in a Cold Frame
A cold frame is a box, usually sunk into the ground a foot or so, with an angled, transparent lid that can be opened, closed or propped partly open to vent heat. The bottom can be open to soil or filled with gravel; in-ground plants can be seeded or seedlings hardened off in pots. Also known historically as Dutch lights.
An old French market-gardener’s term for a bell-shaped glass jar placed over young plants in spring. Wall-o-waters and hot caps are the current replicas. Cloche’s are generally used one per plant, but you can buy a garden cloche that will cover more than one at a time.
Floating Row Cover
Water and air permeable, these synthetic fabrics help hold in the heat when placed close to the ground. The transparent plastic version, placed right over the soil and held down with stakes or weights, can create a mini-micro-climate for seed germination. Outdoors, the covers can help keep out insect pests.
Quick Hoops, Low Hoops, Low Tunnels
Slightly higher coverings, stretched across frames over outdoor crops that still provide a single layer of climate extension. They can be added only to protect from spring and autumn frosts or employed year-round if vented.
Hoop House, High Tunnel, Cold house, Cool House
Unheated or minimally heated (to just above freezing) structures, tall enough to stand in, where crops are grown in-ground.
The best tip I can give you is to keep a gardening journal! Record what you planted, how much you planted, and when you planted. Record how much of each vegetable you actually canned or froze. If you canned tomatoes and you ran out before you could harvest the next year’s crop, check your journal. You will have a pretty good idea of how many more plants to grow and how many more quarts of tomatoes you need to can. Note what crops did well in your garden and what didn’t do well.
Each year your garden will continue to improve—and that is the best way to hit your goal and live off your garden all year.