Looking for smart gardening tips on how to protect your crops from harsh weather conditions? Here are the secrets on how to use season extenders properly, so you can maximize your harvest.
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5 Effective Gardening Tips to Make the Most of Your Harvest
Greenhouses, also known as high tunnels, are sturdy structures where you grow plants to protect them from severe cold. They come in various shapes and sizes and you can freely customize your own greenhouse with varying materials based on your needs.
This season extender is ideal for homesteaders and farmers who:
- Grow Plenty of Plants: Keeping your plants safe and warm can be really tough, especially if you have hundreds of them. Rather than hiring extra help, it would be much more cost-effective to invest in a greenhouse instead. There, you can take your time caring for your crops, no matter how harsh the weather gets.
- Live in the Cold: Homesteaders who live in cold states such as Alaska, North Dakota, and Minnesota need a greenhouse if they want to grow crops. Otherwise, their harvest will get covered in snow, rain, or hail during the cold winter months.
- Want to Create Their Own Mini-Farm: If you've ever been in a greenhouse, you know how beautiful its insides can get. So a greenhouse doesn't just protect your crops, it also serves as a place where you can showcase your hard-earned harvest, and live off the literal fruits of your labor all year round.
Those who have a knack for handyman projects and have a complete set of tools can build their own from scratch. All you really need are wood, glass, and greenhouse plastic film sheets.
If you don't want to go the DIY route, opt to buy a premade greenhouse kit. These are relatively easy to assemble and are safe for beginners to try out.
Note: If you opt to make your own greenhouse (especially from salvaged materials), make sure you search for other gardening tips on how to make it more durable as well. You need to ensure your greenhouse can withstand all kinds of harsh weather conditions.
2. Low Tunnels
Low tunnels or mini hoops are inexpensive, smaller alternatives to greenhouses. Similar to greenhouses, they protect your crops from snow, rain, and hail, among other cold weather conditions.
Low tunnel gardening is ideal for homesteaders who:
- Feel Greenhouses Are Too Expensive: Greenhouses are a luxury often reserved for those with larger plots of land. In fact, even if you follow DIY gardening tips and opt to make your own, building and maintaining a greenhouse can still cost your household a pretty penny.
- Only Grow Dozens of Crops: Investing in a greenhouse isn't very efficient if you only have a few dozen crops or grow low volume for personal consumption. Low tunnels are perfect for gardeners who only need to protect three to four garden beds.
- Can't Commit to a Greenhouse: Greenhouses may offer more protection than low tunnels do, but they're not very versatile. They are permanent and you can't set them aside temporarily. On the other hand, low tunnels are easy to disassemble and store. It won't even take you an hour to take down one or two low tunnels.
Low tunnels are a lot easier to install than a greenhouse. You can purchase a kit at your local hardware store and just follow the instructions.
Make sure, however, that you plant your low tunnels properly. They need to be sturdy and stable enough to withstand strong, harsh winds.
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A cloche is a small, translucent, bell-shaped jar used to protect individual outdoor plants. This season extender was first used in the early 19th century when French gardeners protected their plants with empty glass jars. In French, “cloche” translates to bell jar.
Cloches are ideal for homesteaders who:
- Have Very Few Plants: If you only have one or two garden beds, you can opt to protect them with cloches. Doing so might be time-consuming, but it's also very inexpensive. In fact, you might not even have to spend more than a few dollars on the entire project.
- Want to Protect a Specific Plant: Feel like a specific plant needs special attention? One of the best gardening tips to follow is to invest in a cloche. It'll provide all the protection your sensitive crop needs.
- Looking for a Way to Decorate Their Gardens: Cloches are versatile season extenders you can accessorize however you want. You can add dried leaves, roots, or even glittery paper to it.
To make your own cloche, take an empty glass jar or milk bottle.
If you use a jar, just turn it upside down and place it on the plant you need to protect. Meanwhile, those who want to use milk bottles can cut the jug open using a sharp knife.
But if you don't want to go through the hassle of making your own cloche, you can opt to buy one from your local gardening store.
4. Row Covers
Row covers or floating rows are thin sheets of plastic or fabric that protect your veggies from cold weather and strong winds. They are held in place by clips or clothespins.
It's important to use thin sheets for your row covers. Otherwise, rain and sunlight won't reach the soil. Row covers are ideal for homesteaders who:
- Live in Mild Climate Areas: You can rely on row covers to keep your veggies warm if you live in mild climate areas. They won't work if you need to protect your plants from extreme rain or snow.
- Want to Use Another Season Extender: Homesteaders can use row covers as an additional source of heat or insulation. For example, if you have a greenhouse, you can keep your plants extra warm by adding row covers to every garden bed in your building.
To make your own DIY row covers, grab a few branches or sticks and make a foundation on top of your gardening bed. Then, drape the fabric or sheet over the sticks and hold them in place with clothespins.
You can search for other gardening tips on how to make your row covers sturdier and more durable.
5. Cold Frames
A cold frame is a small, raised garden bed that's covered by glass. It mimics the effects of a greenhouse, but on a much smaller scale.
You can open and close the glass roof depending on what the weather outside is like. If the weather is bad, keep the roof closed, but if it's sunny outside, you can leave the roof open.
Cold frames are ideal for homesteaders who:
- Only Have a Few Plants: Raised bed frames have very limited space, so they're best for homesteaders who only have a few plants.
- Are Just Starting Out: Beginners can start with cold frames since they're relatively easy to build and don't require much soil space.
- Want to Decorate Their Garden: The sky's the limit when decorating and accessorizing your raised garden bed. It can be as rugged or posh as you want it to.
Homesteaders with experience in woodworking can opt to create their own raised garden beds. Just grab a few bars of plywood and nail them together.
If you don't know how to build one, you can order a premade garden bed from your local gardening or hardware store,
Learn how to build a hinged hoop house for a raised bed garden in this video from The Gardening Channel With James Prigioni:
Homesteaders go the extra mile to ensure their crops grow healthy (and therefore delicious), so it's only natural to learn how to protect your harvest from natural calamities. After all, one bad storm is all it takes to wipe out months' worth of crops and hard work.
Note that these are just some of the smart gardening tips on using season extenders. Feel free to explore other ways to keep your harvest from various kinds of harmful elements. Although, if you're not used to cold weather gardening yet, you can start by experimenting with sturdy plants that can withstand colder temperatures.
How do you protect your crops against harsh weather conditions? Share your gardening tips with us in the comments section below!
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