In farming, season extension refers to anything that allows a crop to be grown beyond its normal growing season. Often season extension in colder climates such as ours is achieved through additional protective structures over the crop. And these structures can vary from simple metal hoops and layers of row cover such as we have pictured above to a permanent hoop house structure, pictured right. This hoop house belongs to a farmer friend of ours near Lansing.
For farms that don’t have access to hoop house structures or for home gardeners, metal hoops and row cover offers a much cheaper, though not as effective solution to extend your season further into the winter. This solution cannot protect from extreme temperatures as each layer of row cover only adds a few degrees and the hoops cannot handle a heavy snow load but for early winter it offers a great solution. We currently have our last planting of salad mix, kohlrabi and beets under row cover. Depending on the variety, lettuce plants can survive down to 15 F! We have ours snug and protected with several layers of row cover.
Farmers that invest in a hoop house structure have the ability to grow through the winter. Many find that the ability to have a continual harvest makes the cost of a hoop house well worth it! One day we would love to add a hoop house to the farm so that winter growing is much easier, but until them we will rely on our farmer friends with hoop houses for tender greens this time of year and continue to plant only cold hearty crop that will thrive with only a few row covers to protect them.
Look for more updates and information from our Sustainable Agriculture team in the next newsletter. Interested in signing up for the Summer CSA? More information is coming in early 2021!