Here comes fall again...its seems like just yesterday I had ample daylight to do with as I pleased: after-dinner hikes, early morning bird walks, flexibility to do my garden chores whenever they fit in. Now, I am scrambling to get everything done before it gets dark. The revolving seasons change the way we are currently gardening at the Armstrong Education Center. We can't create more hours of sunlight, but we can surely govern the micro climate in our garden to keep temperatures – and production – from dropping too low. There are many techniques for what is commonly called 'season extension', which generally means growing crops beyond their normal outdoor growing season. Some forms of season extension – such as the greenhouse – certainly ring a bell with most people. Lesser known methods with interesting names such as 'row covers', 'hoop houses' and 'cold frames' are actually used regularly among small to medium sized agricultural operations.
|Row covers, used to extend the growing season, at the Armstrong Education Center. |
|Underneath the row cover. Inside, our swiss chard, kale and carrots will get some early winter protection.|
This week at the Armstrong Education Center gardens, Sarah Bush and I installed Agribon AG-19 row covers over our remaining crops of salad greens, carrots, beets and herbs. This material will provide protection against early frosts and, until then, keep the beds from cooling off on cold nights. In addition to season extension, row covers are used for a variety of other reasons including pest control and preventing wind damage. Just googling 'row covers' will yield dozens of helpful sites and hundreds of pictures.
On a personal level, learning about row covers and season extension opened my eyes to the commitment, skills, knowledge, and ingenuity of the farming community. When I first saw season extension I thought "Wow, these people just wont give up!". I first encountered season extension in Alaska where, with only a three month growing season I expected not to find many farmers, but I did. Growers in Alaska take advantage of the looooong days, which help crops grow almost before their eyes. To get a jumpstart on the late season and to hang onto it as long as possible, the Alaskan growers that I met used various methods of season extension.
|Alaska Grown is a state program that promotes Alaska state agriculture|
For the region's authority on growing, gardening, farming and agriculture see Stone Barns. Visit their website at least, but do yourself a favor and visit their farms, sit in on a class and participate in a workshop. A recent trip to their greenhouse, hoop houses, orchards and compost arena left me speechless. They really know how to grow food over there.