Here are some great growing tips from farm apprentice Ryan Carnley.
Georgia has a wonderful climate for growing vegetables. The long growing season our climate affords allows us to have fresh produce for most of the year. Farmers have many tools they can use, such as greenhouses, hoophouses, and row covers to extend this growing season even more so they can sell produce year round, but home gardeners often have to wait until April to put plants in the ground or the frost would likely kill their plants and undo their hard work. In this article I am going to show you some inexpensive (even free!) and simple ways that you can extend your growing season in your backyard garden.
Many plants can handle low temperatures without any harm. They may grow slower or even go dormant, but when the weather warms up they return to full growth. It is the frost that forms on the leaves on the cold nights that really takes a toll on the plants. In order to get plants in the ground earlier and extend your growing season you have to have a way to keep the frost off of the plants, but commercially available solutions to this problem can get expensive. The earliest form of season extension used in farming was a glass cloche. This bell shaped glass dome protected the plants from frost damage and even trapped some of the sun’s warmth inside to help the plant maintain vigorous growth over the cold nights. You can still purchase these glass cloches from garden supply stores, but there are some simple ways to make your own right at home with materials that you use every day!
The Soda Bottle Cloche:
The Milk Jug Cloche:
To make these cloches all you need to do is save or scavenge plastic 2 liter soda bottles or milk jugs and cut the bottoms off them. Then clean the bottles out well and let them dry and they are ready to use. You will want to keep the bottle caps as well so that you can seal in the warmth over night.
To use these cloches you would place the cloche over your plants in the afternoon before a frost is anticipated. Leave the cap off while it is still sunny outside so that the container can trap heat inside (like a greenhouse), but will be able to breathe and not overheat the plant. Once the sun starts to set place the cap on the bottles to trap in the heat for the night and protect them from the frost. If you would like to protect them even better you can pile up mulch around the base of the cloche! Once the morning sun comes you remove the cloche and let your plants soak it in. Using these simple and cheap tools you can get your plants growing earlier and enjoy fresh produce sooner!