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Extending the Season with Frost Protection

What a difference a week can make at this time of year in Saskatchewan!  We were spoiled with a warm September for the most part so the snow this week was an important reminder that we aren't far from winter and we need to start taking appropriate precautions to get ready.  As a result, I have been busy harvesting any vulnerable crops and covering others that have enough cold tolerance to potentially survive some freezing night temperatures.  That process has changed our gardens from green to white in the last week.

The simplest frost protection we use is a floating cover that simply lays over the crops as shown above.  This gives us about 2 degrees of frost protection at night and helps increase the temperature during the day too.  We also use low tunnels (below) for season extension, which can potentially add even more heat if the Sun is shining.  More importantly though, the tunnel prevents the weight of any snow from damaging the crops underneath so we use it over weaker crops like lettuce.  In our online Classroom, you can find full instructions on how to make your own low tunnels like this with off the shelf parts. Just type "low tunnel" in the Classroom search bar and you'll find it.

Since the days are so short at this time of year, any extra heat we can capture is important for crops to have extended growth.  However, for the most part, I think of our fields right now as a giant living refrigerator where cold hardy crops can keep remain in good shape without changing much in their stage of maturity.   The baby spinach shown below is one of the cold weather champions of the farm at this time of the year. It won't grow much anymore in these cold short days, but if we can keep it from freezing, we'll be able to keep harvesting from this bed for many weeks to come yet.

As the pace of vegetable tending slows, I appreciate having more time for education again.  This is important because the purpose of our farm is not just to produce food but to also share what we've learned with others who want to get better at growing their own food.  I am continuing to work on building the collection of gardening resources at our Vegetable Academy website, but opportunities always come up to connect with other growers in live settings as well.  On Monday, I made the trip to Edmonton to share our growing methods with the members of the Edmonton Horticultural Society.  After enduring some terribly dry summers in the last two years, they had an abundance of rain this season in Alberta, and so I was greeted in Edmonton with a unified lament for slugs!  Such is the nature of gardening.


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How to grow a year-round supply of food,
without quitting your day job ... even in a cold climate!