In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
March, 2003
Regional Report

Share |

For ease in filling the tubes, support your Wall-O-Water by placing it around a 5-gallon bucket.

Extending the Growing Season

The growing season is never quite long enough around here and I'm always searching for ways to get a jump on it. One way is by starting seeds indoors and setting out 6- or 8-week-old seedlings, instead of sowing seeds outdoors after the last frost. Of course, it's possible to buy seedlings from garden centers, but I prefer to grow my own. Not only do I have the satisfaction of getting my hands in the soil, I also get to try out all kinds of varieties that are only available in seed catalogs.

Start Seeds Early
I start seeds indoors in pots or flats during the month of February so my seedlings are ready to set out in late March or early April. Light, temperature, and moisture requirements are provided on the seed packets, along with growth rates and estimated times for germination. Seedlings generally need 4 to 6 weeks of growth before they are ready for transplanting.

Protect Transplants
You can set seedlings out in your garden even when soil temperatures are low and nighttime temperatures dip to freezing if you provide some form of protection from the elements. Materials as simple as milk jugs or as elaborate as cold frames are the types of season extenders I use to provide microclimates around plants. There are a number of other season extenders you can make or buy to warm the soil and protect young seedlings from wind, insects, birds, and small animals.

Row Covers
The first thing I do is warm the soil by covering it with a row cover or black plastic several weeks before planting. Row covers are made of permeable fabric and are great for protecting single rows or entire garden areas. You can use metal, plastic, or wooden hoops to support row covers for upright plants. Be sure to secure the row cover edges with rocks, pipes, soil, or boards to keep them from flapping in the wind.

Cloches are small plant coverings that trap the sun's warmth, raising air temperatures around individual plants. The soil collects the heat and releases it slowly, protecting the plants from frost. Cloches are also handy for hardening off seedlings before they’re transplanted. Jugs of any translucent material can be used as cloches. Simply remove the bottom and the cap, and cut holes in the sides for ventilation, then place over a plant in need of protection.

One of my favorite season extenders is the Wall-O-Water. It consists of 18 connected tubes of heavy duty green plastic. After filling the tubes with water you place the Wall-O-Water around a plant to create a protective shield. The water-filled tubes collect and store solar energy, warming the soil during the day and radiating stored heat during the night to protect the plant from frost. Once the danger of frost has passed, be sure to remove the season extenders to provide growing space and to prevent overheating.

Using season extenders adds about six-weeks to my growing season, which is quite a bonus in our neck of the woods!

Care to share your gardening thoughts, insights, triumphs, or disappointments with your fellow gardening enthusiasts? Join the lively discussions on our FaceBook page and receive free daily tips!

Our Mission in Action

Shop Our Holiday Catalog