Ever wanted to push your garden’s production capabilities to the max?
Well, there’s no better way to do it than with season extension!
Season extension may sound like a fancy term. But all it really consists of is using certain techniques, hacks, and tips to make your growing season last longer than what nature’s parameters would typically allow.
It’s All About Structure
To have the biggest impact on maximizing your season, most gardeners – and even vegetable farmers in their businesses – turn to the help of certain structures.
- Cold frames
- Row covers
- Low tunnels
- Hoop houses
These built coverings insulate and protect against cold and frost, each in different ways and with different materials.
In spring, this can allow you to get plants safely in the ground earlier than normal, long before the last hard frost has come and gone.
Inversely, they can also push the limits of how long you can grow into the winter, giving plants a certain amount of protection into the cold seasons, and allowing them to produce for a longer period of time.
So, you push the limits of how long you can grow in both winter and spring. You produce more food, save more money, and – if you’re a commercial grower – you make even more money.
Thus, you get season extension!
Here’s the best part:
Some of these protective covering structures for growing are incredibly easy, even cheap to make. And they’re absolutely worth it if you’re hell-bent on being more self-sufficient food-wise.
With that said, we present you with these 10 excellent articles from around the web, from gardening and homesteading blogs alike.
Each is chock-full of top-notch tips, building guides, hacks, and instructions to building, buying, and using your very own season extension structures, large or small, simple or complex.
There are even a few cold weather growing tips sprinkled in these posts as well!
So if you’ve been thinking about extending your growing season, you’ve found the perfect place to start. But more importantly, these will help you to feel confident in the process, whether you’re a beginner or an expert gardener.
Cold frames can be permanent or non-permanent structures, typically built out of solid plastic or glass. Small in stature, they are designed to go over single rows or beds.
Think of them as mini greenhouses. The best part about them: they’re ridiculously easy to make
1. Protect Cold Weather Crops: Tips for Making, Buying, and Using
From an exceptionally quaint homesteading blog, this article from Tenth Acre Farm gives you a more than adequate helping of tips to either buy, make, or use your new (or already existing) cold frame.
This article from the Tenth Acre Farm blog recommends a very successful model that you absolutely must check out, if buying one is the route you want to take! They also provide very simple instructions to make your very own at home, with plans sourced from Erica Mueller at Mom Prepares.
Invaluable tips are also included for operating your cold frame successfully: including ventilation, sub-zero cold care, and more.
2. Build Your Own!
If you want a very straightforward, step-by-step guide to building a cold frame right at your fingertips, Cooking Up a Story has the perfect article for you.
It comes with a materials list and numbered instructions. Pictures are available separate from this post, so as not to distract from the wonderful story Lisa Bell weaves: describing the interesting situations from which a need for this cold frame design arose.
A cleverly adjustable design, it’s easy to set up and take down!
Polytunnels and Hoop Houses
Want to move up to a size bigger, or do you need more than a cold frame to cover your veggies and plants?
Peruse these plans, and you’ll be sure to find something that does the trick.
3. Build 300 Square Feet For Under $500
Sometimes it’s all in the name – isn’t it?
This article sold me from the get-go, especially because it provides such a great plan on a relatively small budget.
This article from Natural Living Ideas doesn’t mess around with their instructions, either. They’re incredibly thorough, even including tips for site location and prep, plus a step-by-step tutorial on how to raise your frame, plastic, and even the doors of your future structure.
4. DIY For Extending Your Garden Season
Here’s a great hoop house idea from Flower Patch Farmhouse.
I know – it technically says “greenhouse” in the title, but if you look at the picture, this is a hoop house through and through.
Even better, this one is insanely simple: it uses a single hog panel, and doesn’t require a step-by-step guide to build it. Just a glance, and you’ll get the gist!
To go whole hog, check out this post from Pamela Groppe.
5. How-to Building Video Tutorial
Are you a visual person? Maybe you’d do better with a simple video tutorial that walks you through simple hoop house construction?
Yeah, we’ve got one of those!
It’s actually a combination cold frame/hoop house design, so you might think of it more like a low tunnel or row cover. Materials required include wood, wire mesh, plastic, and hinges for a top-opening, hoop house-shaped cold frame.
6. Make Your Very Own with Pictures
Next up, we have a nice multi-purpose article on polytunnels from the Gardening and Permaculture Design blog.
Architect, gardener, and blogger Patrick Hunt gives one of the most thorough step-by-step instruction guides for building that I have ever seen, and it includes some stellar, top-quality photos to go with it!
This is one you won’t want to miss, with a beautiful and unique design.
Do you have your eyes on a more permanent, potentially larger structure for your gardening hobby?
What would the next style and size up be…?
You guessed it: greenhouses!
While they may sound like very complex things to build, the following guides are sure to change your mind.
7. Repurposed Materials (Nearly Free)
Don’t be afraid to scout around a find materials for free or nearly free on Craigslist, your local paper, or Facebook groups. In this example, builder Jason Ellis found free pallet racking and cheap antique windows on his local Craigslist that he built his structure around.
Free pallets provided additional cladding. Screws, caulk, and paint were the only things purchased at the big box improvement store.
8. Full Plan (For Less Than $100!)
Dana, gardening writer at Fabulessly Frugal, takes us every step of the way through her elaborate plan for a completely DIY greenhouse – and for only $67.
Be sure to check it out. Using simple wood framing and a collection of old windows, you get a small but permanent, rustic-looking structure that will add both charm and function to your gardening addiction!
9. Growing Food Year-Round
Definitely more of a “how-to” rather than a building tutorial, Family Food Garden brings us a post that touches upon both the personal and practical aspects of having your own greenhouse.
It even includes a peek into specific methods in an excellent guide to succession planting within a greenhouse, so that you’re guaranteed to garden in a way that gives you food all year!
All of the Above
Need a dash of last-minute tips to make sure you’re steering that season extension ship right?
These final two articles provide all sorts of miscellany that will ensure you’re tackling your season extension operation – large or small – in the best way possible, with tons of practical and useful tips and infographics.
10. Extend Your Growing Season – Easy Tips for Gardeners
Common Sense Homesteading takes a few steps beyond the basic greenhouse or cold frame as the best season extension approach, in this comprehensive yet easily digestible article.
It’s filled with bona-fide book recommendations, seed starting tips, wintry gardening hacks, and even a video tutorial for building your own greenhouse – plenty of content to give you some ideas and bolster the confidence necessary for getting started.
Different Structures and Approaches for Winter
Fix.com brings us a wonderful finale, with a thorough look at different season extension structures you can use, what they’re used for, and what truly makes them different from one another.
Even better, each exploration – whether a look into hoop houses, row covers, or cold frames – gives a colorful and clear picture of exactly what that structure looks like, along with infographic details comparing and contrasting the unique benefits of each one.
If you really want to know which structure would be best for you and your climate, don’t skip this article!
Now That Everything’s Covered…
Think you’re ready to construct your own greenhouse or other season extension plans?
We sure hope you are! There’s no better way to amp up the production capabilities of your gardening or growing space than by literally extending how long you can grow it.
With all of these articles to refer to, we’re sure you’ve got your bases covered, and that you’ve also gained some newfound confidence to tackle your first (or hundredth) project!
Do you have your own season extension DIY building techniques and hacks to share? Don’t be shy – feel free to talk to us directly in the comments section below.
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Photos by Mom Prepared, Cooking Up a Story, Natural Living Ideas, Flower Patch Farmhouse, Garden Fork, Gardening and Permaculture Design, Fabulessly Frugal, Family Food Garden, Common Sense Homesteading, and Fix.com reprinted with permission. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Adrian White
Adrian White is a certified herbalist, organic farmer, and health/food writer and expert. She aims to bridge the world of natural, holistic health and nutrition to the realm of organic foods, herbalism, gardening, and sustainability - or "Food as Medicine" - throughout her writing.