Season Extension Trials

What a great month November has been.

Our first attempts at season extension have been more fruitful than we anticipated. Combined with a pleasant, unseasonably warm November, our season extension has allowed us to grow well beyond the end of the growing season and past Thanksgiving. Our spinach, kale, carrots, salad turnips, and lettuces survived some frigid overnight lows to see lots of sunshine and an average high of 58 degrees. We also planted onions and garlic to grow over winter under our low tunnels.

With plenty of help from our volunteers, we constructed 6-25′ x 3′ low tunnels using frost-resistant Agribon row cover and medium gauge wire. While our cold frames are still in the development stage, we decided to cover some of our raised beds with excess row cover using sturdy metal posts and all-purpose twine to create a floating row cover. This was met with mixed results — the floating row cover provided great protection from all elements except for wind. The low tunnels met expectations in protecting our beds and overall durability. Our kale did especially well under floating row, providing us with about 10 pounds from a 4′ x 6′ raised bed for our Community Harvest Thanksgiving dinner.

Raised bed of kale

We removed the cover from the kale after it was hearty enough to survive without protection

We began using our season extension materials earlier than we had hoped to. Many of our brassicas were ravaged by the family of groundhogs living under our garden shed. Without the time or a humane way to deal with the family, we covered our michihili Chinese cabbage with a layer of Agribon insect cover to keep them out. In 2-25′ x 3′ beds, we grew more than 100 pounds of cabbage in three months. It grew so well it began to burst out the sides of the low tunnels and took up a massive amount of refrigerator space

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Our original season extension trial was to conclude at the start of Bucknell’s Thanksgiving break. I’m very grateful to say we are pushing beyond that deadline into December to allow our remaining spinach, kale, and lettuce more time to thrive. Here’s hoping December is as warm and snow-free as November has been!

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