Friday, August 10, 2012

3 Tips to Extend the Growing Season in Your Maine Garden

For some, especially those of us in Maine and the north, when August rolls around the growing season never seems long enough. So, how can we extend it and keep our vegetable gardens producing a little longer?

The answer is to pamper our vegetable plants by snipping away dead and dying leaves and vines, harvesting all mature vegetables and blanketing our most delicate plants with floating row covers.

Tip # 1: Say Goodbye to Dead and Dying Foliage

Before you begin snipping away dead and dying foliage, take a good look at your plants. Focus on the ones that are healthy and still have vegetables to bear. Snip off the yellowing and brown leaves and vines. For example, when cucumber vines begin to die off, snip them off from the main plant stem.

This move helps extend the growing season by refocusing plants on producing and maturing more vegetables instead of spending energy trying to repair damaged and dying plant parts. Remember, you don’t need to go crazy doing this. When all is said and done, toss the clippings in the compost pile, woods or whatever, but don’t leave them piled up in the garden. Leaving them in garden invites garden pests to over winter under them.

Tip # 2: Harvest all Mature Vegetables

Some vegetable plants, string beans for example, stop producing if their mature vegetables haven’t been harvested. So, harvest them when they’re ready to help extend their growing season. You put all that work into growing a garden, so why wouldn’t you want to harvest everything it produces?

If you end up with more vegetables than you know what to do with, freeze and preserve them, give them away to friends, family and neighbors or drop them off at the local food pantry. Someone is sure to enjoy them, even if it’s not you.

Tip # 3: Floating Row Covers

Why am I talking about floating row covers in August? It’s still summer right? Well, here in Maine, temperatures can dip pretty low at night, even in summer, especially towards the end of August. Floating row covers help lock in heat during the day keeping plants and soil temperatures warmer at night. Warmer temperatures encourage plants to keep producing, thus extending their growing season.

Floating row covers can easily be pulled back for harvesting during the day. You don’t have to cover all your plants, only those that are still healthy and producing vegetables.

A great time-saving tip is to snip away dead and dying foliage as you harvest. Yesterday, as I harvested my wax beans and the first of my burgundy beans, I pinched of the yellowing and brown, crispy leaves, though there were few of them. I’ll continue to do this as I harvest and weed as August moves along.

I’m always on the hunt for tips to extend the growing season; do you have any to share?

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