Extending the Growing Season
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Extending the Growing Season. Red Planet Vegetables. Northern RI Conservation District. Some Key Terms to Remember…. Growing Season: The part of the year where temperature and rainfall allow plants to grow. For the purposes of this workshop, growing season refers to frost-free days.

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Northern ri conservation district

Extending the Growing Season

Red Planet Vegetables

Northern RI Conservation District

Northern ri conservation district

Some Key Terms to Remember…

Growing Season:The part of the year where temperature and rainfall allow plants to grow. For the purposes of this workshop, growing season refers to frost-free days.

Hardiness Zone: Geographically defined area where certain plants are capable of growing

Climate:The weather conditions of a certain area over a long period

Microclimate: The climate within a small, specific space as contrasted with the climate of the surrounding area (i.e.. the area in close proximity around a plant or row of plants).

Days to Maturity:The number of days between planting a seed and the harvest of that crop.

The typical rhode island growing season
The “Typical” Rhode Island Growing Season

  • May 8th- October 3rd

  • Plant Hardiness Zone 6

  • 147 frost-free days in 2011

  • 120 days with a minimum temperature of 32 degrees and below (on average)

Northern ri conservation district

Don’t settle for the “typical” Rhode Island Growing Season…

Extend the season grow and harvest vegetables all year
Extend the Season: Grow and Harvest Vegetables All Year!

Grow summer crops that can be harvested through the late fall

Grow hardy crops that can be harvested all winter in altered microclimates

Plant crops later that will be ready to harvest in the spring


Northern ri conservation district

  • What do you want to get out of your garden?

  • Do you want to keep it going through the fall and save what’s already growing?

  • Do you want to harvest all winter?

  • Where will the garden be located?

  • What crops do you want to plant?

  • Do you need to create a protected microclimate?

  • Make a map!


Northern ri conservation district

Site Selection

  • Soil quality

  • Well-drained soils

  • Avoid areas of excessive runoff

  • South-facing areas to maximize sunlight

  • North-South or East-West?

  • Location that won’t be shaded when the sun is lower in the sky in winter

  • Wind protection

  • Access

  • Frost Pockets?

  • Protected microclimate?

Northern ri conservation district

Unique Challenges of Winter

  • REALLY cold

  • REALLY windy

  • Can be extreme- stay warm

  • It’s Rough out there!!!

Choosing the right plants
Choosing the Right Plants

To extend your summer garden well into the fall, plant later in the season

Plant early-maturing plants (30 days to maturity) in mid- September


Bunching Onions


Early Carrots

Asian Greens


Pea Greens

Broccoli Raab

Leaf Lettuces



*Great time to plant Lawn Seed!

Choosing the right plants1
Choosing the Right Plants

Early Carrot



Kohl Rabi

Early Cabbage

Winter Cauliflower

Collard Greens

Perennial Flowers

Perennial Herbs

Swiss Chard



Mustard Greens

Plant mid-season maturing plants (60 days to maturity) in mid- August

  • Plant late-season maturing plants (90 days to maturity) in mid- July




Globe Onions

Brussels Sprouts



Fava Beans

*Give yourself 5-10 extra days to maturity when planting later in the season

Choosing the right plants2
Choosing the Right Plants

Salad Greens







Brussels Sprouts


Collard Greens

Swiss Chard


Mustard Greens

Select plants that are winter hardy and thrive in the cold and adjusted microclimates for your winter garden:

* Days to maturity is greatly increased due to winter climates, even in protected microclimates

When directly seeded in fall, these plants can over-winter outside. If they germinate and grow quickly, they may be killed by the cold.

Planting and harvesting schedule
Planting and Harvesting Schedule

  • Plan when you want to harvest the crops that you want to grow and plant accordingly

  • Succession Plantings

  • Plan your season now using readily available tools on the internet

    • Planting Date Calculator

    • Harvesting Date Calculator

    • Succession Planting

    • (see NRICD.org for links)

    • Keep records!

    • Save seed packets with notes!

    • Learn from trial and error!

    • Every year is different!

    • Don’t get discouraged!


A microclimate is small, but distinctly different climate within the greater area that surrounds it

Not just increasing the temperature!

Using south-facing slopes

Protection from the wind using hedgerows and shrubs & snow fence

Planting in raised beds

Using mulch to protect roots and shoots

Planting along stone walls to trap ambient heat

Using other methods to increase plant temperature, increase sun exposure, protect from wind, and maintain moisture

Tools for altering microclimates mulching and raised beds
Tools for Altering Microclimates:Mulching and Raised Beds

  • Mulching using leaves or wood chips to protect plants

  • Using raised beds to increase soil temperature

  • Amending the soil with compost: thermal decay of highly organic soil

  • Use hay to cover leeks and carrots

Row covers
Row Covers

  • Using Row covers for added protection from the elements

  • Also protect crops from insects and other pests

  • Use spun-bonded, lightweight fabrics for best results

Cold frames
Cold Frames

  • Grow at summer speed through November, then plants semi-hibernate

  • Equivalent of moving plants 1 ½ USDA zones south

  • Must ventilate when inner temperature is around 70 degrees, or after March 1st.

Make with recycled materials that you already have, such as old windows, plastic sheets and wood!

Northern ri conservation district

Hoop Houses/Low Tunnels

  • Generally under 6 feet tall

  • Can use plastic or metal to make hoops

  • Cover with spun-bound fabric or UV resistant plastic dependant on need

  • Fully secure in areas with lots of snow using sandbags and tie-downs

Northern ri conservation district

Hoop Houses/High Tunnels

  • Mainly unheated, non-mechanically ventilated, generally greater than 6 feet tall

  • Sold as kits, plant directly in the ground

  • Unheated, 6-7 degrees warmer than outside

  • Funding may be available for extending your growing season using High Tunnels through NRCS

Northern ri conservation district


  • Permanent structures

  • Usually heated

  • Many times has a concrete floor

  • Maintain summer growing conditions year-round

  • Expensive to maintain!

Northern ri conservation district


  • Use any combination of row covers, low tunnels and high tunnels.

  • Can be equivalent of moving plants 3 USDA zones warmer

Northern ri conservation district

Other Considerations

  • Soil health and fertility

    • Don’t Guess! Soil Test!

  • Availability of water

  • Availability of electricity

  • Availability of materials

  • Ventilation

  • Enough light

  • Budget

  • Time


  • For more information, please refer to the Northern RI Conservation District website at:

  • www.NRICD.org

  • You will find a list of reference materials including:

  • Books

  • Links to Websites

  • This PowerPoint

Northern ri conservation district

Thank You!

For More Information:

Kate Sayles, Northern RI Conservation District

(401) 934-0840


Justin Tuthill, USDA-NRCS



Matt Tracy, Red Planet Vegetables