How to Extend the Season in Your Garden

By on July 27, 2011

Tricia has permanent metal frames over her raised beds to support shade cloth, floating row covers, or greenhouse plastic.

Create climate change in your own garden! Want to make the summer cooler, and warm up the fall and winter? It takes just a few hours to get started.


The framework for dealing with these three seasons really is a frame. You’ll need to create a supporting structure to hold up a variety of fabrics over your plants. In our video on fall planting, Tricia shows the permanent metal frame she built over her raised beds.

If you prefer a removable framework you can use our curved pieces of wire for hoops—simply sink each end 1 foot into your garden soil, spacing the wire supports 4 to 6 feet apart.

To make a taller curved hoop, use 10 foot lengths of PVC pipe for the arches. Choose rebar that fits within your PVC pipe. Stabilize the pipe by pounding 1 foot pieces of rebar into the ground at 4 to 6 foot intervals along the sides of your garden bed. Leave 6 inches of rebar above the ground, and pair it with a matching piece on the opposite side of the bed. In late summer, slip the PVC pipes over the rebar to create the tall hoops. When warm weather returns in the spring, remove and store the pipes.

If you have raised beds with wooden sides you can make permanent PVC pipe arches by attaching the pipes to the outside of the beds.

Another option is to make a rectangular framework of PVC pipe. We have snap fittings to connect the lengths of pipe. Just check your pipe diameter and look at our selection of 3-way, 4-way, 5-way, and slip T connectors. This framework can be dismantled for the warm season, or left in place year-round, anchored by rebar.

Keeping the fabric on the frame

Any fabric draped over a framework needs to be secured with clamps or clips. We have aluminum or plastic rowcover clamps to hold fabric onto the structures. To tie the edges of the fabric down to the ground, use our Clip-It or Tufbell Clips, and secure them in the soil with Ground Staples.

High winds can play havoc with row covers, so when that becomes a factor in your weather add extra ballast with bags of gravel along one side of your row. Weigh down the other side with boards (for easy removal when you want to harvest or check on your vegetables).

Check soil temperature

You may be able to skip the late-summer, soil-cooling step if your soil is a comfortable temperature for the seeds you’ll be planting. Most seeds need a temperature of 75F to 90F to germinate. Look at your seed packet to see the soil temperature ranges for your seeds, then test the soil temperature at various places in your garden bed with a soil thermometer.

Shade cloth

If your soil temperature is not cool enough, water the soil thoroughly to lower the temperature, and install shade cloth on your structure. Clamp the shade cloth in place, then check the soil temperature daily until it is cool enough to plant your seeds.

Floating row covers

Here is a quick overview of the different weights of Agribon row covers we carry, and their uses. If you want the ultimate in sturdy row covers, check out our PVA film.

Greenhouse plastic

Add extra warmth to your garden bed, as cold weather approaches, with greenhouse plastic. Layer directly on top of the supported floating row cover. Another technique is to build a second framework, taller and wider than your original structure, and drape the larger framework with greenhouse plastic.

More information? You can’t go wrong with The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. The famed organic farmer raises crops through the winter in Maine of all places. With typical enthusiasm, Coleman shares practical advice about season-extending structures and techniques.

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