The arrival of fall and the first frost of the growing season is always bittersweet. While I often welcome the change of seasons as a time to slow down and relax, I still find myself missing daily walks through the garden and the excitement of planting something new. It was for this reason that I first began to explore the concept of season extension.
Simply put, season extension refers to any process which allows gardeners to continue production beyond a plant’s natural climate limitations. In my zone, October often marks the arrival of frost; a time when flowers cease blooming and begin to die back naturally. Prolonging the growing season is exceptionally beneficial in the vegetable garden as well as the cut flower garden.
Making the Grow Season Longer
While most other growers in my area have neatly tucked away their garden beds for a long winter’s sleep, the use of frost blankets, row covers, low tunnels, and an unheated polytunnel allow me to continue with cut flower production. Even though learning more about season extension can seem quite intimidating to beginner gardeners, understanding how each extension method works can truly change how one plans and maintains their growing space.
Among the best flowers that are suited to late fall and winter production are hardy annuals that demonstrate tolerance to cold, and cold-tolerant perennials. With the arrival of both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, chrysanthemum flower arrangements become especially popular. With their wide range of color, experienced flower farmers can provide florists with fresh, local blooms using selective pruning and other growing techniques.
Though I do not currently produce cut flowers in a heated greenhouse, I can’t help but feel eager to learn more about the process of growing flowering plants through winter, and even forcing gorgeous blooms when the weather is at its coldest. There is no doubt that the mastery of season extension techniques requires quite a bit of trial and error, but most gardeners would agree that the effort and investment is well worth the return.