The UK might not be known for its fantastic weather, but it doesn’t mean us Brits can’t have success in the garden! The average growing season is now a month longer than it was in the 1990s, but due to our long and cold winters it’s still much shorter than other places in the world. However with the right know-how and equipment it’s easy to prolong the growing season, and achieve more crops. Here are some of the ways you can go about doing it, to get the most out of your garden.
Growhouses such as greenhouses and polytunnels will absorb heat from the sun, and protect tender and half-hardy plants from the frost over the winter. To go a step further, you could insulate your structure with a layer of bubble wrap, or have heating installed. The temperature you’ll need to maintain will depend on the crops you’re growing so be sure to thoroughly research everything. Having a warmer environment in the garden allows you to keep growing produce right into the year. There would be no chance of this otherwise in the frosty UK winter!
Cold Frames and Hotbeds
Cold frames and hot beds are useful accessories to a greenhouse. Frames are boxes which lie flat on the ground with a glazed, sloping lid. A cold frame is left as it is and will provide protection from frost and a natural greenhouse effect from the sun. A hotbed is a cold frame but with an added heating device. This can be in the form of manure or nitrogen-rich compost. You can take advantage of this natural energy and chemical reaction by putting it where both the fertility and warmth will have the best impact.
Adding a layer of mulch, organic material such as bark, chippings, leaves or compost, is useful over the winter. It adds a protective barrier which helps to keep the base and roots of plants warm and avoid evaporation so that it doesn’t dry out. Mulch prevents soil compaction and also keeps out weeds which will prevent root competition. An easy, inexpensive way to protect your plants and keep them happy right the way through the year.
Cloches are glass or plastic covers which will protect single plants. They 'buffer' temperature for late-ripening crops, reducing the sharpness of early frosts. As well as protecting from the elements, it will also protect against pests. Cloches act as mini-greenhouses and will help to keep your more tender plants protected. Taller cloches promote ripening of aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers. Cucumbers. Wind protection increases growth rates and leaf surface area, and also promotes ‘softer’ growth. This is useful for leafy crops such as salads, spinach, and cabbage where soft growth is desirable. Cloches also offer a favourable environment for cuttings as well as helping to germinating seeds. You can buy specially made glass cloches, or also make your own out of simple materials you’d find at any DIY shop.
Do you have any tips and tricks for extending the growing season