As any Gallatin Valley Gardener knows, the weather can be unpredictable.  The it can go from sunny and 75 to snowing in a matter of hours.  To make the most of your spring garden, it’s important to utilize season extension techniques to protect plants from freezing temperatures and to extend the growing season.  The obvious season extender is the greenhouse.  However, greenhouses can be very costly and impractical for many people.  In this blog post, we will explore other options outside of greenhouses.  We will discuss how beneficial greenhouses can be in a different post.  More economical versions of season extension include: Wall-O-Water, Frost Blankets and row cover.  

 

Wall-O-Water:

A Wall-O-Water is composed of several plastic tubes that surround a plant and are filled with water.   The water absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night.  It helps to protect the plant from other elements such as wind, hard rain and snow creating a microclimate for the plant that is often more desirable than the early spring weather.  Wall-O-Waters can be used with tomatoes, peppers, herbs, squash and other heat loving crops.  

 

Frost Blankets:

Frost blankets are lightweight fabric blankets that are placed over plants and garden beds to protect the leaf surface from frost.  They are made of breathable materials that allow air, light and water to pass through while still trapping heat close to the plants.  Frost blankets are most useful when protecting cool season crops from very cold weather, improving germination of seedlings and protecting warm season crops from a late temperature drop.  

 

To use a frost blanket, cover the plant (or plants) with the blanket.  Make sure that it is touching the ground all the way around the plant(s).  Then, use stakes, rocks or other means to secure the blanket in place.  Remove the frost blanket each morning to ensure that maximum sunlight reaches the plant.

 

Other Frost Protection Items:

There are other frost protection items that can be used in your spring garden, such as:

  1. Hot caps: plastic or paper cones that cover individual plants.
  2. Row covers: a plastic that is stretched over a row of plants held upright by a short frame, usually .
  3. Mulch: a layer of organic matter that insulates the soil and keeps it warm.

 

When to Use Season Extension Techniques:

In Belgrade, Montana the average last frost date is around June 1st, but this can vary depending on the exact location you are in.  Utilizing season extension techniques can help you make the most of your spring garden in Montana. By using wall-of-water, frost blankets, and other frost protection items, you can protect your plants from frost and extend the growing season. Remember to wait until after the last frost date to plant warm-season crops and pay attention to the weather forecast to keep your plants safe. Happy gardening!

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