Gardening in Vermont, I know about cold weather. The growing season is short and intense. I don’t dare go away in May or early June, because if I don’t get everything planted, I may miss the opportunity to get annual plants in the ground soon enough so they produce before a fall frost. Then there’s September and October when frost can come at any time. Yes, it’s a crazy place to garden, but I’ve learned some great tips over the years to make the gardening easier and more productive. Here are some of my best tips:
Build the Soil- With the short growing season and cool temperatures, the soil needs to be in tiptop shape to produce the best annual flowers and vegetables. I like to add a 1- to 2-inch thick deep layer of compost on my beds every spring and work it in. It’s cheapest to buy the compost in bulk from a garden center or have it delivered to your home. To move it around your property, use the Lifetime Yard Cart. This cart can be used as a wheelbarrow for small loads, or attached to your lawn tractor and pulled as a trailer for larger loads. It can hold up to 650 pounds of compost and dumps easily.
Plant on Raised Beds- Create 8- to 10-inch tall beds no more than 4 feet wide and as long as you like. These raised beds will warm up and dry out faster in spring and stay warmer all summer. They’re perfect for getting a jump on the season for cool season crops and keeping the warm season plants growing strong.
Relish the Cool Stuff- Cool weather crops, such as pansies, violas, snapdragons, broccoli, lettuce, peas, radishes, carrots, and kale, all love Vermont. They grow all summer. Even when we get the occasional 90 degree day, they still survive and produce from spring until the real cold weather kills them in October or November. Focus on planting a lot of these flowers and vegetables for success.
Protect the Warm Stuff- Heat loving flowers, such as geraniums, canna lilies, zinnias, and celosia, and warm weather loving vegetables, such as melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and squash, all need hot weather to thrive. In cold climates it’s best to protect them early in the season by planting in plastic mulch (keeps the soil warm) or protecting transplants with floating row covers (keeps the air warm around plants).
Plant in Cold Frames- To really extend the season plant in cold frames. These structures are like mini-greenhouses. They allow you to grow plants a few weeks longer in the beginning and end of the gardening season. Plant cool weather loving vegetables such as lettuce, radishes, or carrots in early spring. Once they’re finished, use the cold frame for heat lovers such as cucumbers. When cold weather returns in September, sow another crops of mesclun greens, kale, or spinach. You’ll get 3 harvests from one cold frame each year.