Extending the season | SteamboatToday.com

Extending the season

Teresa Ristow

Beautiful Fall garden flowers in the heart of Steamboat Springs. Submitted by Sue Hansen.

It takes a green thumb, good timing and a little bit of luck to pull off a successful garden in Steamboat Springs, where the average frost-free season is just 59 days. Unless, of course, you know these tips for extending the growing season.

"You can almost double the season if you try," says Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County Extension agent for Colorado State University. Hagenbuch offers a few ideas to push the limits of Routt County's traditionally short growing season — most involve keeping plants covered to retain the warmth collected by the soil during the day.

Blankets and sheets: Just about any fabric can be used to cover up crops, but it's important for blankets or sheets to remain dry and be removed during the day so soil heat can be recharged.

Floating row covers: These lightweight fabrics are blanketed directly over crops, providing two to four degrees of frost protection, defense against wind and insect protection. They are popular in commercial produce production, where crops are often planted in large blocks and easily blanketed.

Plastic or space blankets over a frame: Plastic can be used to cover plants, but don't let it touch the vegetation, as it can act as a vector. "Use some sort of structure, whether its PVC pipes or concrete mesh, to keep the plastic off the plants," Hagenbuch says. "Don't let it touch." Frames can be created from concrete reinforcing mesh, PVC pipes and other materials, with plastic draped over.

Repurpose Christmas lights for added heat: Hagenbuch hangs onto old stringed Christmas lights with C7 and C9 bulbs and spreads the lights amongst his garden beds. The soft light emitted from the bulbs is great for "not cooking the plants," Hagenbuch says. "It's good for tender plants like squash and zucchini."