As fall temperatures settle in, checking the night time low has become a frequent habit on the farm. In Saskatoon, we expect the first frost to arrive in mid September so every sunny frost free day from here on is a real bonus for our tomatoes and squash. Our greens are content to keep growing through light frosts and shorter days, but the rate of growth has really been slowing down.
A walk-in greenhouse or high tunnel would help us extend our growing season considerably, but such a project would also come with a high cost of materials, time, and energy. In keeping with our low tech approach to farming, our floating row covers will suffice quite nicely for the time being. They are low cost, low energy, easily transportable, and effective. We have been using floating row covers all season long to keep the dirt and pests off of our greens, but they also create a warmer microclimate under the cover. Despite their opaque appearance, they actually permit 70% of the sunlight to pass through and the breathability of the fabric prevents extreme overheating.
This fall, we will be testing the limits of these row covers. We have planted a few late crops of greens and will be monitoring them closely as temperatures continue to drop. This will help us determine how many more weeks we can safely add to our delivery season next year.
The photos below show a standard sized bed with baby arugula on the left and baby kale on the right. We have found these to be good bed companions because they have similar growth rates and both need protection from the dreaded flea beetle.