It’s November and almost all vegetables have been harvested, all the leaves have blown off the trees and we think that the growing season is over. It might feel like a relief for some, because there’s one thing less to take care of.

But for many people, it feels like a loss. Now the time will come that we’ll have to spend most of our days inside, most garden plants die or at least lie dormant for the winter and our happy place outdoors rests under a thick layer of snow. The gardening season seems to be over.

We feel that the growing season is limited; nurseries and garden centers are closed for the winter, and we can’t be active in our beloved hobby until spring. But what does the term ‘growing season’ actually mean? National Geographic defines ‘A growing season as the period of the year when crops and other plants grow successfully.  The growing season is usually calculated by the average number of days between the last frost in spring and the first severe frost in autumn.’

But did you notice? This definition only applies to warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and squash. And yet, it is the basis for most gardening advice and practice. Who is not familiar with the rule that you shouldn’t plant outside before the long May weekend? I’m sure we all agree that this definition above is pretty limiting and kind of a demotivator. It ignores the fact that there are plants that are frost-hardy and thrive in cool temperatures. What about letting the plants decide when their growing season is?

Tatsoi and pak choi in a cold frame.

Every year we start as early as mid-February with planting onions, leeks, and celery seeds indoors. Provide the right conditions – light, water, nutrients – and your plants will grow. Starting your seeds indoors is already one way to extend our growing season, isn’t it? Next, we don’t wait until the end of May to plant outside. You can find us as early as mid-April sowing seeds and planting lettuce outdoors. With the help of cold frames, you can start even earlier. Choosing the right crops for these conditions is the trick. Cold and cool season crops like lettuce, kale, pak choi, radishes, or spinach love this weather and wouldn’t even grow well in the summer heat. Did you ever wonder why your lettuce bolted in June? That’s the reason! It is too warm for it and the plants get triggered to produce flowers and seeds.  

The same accounts for autumn. We don’t need to shut down our gardens and get winter ready in September. We can continue growing veggies and herbs under cover until Christmas. The growing season is when we make it happen. 

I don’t want to end this article without a word about all the great possibilities of indoor growing. From starting your own sprouts on the windowsill in less than a week to microgreens and all the different indoor growing systems. For every gardener there is a solution to grow year-round. So now, how long is our growing season really? Exactly! 356 days!  

Happy gardening.

This article was submitted by
Ines Batterton,
of ‘My Nordic Garden’.

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 *Source for the definition of ‘growing season’: growing season | National Geographic Society