Extending Fall Lettuce Harvest With Floating Row Covers and Other Tips

Floating row cover on fall lettuce 11-22-12

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the U.S.!  We’ve enjoyed another great Thanksgiving as a family and we pray you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well.  There is much for us to be thankful for, and one of the things are family is very grateful for is living the country life in America.

With all the activities this week, we’re a little behind on our end-of-week post, yet I thought it would be a good time to post on a few tips for extending the growing/harvest season for fall lettuce and greens.

A colleague of mine where I work was asking me about some ways to keep his lettuce and greens growing longer.  He’s a novice gardener and planted his greens a little late for a good harvest with the nights now colder and days shorter.   However, here are a few low-cost tips I gave him that could provide him more time to get a decent harvest:

  • Cover the lettuce/greens bed with a floating row cover.

Fall lettuce still hanging in there - some burnt tips 11-22-12

I use this technique to extend my growing season by several weeks.  We’ve had many recent nights in the low thirties, high twenties and our lettuce shows some signs of burning.  However, with the floating row cover, our plants are still growing and in fairly good health.  I planted this bed in early September.

  • Above the floating row cover, set up a mini hoop tunnel with a plastic sheeting cover.

I didn’t use this technique this year, but I have used something similar in the past.  With the row cover and plastic sheeting, this adds a double layer of protection for the plants and also provides a warmer microclimate to help the plants continue growing a little longer.  This technique will not work if the seeds are planted very late in the season and there is not enough time for them to get to a sufficient level of maturity.

  • For more strategies for extending the harvest season, my go-to sources are books by Eliot Coleman—the guru of winter gardening.

One of my favorite books by Eliot is the “Four-Season Harvest” published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.  If you’re new to extending the harvest season, check it out!  It’s a great resource.

What techniques have you used to extend your growing/harvest season?

Larry Braley

About Larry Braley

Blessed husband to a wonderful, virtuous woman and father of five, a daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Raised on a midsize farm in the midwest during my childhood and early teen years. Moved away for several years to live the corporate life. Glad to be back in the country raising my family, teaching life skills and developing our mini-farm.
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