Grow Q&A: Extend Your Growing Season

Dear Dan, I live in an area that usually gets its first frost around late September. I have a plant growing that takes 70-75 days to harvest and I was wondering if it’s possible to induce flowering early on an outdoor plant. If so, what would the outcome be? – Smot Poker

Dear Smot,
Yes, it is possible to do but will require a bit of work on your part. You’re going to be utilizing a process called light deprivation during the earliest part of your flowering period. Outdoor plants don’t tend to start flowering until around early August on average but you’ll be using light deprivation to start this process in June or July.

You will be reducing the amount of light that your plant gets per day and this will require some sort of dark opaque covering. It can be as simple as an individual tent that you place over the plant or a greenhouse with a dark colored tarp that goes over it. I’ve even seen these with solar operated winches and timers so you don’t actually have to manually cover the plant every day.

Starting in July, deprive the plant of any light more than 12 hours per day, every day, and you’ll see flowers forming before the end of the month. When late August rolls around and the natural light has reduced to 12 or less hours per day, discontinue the light deprivation process. You now have a plant that’s been flowering for a month already and will easily finish before any frost comes around.

You could also extend the season beyond the frost by using a greenhouse and keeping the plant warm with a heater. This requires a bit more room and isn’t really feasible for one plant. I’ve seen heated greenhouses in Maine growing tropical fruits in December.

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