• growing season
    The largest cabbage ever recorded—almost 57 kilograms (126 pounds)—was a product of Alaska's short but sunny growing season.

    Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie

    Alaska's Growing Season
    Alaska has a very short growing season, only 105 days, on average. However, the Alaskan growing season does not have dark nightsthe Arctic is tilted toward the sun and plants grow in almost 24 hours of sunlight. In a growing season months shorter than the rest of the country, Alaskas gardeners grow some of the largest produce75-pound cabbages, 100-pound kale and 1,000-pound pumpkins.

    A growing season is the period of the year when crops and other plants grow successfully. The length of a growing season varies from place to place. Most crops need a growing season of at least 90 days.

    In tropical regions, where it is warm year-round, the growing season can last the entire year. In some tropical places, however, the growing season is interrupted by a rainy season. During this time, it is too wet to grow crops. Coffee, which grows in tropical climates, has this type of varied growing season. In Colombia, coffee is harvested all year. In Indonesia, heavy rains often interrupt the coffee growing season.

    In other tropical places, it is sometimes too dry for crops to grow. The tropical region of northern Africa, called the Sahel, experiences frequent periods of drought. The Sahel is a transition zone between the Sahara Desert in the north and the savanna in the south. Due to dramatic weather patterns, the prospect of a successful harvest in the Sahel is highly uncertain.

    In temperate regions, which have warm summers and cold winters, the length of the growing season depends mostly on temperature. Some growing seasons last as long as eight months. Europe and most of the Americas enjoy long growing seasons like this. The farther away a place is from the Equator, the shorter the growing season. In regions near the poles, the growing season is sometimes less than two months. The U.S. state of Alaska has an average growing season of only 105 days.

    Elevation, or the height above sea level, also affects the growing season. This is because higher elevations usually have colder temperatures. High in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the U.S. state of California, the growing season lasts only 50 days, but along the state's southern coast, the growing season lasts 365 days.

    There are two ways to determine the growing season. In temperate regions, 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. The growing season can also be determined by the average number of days that the temperature rises high enough for a particular crop to sprout and grow. This measurement varies depending upon the crop. For rice to grow, the temperature must be at least 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Wheat, however, will sprout at just 5 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Arctic Noun

    region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Arctic
    cabbage Noun

    leafy green vegetable.

    calculate Verb

    to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    coffee Noun

    plant native to Africa whose dried berries and seeds are used for a drink of the same name.

    crop Noun

    agricultural produce.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crop
    determine Verb

    to decide.

    dramatic Adjective

    very expressive or emotional.

    drought Noun

    period of greatly reduced precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: drought
    elevation Noun

    height above or below sea level.

    Encyclopedic Entry: elevation
    Equator Noun

    imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.

    Encyclopedic Entry: equator
    frequent Adjective

    often.

    frost Noun

    thin coat of ice covering objects when the dew point is below freezing.

    Encyclopedic Entry: frost
    growing season Noun

    period in the year when crops and other plants grow rapidly.

    harvest Noun

    the gathering and collection of crops, including both plants and animals.

    kale Noun

    leafy green vegetable.

    pole Noun

    extreme north or south point of the Earth's axis.

    produce Noun

    agricultural products such as vegetables and fruits.

    pumpkin Noun

    edible orange gourd.

    rainy season Noun

    time of year when most of the rain in a region falls.

    rice Noun

    grass cultivated for its seeds.

    Sahel Noun

    transition zone in northern Africa between the Sahara Desert in the north and the savanna ecosystems in the south.

    savanna Noun

    type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

    sea level Noun

    base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sea level
    severe Adjective

    harsh.

    sprout Verb

    to begin to grow.

    successfully Adverb

    having achieved or completed the goal.

    temperate Adjective

    moderate.

    temperature Noun

    degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

    Encyclopedic Entry: temperature
    transition zone Noun

    area between two natural or artificial regions.

    tropical Adjective

    existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

    varied Adjective

    diverse.

    weather pattern Noun

    repeating or predictable changes in the Earth's atmosphere, such as winds, precipitation, and temperatures.

    wheat Noun

    most widely grown cereal in the world.

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