growing season, period during which plant growth takes place. In temperate climates the growing season is limited by seasonal changes in temperature and is defined as the period between the last killing frost of spring and the first killing frost of autumn, at which time annual plants die and biennials and perennials cease active growth and become dormant for the cold winter months. In tropical climates, in which there is less seasonal temperature change, the amount of available moisture often determines the periods of plant growth; in the rainy season growth is luxuriant and in the dry season many plants become dormant. In desert areas, growth is almost wholly dependent on moisture. In the Arctic the growing season is short but concentrated; the number of daylight hours is so large that the total amount of sunlight equals that of a temperate growing season with shorter days. The length of the growing season often determines which crops can be grown in a region; some require long growing seasons and others mature rapidly. Plants that are perennials in a warm climate may sometimes be grown as annuals in cooler areas; by crossing hardy plant species with less hardy but more productive types, plant breeders have developed desirable new strains that mature in a shorter period. Combinations of factors affect the growing season; in the sheltered valleys and coastal slopes of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the heavy winter rainfall and the dry summers have produced a Mediterranean type of climate where plant growth occurs during the winter and dormancy during the summer. See climate; seasons.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.