Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
The sunny weather can't help but get gardeners excited. Sunshine and warm weather are all it takes to inspire you to get out and get planting. There's no crystal ball to predict upcoming weather, so consider using season-extending gardening techniques to get a jump on things. When planting the garden, the weather isn't the only limiting factor. Soil temperatures are often more restrictive than air temperatures. Plants may tolerate cool air temperatures, but all seeds require certain soil temperatures before they can germinate. Warming the soil is one way to accelerate the gardening season. The only practical method to warm soil is to utilize the natural warmth of the sun. Soil that is well-drained and doesn't retain large amounts of water warms faster than wet soil. Improving drainage allows the soil to be worked earlier and allows it to warm faster. Raised beds are an excellent way to counteract cool, wet soil in the early spring. Test your garden to see if it is dry enough to be worked by turning over a shovelful of soil. Pick up a handful and squeeze it tightly into a ball. Toss the ball lightly in the air. If it crumbles, you can go ahead and till. If it remains wet or stuck together, don’t work the garden until it dries out. Wall o' Waters allow the earliest planting. Advocates of Wall o' Waters have had plants growing in them for several weeks. These ingenious devices hold almost 25 pounds of water. The water warms during the day and releases heat at night. If temperatures get extremely cold, the water freezes and releases heat. This protects and warms the plants inside and greatly accelerates both planting times and maturity. Hot caps give some protection from the wind and cold temperatures. This protection is very limited and also offers minimal soil warming. Planting can be accelerated only a week or two with hot caps, milk jugs or similar devices. Floating row covers also allow earlier planting and enhance maturity. These lightweight spun-polyester covers produce amazing results. Cover the beds with the row covers after planting, Since the cover is so light in weight, it never has to be removed. It is permeable to water, oxygen and light and doesn't require hoops or other devices for support. Temperatures underneath the cover climb 8 to 10 degrees, and the cover gives several degrees of frost protection in the event of a late spring frost. It is easy to use and causes almost no interference with the plants. Another benefit is that it excludes many crop-damaging insect pests, including aphids, cabbage loopers and other worms. Though it's not nice to fool Mother Nature, it's OK to help plants to grow faster and better. Warmer soils and plant protection devices help make possible an accelerated start even in a questionable season. Use these techniques to help bring about some of the best plantings and greatest harvests you'll ever enjoy. I will be teaching a four weeks Vegetable Growing Class covering cool season vegetable growing and many other topics. The class starts on Tuesday March 5, and is taught at 2:00 pm or at 6:00 pm. Call 801 768-4971 to register for the class or for more information.