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Getting a Jump on Vegetable Gardening

Getting a Jump on Vegetable Gardening

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Home Vegetable Production with Larry Sagers

March 2, 9,16 and 30 2:00-4:00 PM or 6:00-8:00 PM Vegetable growing made easy, fun and more productive. Topics include early and late season vegetables, soil preparation, fertilizing, variety selection, seeding, growing more in a small space and pest control. (4 weeks class meeting for 2 hours each week)

Some gardeners can hardly wait to get out and start planting. With changeable weather in the spring, many have a hard time deciding when to get started. Understanding plant growth and its relationship to microclimates enables you to start garden several weeks earlier than would otherwise be possible.


Microclimates are climatic factors immediately around the plant. In our area, frost protection is the primary consideration, but increasing soil temperature is just as important. Wind protection also helps young plants grow much better.

When considering devices and techniques to extend the gardening season, choose easy to use, durable materials that do not overheat young seedlings.


Natural heat from the soil is a very important climate modifying factor. Moist soil absorbs three times more heat during the day than dry soil providing four to six degrees frost protection for young plants.

Bare soil absorbs four times as much heat as soil covered with grass, weeds or an organic mulch and further increases frost protection. Well prepared seed beds also store more heat than rough soil. Just a few degrees difference in the microclimate can make the difference between plant survival and death.

Raised beds are an excellent way to drain off the excess water and dry out the soil. This warms the soil and allows earlier planting.

Soil stores heat very well. To protect plants, trap as much heat as possible from the soil around the tender young plants. This warms the plants and gets them off to a better start. This is done by using the devices and techniques that follow.

HOT CAPS AND OTHER COVERS The simplest plant protection devices are waxed paper hotcaps used by tomato growers for many years to get a week or two head start on the season. Paper hats or plastic milk jugs or buckets serve the same purpose.

One problem with hotcaps is they often overheat during the day. Coverings left on in sunny weather need openings to vent out excess heat.

If you use milk jugs, save the caps. On cold days, place the caps on the jugs in the late afternoon and then remove them the next morning to allow the heat to escape.


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