Sunday, April 24, 2016

Early Gardening 2016

I live in a place where, in Spring, it is very often down in the teens at night and up in the 40s or 50s during the day. Then the next week it is in the 80s. This makes it very hard to get plants started early; they are either freezing or over-heating. 

I have a small cold frame, I showed how I built it two years ago. It works fine for cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots. I was curious how well it maintains the heat so I put a thermometer in it a couple weeks ago. On a morning when it was 17 degrees outside it was still 32 degrees in the cold frame. Still too cold for most plants but warm enough for others. 

Onions do quite well in a cold frame. I planted these in February. They will be big enough to eat in June. The upturned jugs are filled with water, which warms up during the day in the sunlight and then keeps the ground from freezing at night. I had other jugs of water in the cold frame to absorb excess heat from the sun-warmed box and then give off that heat at night.

I planted some radish seeds in February as well but starting seeds in cold ground is a hit or miss effort. It took three weeks for them to sprout and they really haven't been growing very fast. It is still quite cold at night. But now that the days are warming up I can take the glass off the cold frame during the day and they will start to grow faster soon. I should be eating my first fresh radishes in mid-May.


I bought a six pack of peppers for $1.48. These are small spindly plants coming out of green houses where they were grown under grow lights (usually). I usually buy these when I can find them early in the season or pre-season. Below is a six-pack of Tomatoes just to show the container and the small size of the plants, I forgot to take a picture of my plants when I bought them.


If you wait to buy the plants when they are larger, in quart or half-gallon pots, you will pay about $3.50 EACH! That is a huge difference. So I buy the six-packs and then transplant my peppers and tomatoes into half-gallon pots. I have a nearly endless supply of good compost and charcoal from my winter fires. I mix a batch of potting soil using sand, charcoal, and compost and put my little plants in bigger pots. The plants are already usually Root-Bound and the tiny amount of soil in the six-packs limits their ability to grow. But once you loosen the roots and transfer them to the bigger pots, they restart growing. I puts the pots in trays and take them out during the day and bring them into the garage in the evening so they don't freeze. Once all danger of frost has passed I will plant them in the garden. I do this pretty much every year and it saves me a lot of money.


This will give me a head start on the growing season and put food on the table when most people in my area are just getting their garden started. Oh, I almost forgot, I planted four short rows of green beans under plastic two weeks ago and a few of them have sprouted abut have no yet broken the surface of the soil. Next week I will post a note on how I start my beans in my early season garden.

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