Season Extending Spring 2012

I’ve started experimenting with season extending this spring using a few different strategies:

  1. Transplanting early — I’ve started seeds indoors for a variety of plants including spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, scallions, leeks, and turnips, in addition to the traditional ones like tomatoes, peppers, and brussel sprouts. This gives me a jump on all the plants, and with soil blocks its affordable and the transplants seem to do quite well.
  2. Low Hoop House — I’ve covered one of my 4×12 beds with a low hoop house. I first used Agribon 19 to give me a 4 degree boost, and then later replaced that with shade cloth to drop the temperature some 4 degrees or so.
  3. I expanded the varieties of plants to include varieties that do better in cool temps and others that are more heat tolerant, especially with spinach and lettuce.
  4. Transplanting late — lettuce and spinach don’t like to germinate when soil temps get much over 75 degrees. Mid-June I began starting lettuce and spinach in soil blocks again, this time to get them to germinate given the warm soil temps. I’ll transplant those under shade cloth when ready. I’ll keep this up until fall when soil temps start cooling down.

3′ x 3′ bed under our Redbud tree

One experiment I’ve got going is two 4×4 beds of greens. One is under shade cloth and replaces the peas that had been growing there, while the second is a stand-alone bed where flower seeds failed to germinate earlier and which is mostly shaded by a redbud tree. Both were planted June 15 and I’ve tried to closely match watering schedules and amounts for each. Interestingly, the peas seem to have reseeded themselves under the shade cloth, but the lettuce and spinach have been struggling. The lettuce and spinach under the redbud are doing much better.

Hoop house with shade cloth over lettuce and spinach; brussel sprouts are on right under uncovered hoops.

Temps since June 15 have been in the upper 90’s and lower 100’s. I do wonder if there was air pockets within the pea plants that I pulled and then layed back down on the bed as mulch, which might have caused problems for the lettuce and spinach roots. We’ll see how the transplants work in that space when they’re ready to go out later in July.

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About mwolske

I'm a Senior Research Scientist in Community Informatics at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois.
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One Response to Season Extending Spring 2012

  1. Pingback: Some helpful tips on low tunnels | Angie and Martin's Side-yard Urban Farm

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