Garden update March 9, 2016

Last week I did some research that led me to realize I’ve been taking the wrong approach to early seed planting outdoors in two ways.

  1. I left mulch on the raised beds. While this acts as a blanket to keep the soil a little warmer over winter, it slows the soil from further warming as quickly in the spring. Last weekend I pulled the mulch off several beds and will leave it off until the heat and dry of summer.
  2. Using low hoop tunnels warms the air above the soil, important for transplants. But it doesn’t do as much to warm the soil. Putting the clear plastic directly on the soil is better at warming the soil, important for seed germination.

After just two days, one with some sun and 72 degrees, one cloudy and 64 degrees, the soil under the plastic is 60, 8 degrees warmer than the untouched raised bed immediately adjacent. This evening I planted snow and snap peas, watered lightly, and put the plastic back over the soil. With luck, 60 days from now we’ll be enjoying glorious peas!

20160309_185922_25631375796_oIn other news, Monday I started hardening off plants started indoors a couple weeks back, including: spinach, lettuce, leeks, chard, kale, parsley, thyme, beets, and turnips. These will go under a low hoop tunnel this weekend. We’re having an unusual warm spell that’s letting me get a jump start on these plants, and with luck we’ll have fresh salad for April Fools Day!

20160309_185806_25564845901_oI’m trying a new approach to hardening off the plants. We have a few extra bails of straw awaiting use with the chickens and rabbits, and so I’ve fashioned them and a little clear plastic into a temporary cold frame under our backyard patio roof. I move the plastic off in the morning and put it back over in the evening. The plants get a bit of sun early in the day which is the best early in the hardening off process, and are better protected from the wind, which has gusted over 35 miles per hour, during the day. Best of all, I don’t have to move them in each evening and out each morning, which is wonderful!

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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.
This entry was posted in Growing, Season extension, Seed starting, This Week in Gardening. Bookmark the permalink.

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