Season-Extention Techniques for Heat-Loving Plants


It is spring, but you are dreaming of summer veggies.  What to do? Try these season stretchers! There are several tricks to getting a jump on the summer garden.

The first thing you can do to extend the season is to start your seeds indoors or purchase plants from your neighborhood nursery, hardware or big box store. Plants give you a good 2- to 3-week head start from sowing seeds in the garden. Basil, tomatoes, peppers and rosemary are already at my neighborhood stores.

Cloches and fabric. To get your plants a safe and fast start in the garden, you can buy cloches, Wall of Water, a greenhouse, or use a fabric covering to put your plants in or under. If you are using a cloche or green house, be careful to vent anytime the sun is shining or you will fry your plants.  When the sun is out, it gets hot inside the plastic fast!  Temperatures inside greenhouses can climb to over 100 degrees F on a sunny day. Be sure to open the greenhouse or cloche so you don't roast your plant.

Clear plastic. Another trick is to lay clear plastic over your garden bed two weeks before you are planning on planting. Make sure the soil is watered well first. Clear plastic will raise the soil temperature by 8 to 14 degrees F. This gives your plants a head start when they are placed in the pre-warmed soil. Summer lovers like tomatoes hate cold feet and will just sit in the hole, shivering until the ground temperatures rise. 

Black plastic. Some would think that black plastic would give an even bigger temp boost, but it does not. Temps will raise only by 3 to 5 degrees F. You can either remove the plastic, plant, and then cover with mulch or leave the plastic in place and cut slits into the plastic and plant through the slits. I personally don’t like to leave the plastic in place and use mulch. Wait until the temperatures are on the rise before mulching as mulch can keep the soil from warming if applied too early. This time of year is great in the Midwest to mulch.

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