gardening tips for the impatient gardener. Do you
rush out and plant seeds when you really should not because the
temperature of the soil has not warmed up enough and frosts are still
possible? Late winter and early spring are hard times for the impatient
spring gardener. However, there are ways in which you can start your
early with a little bit of planning and forethought.
Spring Gardening Tips
for Solar Gardening
One of the ways of doing this, even with cold-sensitive melons and
cucumber is through effective solar gardening. Now, there is not much
new about using the sun.
Gardeners have known for centuries that the
greenhouse effect, the trapping of solar heat, can be used to extend
the growing season – starting earlier in the spring and gardening
longer into the fall.
But some solar garden applications don’t have to involve an expensive
greenhouse that not many people have. One could just use simple plastic
sheeting however it is messy and not nearly as versatile as other solar
Spring Gardening Tips
using a Cloche
Cloches are an excellent alternative. They are portable,
mini-greenhouses where you can use jars, jugs, cones or transparent
boxes over seeds or seedling and removed or ventilated when their
interior becomes too intense. Even a simple cloche can help you plant
3-4 weeks earlier than usual or help protect the cold-sensitive
seedlings of tomatoes and peppers.
You can make your own cloches by cutting out the bottoms of plastic
milk jugs or by using inverted gallon-sized glass or plastic jars.
Delicatessens often sell or discard their used gallon pickle jars. So
if you have a delicatessen in your area, and you are looking for
cloches for your spring planting, now is the time to ask, before
someone beats you to it!
Spring Gardening Tips using Tent Cloches
Large cloches shaped like a tent or barn may also be homemade. The
advantages of having this type of cloche is that it can be extended to
cover an entire area, rather than fiddling around with individual
plants. This is when your sheet of plastic can come in handy. Drape it
over wire hoops, or stakes, and weight it down in position with a few
strategically placed stones or bricks.
None of these solutions will make your vegetable garden aesthetically
pleasing, but it will be temporary, and the rewards will be well worth
it when you will be harvesting weeks before your neighbors. And let me
say, that yes, plastic is non-biodegradable, and a curse to the
I am well aware of that, before someone writes in to
remind me of that fact. I had one such letter this week from a reader
asking me why I had advocated the use of polystyrene in the soil for
aerating pot plants, and did I not know what a curse it was to the
environment too. Yes, it is, but like plastic, it has its uses and by
using plastic in this way we are recycling its original use.
Spring Gardening Tips
When you drape your plastic over hoops, effectively you are building a
polytunnel. These are much cheaper than a full-scale greenhouse, and
easy to put together for your solar gardening.
So how do you build a polytunnel?
Insert 10 gage steel rods, about as thick as a drinking straw along
the edge of where you want to protect. The rods are then bent over the
bed and forced into the ground. This forms a series of hoops about 14
inches high at their centers.
Cover the hoops with clear polyethylene sheeting, thinner than the
standard 4 mil sheeting as it is too heavy and will sag between the
hoops. You now have an oversized plastic caterpillar structure in your
vegetable patch. However, you really have to be vigilant with
polytunnels once the sun hits the tunnel.
Make sure that you have cut
vent holes in your plastic sheeting to ensure that you don’t cook your
crops. Or, if you buy the 1.5 mil slit polytunnel plastic
specifically sold for tunnels, then you won’t have to bother. You can
also get complete kits now that come with plastic, wire rods, black
plastic weed mulch and instructions on how to put it all together.
Spring Gardening Tips
using Cold and Hot Frames
you could also
seedlings in cold frames. These are
just large boxes with a hinged glass lid. They work well during the
day, and can also be propped open to allow the heat to escape during
the day. However, the downside to cold frames is that they lose their
Hot frames can solve this problem by including a heat source. Manure is
usually used for this purpose. It is dug in several feet below the
As the manure ferments it produces a gentle bottom heat that is ideal
for early spring seed germination and developing seedlings. However, if
you live in urban areas you may not be able to do this due to zoning
laws or problems with neighbors who may object to having a load of the
smelly stuff delivered next door.
If you are going to build a hot or cold frame make sure that they have
a southern exposure if you live in the northern hemisphere, and
preferably should be located in a sheltered area where drainage is
Whatever method you use, you will be sure that your plants will benefit
from the protection and as long as you make sure that they don’t cook
and overheat in their protective surroundings.
The 5 Worst Things
about Spring Gardening
1) Slug invasions
2) Packed Garden Centers
3) Late Frosts
4) Back-Breaking Work for a few Months
5) Realizing in the early summer that you have forgotten to sow or set
particular plants and now it's too late!
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