You might think it counterintuitive that soil temperatures are lower in the spring than at any other time of the year, but there’s no question about it, and cold spring rains don’t help.
The soil is heated by infrared rays of the sun, and residual soil temperatures create a lag of approximately 3 months. This also causes soil temperatures to be highest in the fall months before tapering off in the winter.
Plant root systems develop best in soils that are 70 degrees, plus or minus 5 degrees, and this is why you’ll get your best results in starting seedlings, and growing them out if you use bottom heat.
Garden supply stores sell two types of appliances for achieving this goal. There are mats that you simply plug in, and heating cables that are generally buried in sand filled benches. Both of these solutions are expensive so you might want to improvise. Continue reading
Cold frames are something of an afterthought for most gardeners, and their various designs are indicative of what some would call Yankee Ingenuity. The simplest might be a hole in the ground with a glass cover – usually an old window frame – though it might have sides raised by hay bales destined to provide mulch after the plants are in the ground. The general idea is to be resourceful, and provide a place to harden off your seedlings while protecting them from a late frost.
Early Spring and late Fall Father Frost often pays us a visit and freezes the water within the leaves of our plants. One of ways you can defeat Frost and extend your growing season is to cover your plants with a blanket.
Frost blankets varies in width and length as well as the thickness or weight of the material. The blankets I use are 6′ x 50′ and provide 4 degrees of protection per layer. In practice I find this to be a conservative estimate. Last fall I planted spinach and not only did the crop flourish but it also survived frosts down to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to frost protection there are other advantages to covering your crops with a blanket.
The recommended practice is to fit the blanket loosely so the plants have room to grow. The porosity of the blanket allows water to penetrate the fiber so once it’s in place there’s no need to remove it for watering. Finally the blanket provides protection from the wind and reduces drying and therefore the need to water frequently.