Ideas for garden season extenders
|Caitlin Patterson is surveying her high-tunnel garden in mid-July.|
Perhaps spring has finally arrived in the Castle Country. With the arrival of spring, area gardeners are excited to get their gardens into the ground.
We tend to plant early hoping that we won't get a late frost, or that the harsh spring winds won't wipe us out. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to help lessen the stress of spring weather on newly planted garden plants.
Part of the problem is that we don't really know when the last frost date will be this year. One strategy is to do succession planting.
This works well with the corn patch. Plant 25 percent of the corn patch early (i.e. April 15). Plant the next 25 percent one week later. The third planting can be done a week later and the final planting can be done by mid-May. If the earlier plantings get hit by a frost it is no big loss. If the last frost was early then your corn will be on early and you will have an extended season to enjoy fresh corn-on-the-cob.
One of the first keys to starting the garden early is to germinate them indoors, in a sunny window. Most garden plants should be started indoors six to eight weeks before you expect to plant them outside. A good article about starting plants indoors can be found at this website http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/hort/g06570.htm.
Frost and wind protection in our area is a must for gardeners who want to set their plants out early. Frost protection products that combine a plastic shield and water can be expensive for a large garden. The small, backyard garden is a nice place to use them.
|Caitlin Patterson is standing by her succession-planted corn. The corn was actually started in a high tunnel that was later removed and was ready to harvest in early July. Fresh corn was enjoyed through September.|
I have had squash plants in my garden since early April. The temperature dropped to 15.7 degrees Fahrenheit at my house on April 25 and those tender plants survived in good shape. Just as important as the temperature protection, the severe winds we have experienced this year have also been kept at bay by the frost protection products.
The biggest trick is to have the plants properly hardened off before planting them outside. This is made especially difficult since the winds seem to not want to stop. To harden off the seedlings place them outside where they will be protected from direct sun and wind. Over about a week gradually expose them to more of the elements until they are ready to take their rightful place in the garden. Keep in mind that they may need to be brought indoors on frosty nights. They will dry out a lot faster so keep a close eye on them.
Another possible way to extend the season at the beginning and end of the season is to build a high tunnel. A high tunnel is basically an unheated greenhouse. A properly constructed high tunnel may protect properly hardened plants as much as six degrees below freezing, depending on other climatic factors. When a high tunnel is combined with earlier-mentioned frost protection products a lot of surprises in our weather can be dealt with in fine fashion and your garden will have a great jump on the season. It will even be protected from early frosts in the fall. For free information on constructing high tunnels visit http://extension.usu.edu/htm/publications/publication=8481.
While it is getting late to worry about getting an early jump on the growing season, I have had frost at my place on Memorial Day weekend for the past two years. In addition, I harvested fresh radishes, onion, lettuce and chard from my high tunnel on Thanksgiving Day last year. For more information on gardening and season extenders call your local county extension office.
(Ron Patterson is the Utah State University Extension Agriculture Agent for Carbon County. He can be reached at 435-636-3233.)