The standard planting advice that I give to my gardening clients is to wait until all danger of frost has passed before doing any spring planting. My clients find this advice hard to follow and so do I after the spring seed catalogs arrive and our green thumbs begin itching to dig in the dirt and grow something. The good news is there are a few ways to trick mother nature and plant our gardens earlier than the last predicted frost date so by the time spring arrives, we’ll have a good 4-6 weeks of growing time already under our green thumbnail. Use these 4 ideas and plant your garden earlier.
Cloches cover individual plants that are set out in the garden, raising the air temperature around the plant and protecting it from frost. Clear plastic gallon milk jugs make great recycled garden cloches; cut the bottom off the jugs and set them over plants. Mound a little soil around the bottoms to keep the jugs in place. On days with bright sun and temperatures above 50 degrees, remove the milk jug lid to ventilate the DIY cloche and prevent the garden plants from cooking. Cloches can also be purchased at most garden supply centers.
Plant seeds in containers, either temporarily or permanently, so you can harvest fresh garden vegetables early. Use containers than are easy to move so they can moved as needed for optimum sun exposure or when a late cold snap threatens their tender, green lives. Containers can be placed outside or indoors, depending on climate and how early you want to plant your garden. In some growing zones (like my southern 7b) it’s possible to plant as early as January and begin harvesting fresh produce in late February.
Use a DIY or store bought row cover to get your garden off to an early start. Plant cool season vegetable seeds in garden soil and cover with row cover fabric that lays directly on the soil and warms it so seeds germinate quicker or create a row ‘tent’ with semi-circular pieces of wire and stretch the row cover fabric over the wire.
Build or buy a cold frame and use it to house containers of seeds for quick germination and growth. A cold frame raises the soil and air temperature by several degrees and will get your garden growing early. A small, bottomless cold frame is portable and can be used on the back porch, garden or other sunny location.
Cool Season Vegetables
Grow a fresh salad by planting cool season vegetables like loose-leaf lettuce, spinach, chard, carrots, radishes, onions and garlic. Get a jump start on other cool season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peas and cabbage by planting them even earlier than usual.