Early Plantings Protected By Sheets

Yes, it’s very early in Spring and it’s not officially Planting Season, but I did plant 12 alyssum next to the house this past Wednesday. The same type of plant did well there last year right up until a hard freeze. It’s a south-facing location protected on the North by the house, so captured heat from the daylight hours helps to keep the frigid cold at bay.

By the way planting season is considered to start in earnest when temperatures reach high enough that all danger of frost has past. Average last frost days can be looked up here. Take note: There is a 50% chance of a frost occurring after the spring date, so keep an eye on the weather or else!

In lieu of an actual chart for your specific area, just look around at what Mother Nature is doing. Have the grasses and trees greened up yet? Meaning, do the deciduous trees have their new leaves? Does the lawn look more green than it did in wintertime? The greening of the land is what you need to see before planting a vegetable garden or flower beds.

Cold Crops are those that can take a little cold and even grow without the heat of summer and that’s the only kind of plant that should be planted this early in the game.

Freckles Romaine and Buttercrunch Lettuce Starts
Freckles Romaine and Buttercrunch Lettuce Starts
Walla Walla Onion Starts
Walla Walla Onion Starts

Planted my favorite Romaine-type lettuce called “freckles” and a buttercrunch lettuce on 23 Mar 2016.

Walla Walla Onion starts were planted then, too.

(Photos taken 26Mar2016. Click on any small image for a larger view.)

Covering the tender young plants when the nights dip into the low 30s will have to be remembered, but I’m ok with that. I’m always watching the weather reports for what’s going on out there in nature. We just cover the plants with an old sheet or sheer curtain material to protect them from frost.

If you want your garden to look “nice” you can buy polypropylene row covers for the purpose of protecting your plants from frost and from hungry critters like birds, bunnies and caterpillars. Row covers should be available at any good garden center, but there are always a lot of options available at Amazon: row covers for plants.

Row covers and sheets work the same way to protect your crops.

They trap heat from the Earth which protects the plants from being frozen. In summertime they will work in opposite fashion to protect your plants from excessive heat. Also, they allow light, water and air to pass through which supports the growing plants.

Take note that row covers come in different widths and lengths. Different fabrics come in different “thicknesses”, for lack of a better word, to allow more or less light to pass through.

Another way that sheets or row covers protect your plants is that they block the chilling and drying effect of wind. And who doesn’t have lots of wind in Spring?

Plastic sheeting wouldn’t work as a row cover because we need to allow the passage of light, water and air. Plastic would limit the transmission of light or passage of water.

Anyway, we try to keep things simple and just use the old sheet. You can see that light gets through it, water passes through it, and it’s a woven cotton fabric so air gets through also. Good to go!

Take caution as once the old sheet gets torn from years of use it will no longer function as an insect barrier. Polypropylene covers may work better in that regard. That’s ok, we can re-use the material as tie-downs for one last season or put it to the compost heap.

Mixed lettuce seeds that were broadcast a couple of weeks ago — or those having fallen from last year’s flowers that were left standing — have germinated. You can see their two first leaves in flat out opposition to each other. The small amount of greenery is stretched out flat to receive the most sunlight it can get. More leaves to follow!

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