We are still a way out from our last frost date (April 15th where I am) but if you watch the weather and plan accordingly you can get many plants started and growing a long time before traditional wisdom says to do it and really maximize your harvest.
This is the time of year where I am traditionally starting tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, etc. inside so they will be ready to transplant into the garden around the end of April. I am still doing that but in addition to that I have been watching the weather pretty close and realized that we have had several days (closer to a week and a half) with above average temperatures in the mid to upper 60s. Whats better is that the next week and a half forecast is showing that we should have the daytime highs from the low 60s to the upper 70s and nighttime lows all above 50 degrees and lots of rain on top of that. Seems like a great time to get some cool season crops going. There are lots of things that will germinate in this type of weather but we are still early enough in the year that it is reasonable to expect cooler weather and even some possible snow or freezes so focusing on cool season crops is the thing to do. I am focusing primarily on salad greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach, radishes, and also some cauliflower. All of these crops can tolerate cooler temperatures as long as they are protected if a hard freeze or frost comes by. The trick really is to get them to germinate and to get established before the freeze comes.
So, in order to accomplish this it is important to take the appropriate steps. Aside from the fact that the weather is perfect, make sure to get all of your cold weather protection in place so you can put it up quickly if the weather changes. Most of these seeds will take anywhere from 7 to 10 days to germinate and another few days to get established well (cauliflower was planted from starts so it only needs a few days to get established). That gives me a window of about 10 to 15 days to hope that the weather doesn’t turn too cold.
I have low tunnels set up so that all I have to do is drape some plastic over them when the next cold spell comes through so that is easy enough. To aid in the germination make sure that the seeds get watered every day. I am lucky that the forecast is calling for rain every day, that saves me a lot of work but I still have a hose and sprinkler set up and make sure to water every day that it doesn’t rain.
The benefit for me is that all of these things should be up and ready to harvest about the time I start putting other things in the ground so I will be able to reuse these beds and get an extra harvest out of them.
Stay tuned and I will provide additional updates on how this plan is working out. 🙂