Starting Early in the Garden

March 25th, 2009 by david laferney Leave a reply »
A simple cloche made by cutting the bottom out of a milk jug my be all that is required to protect early garden plants from cold weather.

A simple cloche made by cutting the bottom out of a milk jug may be all that's required to protect early garden plants from cold weather.

By April in zone 6 we’re experiencing some really nice Spring weather.  A few people (me) are already setting out tomatoes early in the month and covering them with milk jugs until they get going.  Some even started planting in March – potatoes, brassicas, and garden peas especially.

I’ve often heard the opinion that starting your garden “too” early is a waste – plants which are set out later will quickly catch up to those which have had to suffer through erratic spring weather.  I accept that this might be true, however I like to get an early start anyway for these reasons:

  1. I just LIKE to get an early start.
  2. The weather is fine and makes the work much more enjoyable.
  3. It’s easier to harden off the plants during cool moist weather than it is once it starts to get hot.
  4. You don’t have to be as vigilant about watering as you would later.
  5. If you wait until later to plant everything all at once the job can be over whelming – so an early start allows you to spread out the work load.
  6. If you get the opportunity to plant early in the season you might want to take it because wet weather (or life)  might prevent you from working in the garden when you need to later.
  7. In my completely anecdotal and unscientific experience – Gardeners who start early have more overall success.

Starting early is a gamble, and you must remain vigilant and prepared in case of cold weather – frosts and overnight temps below freezing are a distinct possibility in April.  As a general rule your plants will survive those late frosts without a hitch if you cover them with anything – sheets, buckets, plastic, mulch, anything – so be prepared with sufficient materials to do so and watch the weather reports.

Even so, every once in a while a really freakish late cold front will blow through and kill a few things – but not very often.

A few things really should not be planted until the soil warms up – notably corn and beans* – these seeds are likely to rot in cool wet soil before they germinate.  However, you can get an early start even with those by planting them under a simple plastic tunnel to warm the soil and protect them from cold and too much rain.

So maybe my tomatoes won’t ripen any earlier, but I’ve never regretted getting an early start in my garden, and I have regretted a late one.

Happy Gardening!

* Fava Beans are different and can be planted much earlier – you should give them a try!


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