Early Spring Vegetable Planting – How to Get in the Garden Sooner


Vegetable are always anxious to get out in their gardens as early as possible in the spring. The sooner the temperatures warm up, the sooner you can plant your seeds and seedlings, and thus the earlier and longer harvest you’ll have later in the year. In this article, we’ll discuss a few methods for early spring planting so you can get your vegetable plants in the ground sooner this year.

Early in the spring, the primary threat to plants is the volatility of temperatures. Spring temps tend to be warm during the day and cool at night, and late spring frosts can occur in various parts of the country well into May. Young vegetable plants are very fragile and will easily be killed if temperatures drop too low. Thus, the key to early spring planting is keeping your plants warm. There are a variety of different ways to do this. The three methods we will discuss are row , cloches, and cold frames.

Row covers are one of the most basic methods of spring crop protection. For a simple and inexpensive row cover, you can use old bed sheets, cut and sewn to the right width and lengths. A better option, though, would be to purchase row cover material from a nursery or mail order catalog. Row cover cloth is specially designed to allow water and some sunlight to penetrate through to the plants. When used effectively, row covers keep the air temperature around your plants at least 2 or 3 degrees warmer than the surrounding air, which can be enough to save plants from a late spring frost.

The next best type of crop protection is a cloche. Cloches are a type of small container that fits around individual plants, using the principle of the greenhouse effect to warm and protect plants from cool spring temperatures. While you can buy commercially available cloches, it’s also very easy and inexpensive to make your own using gallon size milk or juice containers made of translucent plastic. Simply cut out the bottom of the jug, washing and drying the inside thoroughly. Cut a small v-shaped slit at the top of the jug’s handle; this will allow you to insert a small stake down through the slit and into the soil, securing the cloche in place over your plant. Be sure to save the container caps, as you’ll want to put them on if a spring frost is forecasted. Otherwise, leave the caps off the containers so the plants don’t overheat. Cloches should be removed when temperatures are above 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

The last, and by far the most effective, form of crop protection that we’ll discuss are coldframes. Coldframes are essentially a miniature greenhouse that sits directly over the top of small plants in the garden, warming and protecting them. The biggest benefit of coldrames is that they warm the soil in addition to the plants, which is very when it comes to early spring planting. In fact, it’s a good idea to set your coldframes over the empty garden soil one to two weeks before you intend to plant, so they can warm the soil up in advance. The pre-warmed soil may allow you to start planting up to a month sooner than would be possible with only cloches or row covers for protection.

While it is possible to build coldframes yourself, it’s just as easy and cost effective to buy them through a nursery or mail order supply store. Commercially available coldframes are usually very well built and will last you many years. Be sure to only purchase coldframes that have UV-treated plastic, as this will prolong their useful life significantly.

So remember, when it comes to early spring planting, the most important thing is to keep your plants warm! Regardless of whether you use row covers, cloches, or coldframes, you’ll still get the added benefit of being able to plant your plants a bit sooner, and thus prolong your vegetable harvest later in the year.

Home Products ‘N’ More offers free shipping on coldframe greenhouse kits for your garden. For more information on how to use mini cold frame greenhouses, visit us at http://www.homeproductsnmore.com/Coldframes_s/1521.htm

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