Before planting the vegetable garden, it is a good idea to make a plan on paper then prepare cold frames or tunnel houses to protect the crops from unexpected frost in spring.
Planning a vegetable garden on paper is something many gardeners do, but they often forget about planning an early spring vegetable garden.
Planning the garden on paper before planting it can help gardeners envision what their garden will look like, how much they can grow and make sure the right plants are in the right spots for companion planting.
Doing this also helps with crop rotation from early spring to summer and on into fall.
Once the vegetable garden plans are down on paper and the gardener is satisfied, it is time to head outside to the garden to build the appropriate sized frost fighting structures and warm the soil.
Structures To Outsmart Frost In Spring
Frost and cold weather is a given factor of spring and fall gardening.
Since gardeners cannot control the weather, the easiest way to proceed with the vegetable garden plans is to outsmart Mother Nature by using cold frames, tunnel houses and row covers.
Cold frames are nothing more than a box that has a see through cover on top.
Not to mention they are a great way to protect plants from those unexpected spring frosts you simply cannot avoid.
Make A Cold Frame To Protect Plants From Frost In Spring
A cold frame can be made out of four bales of straw and an old window.
A more elaborate one can be made out of a wooden frame covered with 6 mil. plastic.
For those who don’t want to make a cold frame, there is even the option of buying one and simply assembling it.
Tunnel Houses And Hoop Houses Protect Plants From Frost In Spring
Tunnel houses, or hoop houses, are nothing more than large walk-in cold frames.
Their name comes from the fact that the structure itself looks like a half circle.
Tunnel houses are usually covered in cold frame.
Protect Plants From Frost In Spring With Row Covers
Gardeners use row covers also known as frost covers inside cold frames or tunnel houses to add an extra layer of frost protection.
This spun-bonded material allows light to get to the plants while increasing the temperature around the plants a few extra degrees.
Warm The Ground Inside The Structure You Use
Once the structures are in place that will protect the plants during the spring or fall, the next step is to warm the soil.
This is an important to help get the plants off to a good start especially if it is still cold outside.
Seeds and plants put into cold soil simply do not thrive.
How To Warm The Soil
Every vegetable has a preferred soil temperature.
For example, tomatoes prefer soil that is around 70 degrees F.
Use a soil thermometer to check the soil temperature.
One way to warm the soil is to use plastic.
Black plastic is the color used the most; however, there are colored plastic mulches that will do the job just as well.
Some gardeners prefer to use red plastic mulch film, under tomato plants because research shows that the red color increases the tomato production.
Gardeners looking for a more environmentally friendly way to warm the soil may choose compost.
A 3-inch layer of compost put on top of the existing soil will help insulate and warm the soil underneath.
Grow Plants Frost Don’t Damage
Of course there are a few cold weather plants that are simply not affected by a light frost and you can always plant them.
Choose plants that are at least eight weeks old and well acclimated to the outside temperatures.
Peas which can be direct planted, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard are a few examples of plants that light frosts don’t damage.
However, it is ok to plant these crops in a cold frame if you wish.
The warmer the plant is, especially the roots, the faster the foliage will grow.
Why All Of This Matters
While some gardeners are not concerned about unexpected frost in spring because they prefer to plant after all threats of frost are over, understanding this concept does matter.
The reason is because sometimes frost in spring happens days or even weeks after the last expected frost date.
By taking the time to understand what needs to be to help your garden survive late spring frosts, you won’t panic when they happen.
Simply tossing a bedsheet over your plants doesn’t guarantee they won’t be damaged, especially if the bedsheet touches the plant foliage.
It is a good idea to keep a roll of 6 mil plastic and row cover on hand as well as some tomato cages or other materials you can use to suspend the covers above the plant foliage.
However, the real advantage to outsmarting frost in spring is earlier harvests and being able to also extend the garden into the fall, or even winter months, if you choose to.