Friday, March 20, 2009

Start Gardening Earlier

Start Gardening Earlier,7759,s1-2-10-1763,00.html,7518,s1-2-10-1763,00.html?cm_mmc=OGNews-_-2009_03_18-_-ogsolutions-_-heat_soil

Q: I have to wait to start gardening in spring because the soil in my vegetable garden takes forever to warm up. How can I speed up the process?

1. One word: plastic. Two weeks before your planned planting date, weed your garden bed thoroughly. Remove any clods of soil, rocks, or crop debris and then rake the soil until it is smooth. If the soil is not moist, soak the top 6 to 8 inches. Next, dig a trench that is 6 inches deep and wide around the perimeter of the entire bed, setting aside the soil that you remove to use in Step 3.

2. Cut a sheet of black or clear plastic 12 to 18 inches longer and wider than the bed. Black plastic heats the soil 3° to 5°F more than adjacent bare soil by absorbing light; clear plastic warms the soil 8° to 14°F by acting like a greenhouse.

3. Lay the plastic over the bed and stretch it tightly across the soil, securing the edges by burying them in the trench. Your bed should look plastic-wrapped.

4. After two weeks, either cut holes in the plastic and plant directly into the bed, or remove the plastic, plant, and mulch with straw or grass clippings to hold in the soil's heat. This technique makes it possible for gardeners in the far north to grow warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes and melons, and allows gardeners in other regions to get a jumpstart on spring.

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