Grow Your Earliest Garden Ever!
One spring like day in Kansas and we are all ready to get out in the garden. The only problem is that it is February. With a simple and inexpensive low tunnel, you could be planting weeks earlier than you normally do without worrying about what the weather is going to do. All you need is a roll of plastic sheeting (I got a roll of 4 ml thick plastic sheeting for about $9 at Walmart) and several lengths of pvc pipe (around 1/2 inch is good and easy to bend but it could be slightly larger). The amount of pvc you need depends on how large a bed you plan to cover. Just cut the pvc into a length that will give you an arch over your garden bed. I have a raised bed but this can be used on an in ground bed as well.
Last year the ground was still frozen in early March so I just spread out the plastic sheeting over the bed and anchored it with rocks. This will speed up the thawing of that particular piece of ground. Then you can press the ends of the pvc pipe right into the ground and spread the plastic sheeting over the arches. I usually use large binder clips to clip the plastic onto the arches and also anchor it with what ever wood and rocks I have available. We have a lot of wind in Kansas.
The plastic helps warm up the air and the soil, keeps soil from getting soggy with too much rain or snow and protects any plants inside from wind (and squirrels digging). Transplants can go out earlier and with less hardening.
Much to my surprise, the soil was not only not frozen in this third week of February but was already 50 degrees. Last year around this time, we had lows in the single digits! There are a lot of plants that will germinate in 50 degree soil, some varieties of peas will germinate in 40 degree soils. So I set up my low tunnel and proceeded to plant radishes and green onions.
As the weather warms and the sun’s rays become stronger you will need to keep an eye on your low tunnel so that it doesn’t overheat. It’s easy to vent the sides by just lifting the plastic or remove it all together during a warm stretch. You will need to water since the plastic keeps out rain and snow. You could also replace the plastic sheeting with a row cover fabric that is more breathable, is permeable to rain but still provides frost protection.
I think it might be an early spring or we might have spring, Indian winter (you know, like Indian summer only cold) and then spring again. So, I’m starting now, knowing that the low tunnel will bring spring to that particular piece of ground several weeks earlier.