Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Week to cover-up

Mesclun growing under row cover fabric
A week of 30 mph winds on Colorado's Front Range with both daytime and nighttime temperatures below seasonal averages presents a great opportunity to talk about plant protection and season extension "cover-ups".

Using floating row cover fabric to grow early spring crops made even more sense this week. With soil covering the edges, this lightweight, spunbonded polyester or polypropylene fabric stays in place even though it flaps in the wind. Indeed it should be loose for plants to grow. The fabric provides just enough tempering to moderate wind and cold temperatures while water and light penetrate for plant growth.

If you haven't tried growing under row covers, do so to realize the benefits including wind protection; earlier and increased harvest; pest protection from insects, rabbits and squirrels; frost protection; water conservation and more (see here). Many local market growers are making extensive use of fabric covers for field production. They work equally well in home gardens. Just be sure to peek under the cover once in a while. Weeds find the tempered environment equally conducive for growth and you don't want to miss peak harvest quality because crops are "out of sight, out of mind".

Wall O' Waters set up to warm soil
Another forward looking cover-up this week is preparation for early planting of warm season vegetables. Use of Wall O' Waters to warm soil for future planting of tomatoes and other warm season crops made sense after last weeks warm weather and before this weeks cool-down. Made in Dillon, Montana, this product has a proven record of enabling home gardeners to plant earlier and protect tomatoes from winds and frost. The water-filled channels in the sides are heated by the sun to warm the soil and then protect the plant inside. The manufacturer recommends setting them up at least a week prior to planting to allow for warming the soil for roots.

Wall O' Waters used with black plastic mulch
Wall O' Waters can be used either alone or in combination with another cover-up, black plastic mulch. Even though clear plastic works better for warming soil, black plastic does a fair job and can be used around water walls to prep a garden soil even more for an early May planting of warm season crops. Yes, our average last frost in Denver is May 5 but cold weather often extends later in the month. Plant protection and season extension make sense in our climate.

Photo credit: Mesclun growing under fabric row cover, Wall O' Waters set up to warm soil, Wall O' Waters used in combination with black plastic mulch - All credit Carl Wilson.

1 comment:

  1. Started using covers in central TX , germination of small seed without them is near impossible with the warm /hot drying winds and late frosts ( April 29 this year ) we get here in spring , there are a real boon in getting carrots / leuttice started before it gets to hot for them to germinate .