Have a hankering for homegrown tomatoes? Even though it’s early spring, you can extend the growing season and hurry up your harvest by trying some of these tips and products:
- Gain 3 weeks on the growing season by pre-warming the soil with black, porous plastic landscape fabric. This product can be laid over your prepared garden soil and secured with landscape pins. Allow at least 5 days of sunny weather to warm the soil. When ready, cut x’s in the plastic and plant through them. As the season progresses and the air and the soil temperatures increase, you may mulch directly on top of the this porous material with salt hay to keep the soil moist and cool.
- Warm the soil around your plants with a floating row covers or garden cloche (mini greenhouse). Lay row cover fabric over your newly planted seedlings to hold in the warmth and protect them from frost. Anchor loosely with landscape pins so the plants have room to grow – or, even better, attach it to wire hoops. Place cloches directly over individual plants for frost protection. Remember to remove them on warm or sunny day to prevent overheating your seedlings.
- Another way to extend the growing season is by using a cold frame. Place it in the garden at least 10 days before you wish to plant. Orient the frame so it runs east to west. This allows for a Southern exposure and more sun to reach the plants. If the soil has been prepared, you may plant directly into the frame. Remove the cold frame when temperatures are no longer a threat to young plants. Venting is important to keep seedlings from getting too hot.