Protecting spring crops from the cold

Dear Farmer Tim,
Our school is planting our garden on our own this spring season, but we are nervous to plant because of the fluctuating weather – some days it’s warm, but we’ve gotten overnight lows in the 20s and are worried about planting our seeds and seedlings too early or having our newly sprouted plants die in the cold. Is there anything we can do to plan our Planting Day properly or protect already growing seedlings in this unpredictable weather?


Dear Frozen,
This spring we have been having an abundance of unpredictable, wintery weather, and it’s one of those things you just have to take as it comes! We do have some strategies to help reduce negative impacts ofthe cold on your spring plants. Of course, reach out to your local Garden Educator for specific troubleshooting help!
The first important piece of information when planning your spring garden is to know when the average last frost is in your area. You can find this through the USDA’s Plant Hardiness map.
If you are planting before the average last frost in your area, you should only plant vegetables that are cold hardy. Cold hardy means the plants will not die in freezing temperatures. If you are growing the Annual Garden Plan provided to you by your local Big Green team, we have already chosen and provided you with those plants! If you are planning your own garden, check out thecold hardy plants recommended by Johnny’s Seeds.
Once your garden is planted, there are a few different types of coverings that can protect your tender new seedlings. You could choose any thin fabric from a row cover (frequently used by farmers) the easiest being a sheet or light blanket. If your plants have already sprouted, prop the sheet up with wire hoops or stakes so it does not lay directly on your crops. If you have seeds that haven’t sprouted, just lay sheets over the beds lightly. Consider that your plants and your garden soil do need to breathe, so if your protective sheet is heavy, you can remove it during the day to give your garden more air.
It is also good practice to water in themorning. This gives the plants enough time to absorb the water during the warmer daytime temperatures, and the wet soil will actually insulate and protect the roots at night.
Hope this helps you navigate this unpredictable season!
Farmer Tim


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