Newbie SOS: How can I get an early start on the season?

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

There are many options for season extension, but if you are just starting out in farming keep it simple. Don’t bother with it. Take, for instance,  this situation.

I have 4 – 8×4 raised (18″ high) beds here at home that I can easily cover with hoops and plastic (and will probably add more). I’m thinking I should get them covered to warm and use to start carrots for early baby carrots perhaps? Or cucumbers? Or what is best use of them?

I would not recommend covering them. It’s an unnecessary hassle. I am not a big user of season extension structures. Structures are an expense and add to your workload because you have to trouble shoot them. Your beds should warm up quicker than soil, and as soon as you can turn them over with a spade, I would put in two 18 inch wide SPIN beds, and plant onion sets and garlic. These can be planted early, and do not need to be covered.

Onions would be harvestable late May for use as scallion, and then beds can be replanted to warm weather crops, such as cucumbers, which would not need to be covered that time of the year. Garlic can be planted closely, to be used as green garlic. Once harvested, say by mid June, they can be replanted to something like tomatoes.

SPIN photo book Wally watering

 

My backyard in the city gives me the micro climate advantage so I can work beds in early springtime and get to market with crops like green onion and garlic before lots of other farmers. I use greenhouses to start transplants, but I don’t bother with season extension structures to produce my crops.  

Hoops Built with Electrical Conduit Pipes

Courtesy of Brenda S., Thompson Street Farm, Glastonbury CT

Electrical conduit pipes work great for hoops. That’s all we use on our beds, and they survived Connecticut’s “Big Snow” last year. We used metal brackets and bolted them to the outside of bed and then used zip ties to hold the cross pipes together. Worked like a charm. They can also be pushed into the ground if you don’t have boxed beds.

We found the pipes at our local Home Depot for 0.95 each for 3/4 inch pipes – which is cheaper and more flexible than PVC pipes. The electrical conduit pipes are grey in color and in the same isle as the zip ties. At least that’s where they are in our store. The other place I’ve found them is in the plumbing aisle with the rest of the PVC pipes. Just remember you want the grey pipes not white.