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Season extending in Zone 3b/4

 
pioneer
Posts: 84
Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Last year Spring freeze was June 13, and Fall was Sept 9! Supposedly, those are actually within the normal range of 10% occurrence. Hard to figure on our place because no weather station nearby has the same elevation, and I believe we have a micro-climate. Garden is South-facing, full-sun, no trees for windbreak.
Anyway, I'd appreciate input on my plan to fool Mother Nature! I've got an unconscionable wealth of ice-tea jugs because my cancer patient won't drink my homemade tea ... trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

Plan to use tea jugs for cloches to plant SOME nightshades early with black-painted, water-filled 2-liters and 1/2gal milk jugs around each cloche.
I've got staples to secure them and could also tie cloche to milk jug to be safe against our crazy winds. Wind is why I can't use row-covers, and no money yet for hoop house.
I'd also like to use this idea for some really early greens, etc, AND, hopefully for a few cucurbits to get a head start, though slightly later than the nightshades.

What does the "hive-mind" think? I'm wondering how early I could try ... 2 weeks, 3, more? I'm not going to risk everything, but I want to have a little farm-stand this year and get growing early.

Thanks, everyone - be well and have a GREAT season!


 
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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That's the climate/growing season I grew up in. June 10 was our average last frost date. Now I am about 2 weeks earlier/later but still use some of the same techniques.

Everything I grow I pick out for 'short growing season'. If I am in the store or in a catalogue, looking at varieties, the first thing I do  is see which have the shortest days to maturity.

I plant out about 1/3 of my cold sensitive plants about 2 weeks before official average last frost date (if forecast is clear), then, on last frost day, I check the forecast again. I either plant all my remaining tomato/pepper starts then, or another 1/3, and another 1/3 in a week or two if the weather seems questionable. I start some squash/melons in large pots on the porch about a week or two before official last frost. They can easily be brought inside if necessary and it gives me a tiny headstart. The rest I start from seed a week or so after official last frost, I find them more sensitive than tomato's.

I start enough starts that even losing half isn't a big deal, and I can find homes for any extras easily.

We keep sheets and blankets and table clothes and plastic totes around to cover large swaths of plants to keep them warm, checking the forecast each night before bed.  Cloches are too finicky for my taste - I forget to take them off and tend to fry plants.

Some plants can handle frost - onions, brassicas, carrots, potatoes (somewhat) and don't need cover. I tend to group frost sensitive plants together so it is fast to cover them.

Last year and this year I have been experimenting with what things can be planted early. Our last frost here isn't until May 24th or 30th... I planted onions yesterday and carrot seeds and peas. I  will plant more in 3-4 weeks, and will probably plant lettuce soon. Seeds are cheap. I also planted daikon radishes in the fall last year and they did wonderfully even long after frost. Cabbages stayed good for weeks after fall frost. My garlic is up already. Last year I learned to presoak corn seed and bean seed to make it germinate faster, even in soil that is not warm enough.
 
pollinator
Posts: 281
Location: WV
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I garden in zone 6a so our season is a bit longer but I'm all for getting stuff out early.  According to the nearest weather station, our last frost is supposedly May 3, but we had a late snow around that time too.  I do understand the wind situation as I'm on top of a hill and the garden gets the brunt of it, but I was able to fasten Plastic sheeting to PVC hoops with spring clamps and had good luck with that.  I also would fill gallon jugs full of hot water about an hour before sunset and tucked them under the plastic for some extra insurance.  Can't say for sure it helped but the potatoes were a foot taller in that bed vs. the next bed where they were nipped by frost.  I also grab old sheets and electric blankets (without cords) from thrift stores to use as frost and freeze protection too.  Milk jugs, flower pots and totes serve as temporary cloches too.  I'm in the process of rebuilding an old cold frame and hope to plant directly in it this fall.
 
master gardener
Posts: 3456
Location: southern Illinois.
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I used to live due West of Duluth in central MN. The one serious regret I have is that I did not have a high tunnel.
 
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