Prepare Mag: August 2018 - page 22

Gardening Under Cover Outdoors
One of the main reasons for growing plants under cover in
your garden is because it allows you to extend the season.
You can get a head start on spring or garden longer into fall,
maybe even into winter if you desire to do so. Gardening
under cover outdoors has many advantages, so get ready to
venture into soil warming covers, cloches and cooling covers
for summer!
Warming Garden Covers
Many gardeners use soil covers such as plastic, whether
black or colored, in early spring to increase the soil
temperature and kill weeds. When plastic is laid on the soil,
the sun hits it, and the temperature underneath the plastic
naturally increases. The soil cover helps hold that heat in
during the night even though outside temperatures fall.
Over time this helps the soil heat up and retain that heat
making this area warmer than the surrounding soil that is
not covered.
Black plastic has been a very popular product for warming
the soil for years. In recent years however, colored plastic
has been introduced. The colored plastic is said to increase
the yield and help the fruit or vegetables it is used around to
produce faster. For example, red plastic is often used
around tomato plants and eggplants. The red color is said to
reflect the right color spectrum of light back on the plant.
This is said to help the tomatoes turn red sooner.
Crops such as cucumbers have shown a 30% increase in
yield when mulched with dark blue plastic. Muskmelon has
shown a 35% increase when mulched with either dark blue
plastic or green plastic. Peppers prefer silver colored plastic
and you can increase your yield by as much as 20% by using
it. Summer squash seems to prefer dark blue plastic mulch
and studies show that there is a 20% increase in produce
when using it.
One advantage of these colored plastics is they seem to
allow the soil to breath, unlike black plastic which is known
to smother the soil underneath. The reason is the colored
plastic is lighter in weight and has tiny factory made air
holes. Due to the nature of the holes in the colored plastic
that is made to be used as mulch weeds penetrating
through the plastic from the ground below it is not a
problem.
When using plastic in the garden, it will need to be held
down or secured in some way. Landscape pegs or rocks
work well. Landscape pegs are meant to be pushed into the
edges of the plastic or weed cloth to hold the edges down
secure to the ground so it cannot be easily pulled up or
moved by wind, people, or critters such as rabbit. If you
prefer not to push metal or plastic pegs into the ground, you
can simply lay bricks, rocks or any other heavy material on
top of the plastic or weed cloth right at the edges to secure
it. You will want to place your landscape pegs, rocks,or
bricks no further than a foot apart.
Gardening Under Cover:
Spring to Fall
22
By Sheri Ann Richerson/
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