Prepare Mag: August 2018 - page 23

Mulching your garden with compost is another way to help
the soil heat up. Simply add a three inch layer of compost to
the top of the soil. The compost acts like a soil insulator,
helping to keep the heat the soil already has retained. The
way this works is by slowing the natural release of heat
from the soil. As with anything, soil heats up when the sun’s
rays hit it, but at night when the outside temperatures cool
down some of that heat is lost. The compost acts like an
insulator because it holds the heat into the soil. The
compost will cool down before the layer of soil underneath
of it begins to release heat.
Not only will you be improving your soil, but you will be
accomplishing your goal of helping your soil to heat up
faster so you can plant sooner. As a gardener, you simply
cannot go wrong with compost.
Soil-heating Techniques
Heating soil under cover is really easier than heating soil
that is exposed to the elements. The cover over the area,
such as a tunnel house, will help hold heat in. Add to that a
layer of frost cover, a cloche or plastic on the ground and
you have a way to hold the heat close to the ground making
it the perfect place for growing heat loving plants or over-
wintering tender plants.
Heating soil also sterilizes it and kills weed seeds. Pests and
diseases, just like plants, thrive at certain temperatures.
Before planting you may want to consider laying black
plastic over the entire area and letting the sun heat it up.
This can help eliminate any problems by escalating the
temperature of your soil to a temperature that is high
enough that it will kill pests, weed seeds and disease
organisms that may be hiding in your soil. The easiest way
to figure out the temperature of your soil is to use a soil
thermometer. Be sure to insert it into the ground so it
penetrates the soil underneath the cover or the three
inches of compost.
Frost Cover
Frost cover is a great way to protect your plants year-round.
Frost cover is a lightweight, permeable fabric that offers
protection from both frost and insects when draped over
plants. It’s usually suspended on wire hoops so it does not
come into direct contact with the plant foliage. The main
use is to protect plants from frost, but it can help achieve
blemish free produce by keeping insects away from your
crops. If insects and critters cannot get to your produce or
flowers, they cannot damage them. The downside is you
need pollination to occur inside the covers, so at some
point, you will need to allow pollinators such as bees in
unless you intend to pollinate by hand.
Studies have show that frost covers alone can protect plants
when temperatures dip down to 20 degrees F. Of course,
this will depend on the plant and what the normal lowest
temperature it can withstand.
Frost covers are often made from woven polypropylene.
Frost covers and row covers are very similar. The difference
being frost covers are made to protect plants from frost
while row covers may not do that.
Row Covers
Soil temperatures are affected by the air temperature
around them, so raised beds and soil under cover will heat
up and retain that heat faster than soil on the ground. Row
covers will help hold the heat close to your plants and can
be supported by hoops or allowed to float freely on top of
plants. By suspending the row cover, an air layer is created
between the plants and the ground. This area heats up
helping to keep the area the plants are growing in warmer.
It is also a good idea to suspend row covers so if frost hits
them, it does seep through and damage the plants
underneath. Row covers that are supported by hoops vary
in height from twelve inches tall to thirty-six inches tall and
are known as low tunnels.
Most row covers are made out of either polyethylene plastic
or spun-bonded fabrics. They allow different amounts of
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