Hoping for an Early Start on Spring

By Published On: January 11th, 20242 min readCategories: Garden

We’re still a long way from our last frost, but I couldn’t wait to get started on the spring garden

Seeds trays on a bench in a greenhouse

Hoping to get an early start on spring in January

Okay, winter is only 3 weeks old and spring is 10 weeks away. Our coldest temperatures and roughest weather generally occur in February, so it’s going to be cold, windy, cloudy, and wet for at least another 6 weeks.

In other words, gardening conditions suck.

Now, I could stay inside and dork around with houseplants, but dusting the leaves on the Schefflera doesn’t give me the same satisfaction that turning and planting 1,000 square feet of raised bed does. Unfortunately, I topped last year’s beds with a layer of half-composted straw from the poultry coop just a couple weeks ago, so they won’t be ready to turn for at least another month.

However, I can plant.

The greenhouse is nearly empty this time of year except for a few frost-tender refugees and some sage cuttings I’m propagating. It’s a cold greenhouse (i.e., no heater except the sun) on a descending slope, so cold air running down the hill at night can easily bring temperatures down to the high-to-mid 20°’s F (-4° C), making it tough for all but the hardiest seedlings to survive. That’s why I usually wait until mid-to-late February before starting any seeds.

This year though, I don’t care. I’ve got an itchy planting finger and I’m going to scratch it. Yesterday I planted cilantro, carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, peas, and spinach, which tend to do okay here in winter if they can get past the seedling stage.

To improve my chances, I rolled out the heating mats and hooked them up to the solar panel’s battery. They’re usually too much electrical draw to go the whole night, so I set them on a timer that’ll only warm the soil from midnight until an hour after dawn, which is the coldest part of the day.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to coax the little plants along until late March when they can safely go outdoors. If I’m unlucky (which is more likely), I’ll be planting the same seeds again in a month.

Only time will tell (I hope the Old Farmer’s Almanac is right). Fingers crossed.

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About the Author

author avatar
Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.

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