Our last frost date is still three weeks away but we’re already planting frost sensitive summer crops outside. Today I’ll share 7 summer crops who were planting now undercover.
I planted cool weather crops six weeks before our average last frost date and those crops are already growing and doing very well.
When planting under cover my rule of thumb is to plant as much as three weeks earlier than normally recommended when planting under a single layer like a cold frame or low tunnel and as much as six weeks earlier under two layers like a cold frame inside the hoop house.
Let’s start by planting pole beans which I normally don’t plant outside until a week after our last frost date but I’ll plant them four weeks earlier than that in the hoop house inside this low tone.
I’m planting tree on fovea lehto pole beans in the spaces between these lettuce plants. This is a good example of succession planting while the previous crop is still in the ground.
The lettuce will be harvested within the next few weeks just in time for the beans to take off. Well vent our protective structures as needed to prevent overheating and will completely remove the cover from the low tunnel later this month and the hoop house in May.
And with the cover off will train the beans up the front of the hoop house. When planting beans without cover in may sometimes the combination of cool weather and rain causes the seeds to rot in the ground but it will be much warmer in the hoop house and we can manage moisture levels so that shouldn’t be a problem for us – and of course we’ll have an earlier crop.
Before leaving the hoop house let’s plant sugar pie pumpkins inside this cold frame. Once again I’m planting seeds while the previous crop is still on the ground and we’ll harvest this lettuce and kale to make room for the pumpkins to grow.
Withou protection we’d plant about a week after the last frost but we’re planting three weeks before the last frost under double covering.
Our goal is to have two plants but I’m planting more than two seeds because the seeds are old and I want to make sure at least a couple of them germinate. We’ll train the plants to grow over the top of the hoop house after removing the cover in May.
Now let’s plant cucumbers zucchini and cushaw squash in a bed that will cover with a double layered hinge l’hotel. This bed doesn’t get any sun in winter but it’s one of the sunniest beds in summer which makes it a great play for cucumbers.
We’d normally plant cucumbers about a week after our last frost but we’re planting them four weeks earlier than that under double cover.
We’ve been using this approach to planting these summer crops for years now and we’ve never lost any plants to the cold but even if we did we could easily replant after the last frost.
It’s a small risk I’m happy to take in return for earlier harvests.
Now let’s plant in sookie knee which is normally planted after the last frost. In addition to earlier harvest planting early gives the plants the chance to grow and mature before pests become a problem.
For example this zucchini plant will have time to become established well before squash bugs and squash vine borers are a problem. The last crop I’ll plant early in this bed is cushaw squash which is a very large winter squash that we won’t harvest until close to the end of our summer growing season.
We enjoy the squash in a variety of dishes but our favorites cushaw pie which is similar to pumpkin pie. Now that I’m done planting the bed I’ll move a double-layered hinge l’hotel from another bed to protect our summer crops. The plants and the other bed are all cool other crops that can handle a frost.
If we have unseasonable cold weather or a significant snowfall over the next few weeks we can always cover the bed temporarily with a low tone. This low tunnel is easy to vent because it’s hinged so we just have to prop it open on sunny days to prevent overheating
The lowton would be removed completely after our last frost and we’ll install trellises for the cucumbers and cushaw squash to climb. The last two crops I’m planting today are butternut and patty-pan squash which are normally planted after the last frost date. One of our old cold frames fell apart this spring so I’m planting butternut squash under a plastic tote.
I’ll keep the tote in place until the plants emerge then I’ll vent as needed and I’ll remove the top completely sometime after our last frost.