What’s an aspiring gardener to do with the cold spring that we’ve had?
Eager Manitoba gardeners employ a variety of techniques to gain that early start on their 2013 crops. If you have the aptitude, you could build a cold frame. It could be built with simple two-by-fours and recycled old windows and their frames with a mechanism to prop up the windows on warm spring days. Lettuce and onions will germinate nicely inside. Or you could build or buy a more elaborate greenhouse. In Headingley and surrounding areas, you can spot several of these. These are wonderful as they are big enough for you to circulate inside while you tend your seedlings.
If you’re not quite ready for either of those options, you might want to try simple "cosy coats".
What can you grow in these protective covers that can be purchased at most garden centres? Just about anything that needs a little more warmth and protection from the outdoor elements. This year, mine harbour different types of tomatoes, basil, eggplant, and peppers.
How do you fill these? When you buy these coats, they are a flat package. Carefully open up the individual tubes. A simple garden hose can be used to fill each individual tube which comprises the cosy coat. Once you have prepared the soil, place the coats where you will want the plants to be. Allow a couple of weeks if you want the soil warmed from a very cold temperature. As the sun warms the water in the tubes, the soil is warmed.
How long do you leave them on? As long as the nights are very cool. I typically don’t fully remove them until mid-end of June. As the weather warms, I open the teepee-like structures. Sometimes that means removing water from the tubes so they stand up straighter. I can still scrunch them back to teepee shape if an unexpected cool night sneaks up on me.
In my experience, cosy coats have indeed helped me harvest a better crop sooner. They are a cost-effective investment that can be re-used annually.
If you’re a novice desiring to grow your first tasty gardens veggies, cosy coats just might make the task easier for you.
Valerie Chatain-White is a community correspondent for Headingley. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.