Many of us that live in cold climates struggle getting some growth in our veggie patch during spring.
Despite the warm days we’ve been having lately, the soil temperature is remaining cool and it’s that cool soil that is inhibiting growth.
On Tuesday morning I awoke to find the car covered in a light frost, thankfully I still haven’t planted any of my summer favourites just yet.
Plants like your tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants are all in the one family and are particularly sensitive to cool soils, but there are a few things that you can do to increase your soils temperature a few degrees.
Firstly before you plant, dig in a lot of green munure like lucerne mulch or even some lawn clippings and some organic fertiliser. As this breaks down, the microbes do their work and the soil heats up.
Then you can lay down a sheet of black plastic that has hole punctured in it or some dark shade cloth.
During the heat of summer your plants may get too hot so add about 10cm of mulch over the plastic. Using these techniques you can not only increase the soil temperature but it also acts as a heat bank that will protect your plants from frost.
Increasing the amount of light that your plants receive will also help increase the microclimate in your veggie patch.
On the southern side of your patch run some corrugated iron or bricks along the edge. The iron will help reflect your spring sunshine back into the plants, protect the soil and plants from cold wind and the bricks will also suck up some of the warmth, releasing it back into the soil.
Now that you’ve warmed the soil up, choose your varieties carefully.
We’re all used to seeing big fat eggplants and huge capsicums in the greengrocers but here in our shorter, cooler climate we should consider different varieties.
The skinny elegant Lebanese eggplant are your best bet if you’re an eggplant fan, and keeping to the long and skinny format, grab some Bullhorn capsicums or the long yellow ones that ripen nice and early.