Everyone knows that it has been a strange year weather wise. Growers feel this even more intensely, as the broccoli you usually plant and watch go seedy too soon is doing fine this year. The lettuce is booming but the asparagus, even though it showed up early, is now slowing down. Since seeds need temperatures about ten degrees higher to germinate than they need to “grow on”, it’s tricky to plant them outside if you don’t get a sufficient warm period. Soaking the bean seeds for two hours hurries the germination but if the nights dip into the mid-thirties or low forties, they might not make it.
If you are serious about growing your own and don’t have room for a greenhouse, a small cold frame can be very helpful. They are very simple to make, cheap, and very effective. The classic design is composted manure as a bed, straw bales for sides, and glass “windows” for the top. When the sun hits the glass it can heat up the air in the cold frame quickly, so you need to vent them to avoid overheating. The cold frame doesn’t have to be big. Six feet by three can germinate a huge number of seedlings. You can make the sides permanently of wood; rather than add the straw and compost to the garden you can move the entire frame if you need to.
The summer heat defeats a lot of growers who love the cool season vegetables. But you can manipulate the temperature somewhat by where you plant your spring crops. Plant them where the east sun hits them in the cooler hours of the morning. Four or five hours is sufficient. The rest of the day the lettuce, spinach, beats and chard, rhubarb and chicories can stay in the shade. The position of large trees can create the shade you need, or the side of the house you plant on. Water can also keep them cooled down, as water cools the air as it evaporates. This does not have to be a lot of water, but an occasional fine spray. Despite the fact that some lettuces are more tolerant of heat than others, they simply don’t taste as good if they grow in the heat.
By now if you’ve grown tomatoes you have at least a slight acquaintance with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). By planting early, and trying to get your tomatoes to ripen before August 1st, you can avoid the worst of the invasion. Many people told me they had no stink bugs. Many of those found they did get the bugs in August. One woman told me she planted mint and basil among her tomatoes. Her tomatoes were clean. That might work. Bugs hate anything in the mint family. Mints are easy to grow and can be invasive, but if they protect your tomatoes it might be worth it. The mint family is so extensive there is probably something you will like among this herb family.