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Warming the Soil Before Planting

Spring is here and the sun has returned to take the chill out of our bones. For those of us in the south, we are weeks away from planting summer crops. Those of you further north are probably working on spring veggies. Regardless of where you are, you may want to start warming the soil before planting. If the soil temperature is too cold, seeds will not germinate and plants won't thrive. A tomato seedling, for example, won't die in soil that is too cold (unless the plant is exposed to freezing temperatures), but it also will not thrive and grow until the soil temperature raises, subjecting it to weakness, pests and disease. Stressed plants attract pests, and that is not a battle any of us desires.

Expose the Soil

While I encourage heavy mulching, particularly over the winter, one of the first ways to warm the soil is to remove all mulch and expose soil to direct sun. This is about the only time you should actually see exposed soil in a no-till garden. When things warm up after planting, mulch again and keep the soil covered for the remainder of the year. Allow a few weeks for exposed soil to warm before planting. Check the soil temperature to make sure it is warm enough for what you want to plant. There's a great chart here on Gardener's Supply with optimal planting temperatures.

Use the Sun

In general, I like to avoid plastic products, but if you are in a big hurry to plant, you can use black or clear plastic to attract the sun's heat and warm the soil beneath. Either cut a hole in the plastic to plant, or remove it before planting. I would suggest removing all plastic and add mulch around plants before it gets very hot to avoid cooking the soil.

Small efforts like ensuring the proper soil temperature before planting helps prevent problems later in the season. Save yourself some time and energy by waiting to plant until the soil temperature is correct.

Are you planting anything in your garden right now? 


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