We are in the middle of a cool, wet spring which is very typical for the Pacific Northwest. Although you can plant several crops outside right now (kale, chard, lettuces, broccoli, etc), most vegetables won’t grow too much until the weather warms up. Thankfully, I have a trick for planting my vegetables outside a little earlier than most and encouraging strong growth through our mild spring.

baby-lettuce

Spring lettuces growing slowly on these damp, cool days

I build simple row covers over my raised beds to keep the soil and plants a little warmer. It will keep them snug enough that they can put on so healthy growth, but it won’t overheat them like row covers would in summertime. I have found that I can even direct sow crops in my raised beds about a month earlier than normal.

row-cover-blanket

Laying out greenhouse plastic over our raised beds to make row covers

My system for constructing row covers is really easy and inexpensive. In the summertime, I replace the greenhouse plastic with bird netting to keep feathered friends and the occasional cat-looking-for-a-litterbox out of the raised beds.

clipped-row-covers

Using PVC pipes, cut vertically, to clip the greenhouse plastic onto the hoops

The row covers over my winter kale has already given this crop a boost. There is lots of new, leafy growth on these plants after just a couple weeks under the covers. My other spring bed of lettuces and broccoli is off to a slow start, so I just finished covering them tonight.

spring-kale

Spring kale with lots of lush, new growth from being under a row cover

The drawback to using row covers is that you’ll need to water the plants, since rainwater won’t be able to get to them. We have so much rain at this time of year that our rain barrels will easily be enough water to give the vegetables a long drink. I’ll try to post an update in a couple weeks about how much new growth is on the spring row covered crops.

spring-row-covers

Spring row cover all setup!

How is your spring garden coming along? Are you in sunny San Diego where summertime is a year round treasure? Or in snowy Montana where there are still inches of snow on the ground? I’d love to hear about your spring plans in the comments below.

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