Far North Vegetable Gardens

deep_roots(5a IN)February 13, 2007

Always wondered how soon in the year you Zone 2 and 3 gardeners start your vegetable gardens, what you grow, and if you use any techniques for dealing with late frosts and cold conditions. I am in Zone 5a and am looking for ideas for accelerating my season. The gardenweb search feature is not working for me. If anyone can point me to a previous thread on this subject or post a reply, that would make my day. Currently, I have 30 to 40 mph gusts and a blizzard warning piling snow across my yard. Nothing better than doing a little summer dreaming at the moment.

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Laurie_z3_MB(sw MB)

Hi Deep roots. I hear ya about the summer dreaming! We're right in the middle of week three of a dreadful deep freeze in Manitoba. It's been struggling some days to even break -20C for the daytime highs lately. But on the bright side they are calling for it to warm up considerably for next week.....hopefully.

As for veggie gardening, it sometimes does depend on the year, but I typically will get started on sowing the garden mid May, give or take a week or two ;^). I like to have my garlic in by the beginning of May if at all possible and then all the other cold hardy veggies are sowed after that. More tender stuff goes in towards the end of May. Tomatoes and peppers sometimes may not go in until the beginning of June depending on the forecast.

I usually grow tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, corn, peppers, cukes, squashes, beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, carrots. I've quit trying to grow anything from the cabbage family as I just don't want to be bothered keeping all the cabbage butterflies and flea beetles at bay. I usually do plant cantaloupe and watermelon, but these are hit and miss.

As for late frost protection, I am lucky to have my garden on a bit of a hill so I can sometimes be lucky and not get those first couple of fall frosts like my neighbor does who is in a bit of a low area. But if there's something that I don't want to freeze, I'll fill 4 liter milk jugs with warm water and set them around the plants and then throw some old blankets over top for insulation.

It's really more the late spring frosts that worry me. I've found that those cozy coats filled with water do help quite a bit, but I don't have nearly enough of them. I also find they're a pain to fill and set up too, so it's probably a good thing I only have a handful to do!

Anyway, that's my veggie garden experience in a nut shell. I've added a link below to another thread that you may find interesting to read also.


Here is a link that might be useful: Far North Veggie Thread

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 10:43AM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

Good thread on Far North veggies. Thank you. It sounds like most folks are working with what they have been given. Planting late in the year and working within a short season, while avoiding heat loving melons, sounds par for the course. While several Far North gardeners start their cold hardy veggies in May, I can start mine in April. My last frost date is May 15th. Since I like heat loving veggies, I often plant both cold hardy and heat loving veggies around May 1st and hope for the best. I typically clean up the garden around September 1st, although I can keep harvesting into October. The problem with late harvesting is I can not predict when weather will turn cold and rainy in Fall. Consequently, I would rather clean up the garden on a day when I can still wear shorts.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 11:12AM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

After thinking about it, I am surprised that more people are not using low tunnels, waterwalls, large transplants, or even red plastic mulch to jump start their tomatoes. Are there any other techniques in the 'frozen tundra' that I've missed?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 12:05PM
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Deep roots, I swear by garden blankets for my garden. I put them over the cucumbers and pumpkins when I seed them around mid-May, and over the tomatoes and peppers when they go out in late May/early June. It speeds up my cucumbers by about 2 weeks. The blankets don't come off until around July 10th - I've lost my tenders to early July frosts about 3 times. I also have a Rubbermaid tote full of old sheets & blankets that I use on cold nights in spring and fall.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 12:33PM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

That is most interesting Connie. I know that I am more concerned with spring's nighttime low temperatures than daytime high temperatures. When you say 'Garden Blanket', am I assuming correctly that you are talking about old quilts, army blankets, etc.? Or..., do you have a special garden blanket that allows sunlight through?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 1:46PM
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Laurie_z3_MB(sw MB)

Deep roots, I usually don't have a problem growing tomatoes. The only worrisome time can be a late spring frost, so then I throw some blankets over them, but I haven't had to do that for a long time. I always have oodles of tomatoes before the fall frost. Actually, the only time I haven't had a harvest was due to blight. You have to remember the extra day light hours we have in the summer, and also that it does get really hot on the prairies, so things can grow mighty quickly here! ;^)


    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 1:51PM
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Deep roots, sorry, I guess the official term for my "garden blankets" is floating row covers - spun-bonded polyester, really thin, that lets water and light through. I think my first one, which I still have, had the tradename of Remay Garden Blanket, so that's still what I call them. My newer row covers aren't nearly as durable as that first one, by the way, so it was worth the extra money I paid for it. Connie

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 5:12PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

We use black plastic mulch for our heat-loving vegetables. The past few years we've had a different type of mulch - swamp matting. It's woven and porous and very tough. Warms the soil and doesn't let weeds through.

Many here use the wall-of-water things - we've discussed them once or twice. I put tomato cages over my tomatoes and peppers as soon as i plant them and put clear plastic garbage bags over the cages. They can be dropped down when frost threatens or pinned up when it's warmer (clothes pins).

We've also covered our vegetable beds with tarps when a late (or early) frost threatens. And we've watered the gardens before the sun hits them if it has frozen unexpectedly.

Those are our tips and tricks. :)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 10:33PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Corn is tricky to get an early harvest from, the plants will survive a frost but won't germinate in cold soil. Have to watch the forecast or use plastic over the soil. I always plant a hybrid early super sweet variety that is usually ready in mid-August.

I will be more cautious in future with tomatoes. I planted my already started plants out early last year and we got a -8C (17F) frost that wiped them out right through the tarps. Serves me right for trusting an otherwise warm spring. Interestingly though, they grew right back from the roots and quickly outgrew the little ones I put out to replace them.

Laurie's right that we have hot summers. We just don't have a long season so we have to pick fast-maturing varieties of vegetables.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 10:55PM
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Laurie_z3_MB(sw MB)

Yes, corn can be tricky here. I find that I have to use treated seed or else the seed just rots and I end up with nothing. I also get seed that matures in less than 80 days, and as long as there's good germination, I usually get a decent crop. Sometimes I have to compete with the racoons to get to it, but that's a whole other story!

Then there's my mom who lives 75 miles north of me, who typically uses the same seed as I do, and getting mature corn for her, is very hit and miss. She always claims that her garden is at least a week behind mine. I guess that's what being a half a zone colder does.

Yes Gillian, tomatoes can sure be funny. I think they're a little tougher than we think, due to such a good root system. It's funny that some years I'll even get fruit off of the plants that volunteer in the garden. I wouldn't count on it every year tho ;^)


    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 9:28AM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

There are two good ideas, using Remay spun garden blankets and walls-of-water over tomato cages. I was actually expecting something more like the American Intensive Gardening technique as summarized in the following link.
Solar Gardening by Leandre Poisson and Gretchen Vogel Poisson

Even low tunnels are a popular idea, as seen here.
Low Tunnels

I even found one guy in Chicago, Illinois, who created a greenhouse cover with a thermostat based heater to get his Palm Tree through the harsh winter, but that is a little extreme. Backwoods folk in a nearby state would use an old freezer turned on it's side to start their plants. They opened it in the day and closed it at night. The insulation and door seal kept their plants from freezing.

I personally find that my soil temperature dictates a lot of growth expectations. If I can get it up from 50 degrees to 60 degrees, then plants will respond much better.

Regarding corn, treated seeds sit for awhile and then pop up. The young plants seem to survive foul weather quite well.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 12:33PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

Corn can be started indoors too - it transplants well.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2007 at 8:55PM
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Deep Roots, I think raised beds do a lot as far as warming up the soil. It can be a big issue in my area where our springs can be long, cold and damp. I made two last summer high enough to stand beside (that high just for convenience and some structure in my garden) then used row tunnels on them. I planted beans in them last season and they outgrew the hoops and rubbed the plastic too much, but I had a good crop and they didn't freeze! I do like the tunnels and will use them again. I got the hoops from Lee Valley, but I think I'll make more of my own this year and maybe make them a bit higher and use them at ground level, as well. Thinking of trying some herbs in the raised beds with the tunnels this season.

The other thing with the tunnls is when it starts to freeze in the fall/late summer they're already set up so you just have to close the ends up for the night. I try to make a habit of doing it all summer so I have them already tucked in when that July frost catches you by surprise!

A neighbor of mine mounds all of her vegetable rows to catch the heat. Her soil has clay in it though so watering isn't much of an issue.

Marcia, I like your idea of putting a clear bag over each tomato plant and cage.

This will be my first year growing tomatoes ( So look out, I'm going to have a million questions!) and was thinking of planting them in tires to catch more heat.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 2:22PM
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I know this is an ancient thread, but it's the middle of winter,and I'm exploring the search function, so meh.

Some techniques I've had success with

-For squash, I don't plant in tires per se, but I use them as a cheap wall o water that sits totally above the soil line. I then put an upside down large pot on top of that and if it's really going to be cold, I cover the upside down pot with a blanket and/or fill the bottom of the tire with hot water before I go to bed. When it grows too big, I just leave the tire there and let it grow over. The thermal mass of the tires really works to hold the heat. And if it's going to be really nippy in the spring, I stack the tires 2 high at night for the extra mass. If you live in a fancy area or have a small garden with plants in close, this might not be for you.

- I start corn inside in handmade pots made out of newspaper, and when I transplant them, I just tear a few small rips in the paper and make sure they get soaked when they are in the ground. It's still tricky to get the timing right (you dont want to hold the corn back in pots for too long), but I usually watch the long range forecast like a hawk. When they go in the ground, unless it is raining excessively, I water them with warm (not hot) water for the first week or two to help warm the soil.I grow corn in blocks of about 5'X5', and (once again), for some thermal mass, stack tires 3 high on the northern border of each block during the day, and spread them around the block at night.

-The only tomatoes I grow 'outside' (I have a small greenhouse for my indeterminates and peppers) are small determinates or dwarf types in 5 gallon pots. I keep these on a large homemade cart and wheel it in and out of my garage every morning/night (or in bad weather). I used to do this by just carrying the pots individually, but using a cart is much easier on the back.

-My cukes I do like the small tomatoes, except there's 2 in each pot.They have long vines, so I put one tomato cage in the pot like normal, then take another, turn it upside down, and tie it with mechanics wire on top the first.

I baby my heat lovers, but the rest get tough love and do fine.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 4:01PM
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