Getting a Jump Start on Warm Weather Crops

The spring of 2017 in Oregon may go down as legendary in the amount of rain and cool weather we have been experiencing.  We have almost twice (!!!) our annual rainfall at this point in late April.  Normally we receive 42″ of rain per year.  We have received nearly 80″ thus far and summer is still a ways off.

For those of us who love growing warm season crops – we are positively itching to be able to stretch our wings at this point.  Nonetheless, aside from greenhouse growing, we are forced to abide by Nature’s grand design.  What is one to do???

Here are some of my hot (no pun intended) tips:

• start cucumbers and summer squash on heat mats then plant to 4″ pots in a greenhouse so that you are ready to plant out large healthy plants once the risk of frost subsides.

• start muskmelons and watermelons on heat mats (that maintain a steady temperature of 70 degrees or more) and then pot up to 4″+ pots to be ready for sunny warm weather to plant outdoors.

• Hopefully by now you have nice tomato, pepper and eggplant starts in your greenhouse or sunny windowsill.  Make sure that they are in pots large enough to accommodate their growth until outside temperatures warm enough to plant outside.  Snip off flowers that form to keep them growing vegetatively.

Here is a YouTube video showing the process I use:

• Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to start corn indoors in trays to get a head start.  We regularily use Soil Blocks (1 1/4″) to start corn inside 3-4 weeks before planting outside.  This also has the added advantage to help create timed isolation for seed saving of multiple corn varieties on the same site.

• While we don’t currently use black plastic as a mulch on our farm, many other colleagues do utilize it to speed the warming of the soil to give heat loving crops a jump start.


Do not despair!  There are many blessings that accompany a late start.  We are fixing up fencing, gates, refining our cropping plans and exploring a greater diversity of cool loving crops that we can plant currently like Chickpeas, lentils, grains, all the brassicas, fava beans, alliums and more.

May all of your gardening dreams come true!