It seems almost all the seed packets say to "plant when the soil is workable", but what does this mean? One interpretation is simple when the soil is no longer frozen. Another is that perfect soil consistency that can only be obtained once the spring rains have subsided and the earth may be clenched in your fist. The soil should not be so wet or tacky as to clump like clay, compressing the very air out of it. Workable soil is more like a pie crust with the cold butter particulate breaking and clinging evenly to the flour and salt. Soil that is workable is what we all wait for so eagerly after a long and cold winter.
Effective early spring seeding is contingent on the ability to set the seeds in "workable soils" and to have the soil temperature neither too cold nor too warm for the seeds to happily germinate. It sounds intimidating to manage so many variables but much can be overcome by choosing the right seeds for the right time. This is what we call planting into the season ahead. Season appropriate planning and planting will provide food growth through most of the year. (Re: chart in the KY Ag. Document chart for planting)
One of the greatest advantages to using a raised bed is accessibility and great drainage. Proper drainage comes by setting the beds level and by choosing a combination of characteristics in your soil that will support growth and drainage and a "rich soil network".
We are lucky in the Ohio River region for the fact that the glaciers left sand and silts in our top soil. We can also harvest easily compostable diversity from our fall deciduous tree leaves. This treasure can break down over the winter and be used as a amendment to our spring start up when we gather again the compost we have set aside through the winter.
The early " cold soil " seeds prefer cooler soil and are able to adapt while germinating and growing through the unpredictable flux action in temps we enjoy in the Ohio River Basin. The trick to early seeding is protection that allows for light to enter, but effectively prevents wind burn or even over heating in a hot house like covering. With One Small Garden you can achieve this perfect balance.
One Small Garden does so many things to get you up and growing earlier than traditional in ground gardens. The soil is workable sooner by virtue of capturing the growing spring light and holding under the Cold Frame Curtain, thawing winter's hold on the soil. Conditions may be too wet or frozen outside the bed but the soil within is warm enough, readily draining and perfect for cold soil seeding like snap peas, spinach, lettuce radish, carrot, tatsoi etc.
By using the Cold Frame Curtain the "hothouse " effect encourages a rich and diverse soil to be receptive and supportive to great germination. Fresh new seeds are in for the season and a fresh start is well within reach. Seeding is now possible as we can reach in and "work" our soil and then offer further protection to our young and hopeful crop.
In a few weeks we will watch for our warmer days and roll back the curtains providing a wee bit of air flow as the young crop matures.