By the time I finish shooting today’s video, our zone 5 garden will be about 75% planted, even though our last frost date is still a week and a half away. I started planting cool weather crops back in February under low tunnels and cold frames. Now it’s warm enough that those crops no longer need protection, but I can use those season extension tools to get an early start on summer crops. Today I’ll plant zucchini, cushaw squash, and cucumbers under cold frames. Then I’ll plant the last of our cool weather crops. We usually plant zucchini just after our average last frost date, but this year we’ll plant it about a week and a half before under a cold frame. Zucchini prefers full sun and germinates best when soil temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So, we picked a sunny spot in our garden and we covered it with a cold frame last weekend to warm the soil up in preparation for planting. One of the challenges we face when growing any kind of squash or pumpkin is that there are so many squash and pumpkin seeds already in our soil that it can be hard to tell if the plant coming up is something we intentionally planted or a volunteer. To make sure that doesn’t happen when I plant our zucchini this year, we’re going to plant it in a cow pot, which is a bio-degradable product made of cow manure, and something my wife gave me for my birthday. I also filled it with soil that I know contains no seeds. That way when a squash plant comes up, I know it’s our zucchini. Before planting, I add a thin layer of vermicompost to the soil. I plant 3 zucchini seeds in the biodegradable pot and bury it in the soil as shown here. If more than one plant emerges, I’ll keep the biggest healthiest plant and snip the others. I need to get the soil temperature up over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature is nowhere near that, so I’ll keep the lid closed until the plant emerges. Then, I’ll vent the cold frames on sunny days to prevent the plant from overheating before removing the cold frame sometime in May. Soil can quickly dry out under a cold frame, so I’ll make sure to keep the area well watered. Now, you may be thinking that this space is too small to grow zucchini. Zucchini needs about 9 square feet to grow successfully. But what I plan to do to make this space work is to grow the plant vertically on a stake. This will keep the leaves up off the ground and hopefully not shade out the garlic. It will also increase air circulation around the leaves and maybe reduce powder mildew. If you’ve grown zucchini vertically before and have any tips, please let me know in a comment. Next I’ll plant cushaw squash under this cold frame. The plant and fruit will get very large and heavy but this metal trellis will have no problem supporting them. If you’re unfamiliar with cushaw squash, here are some pictures of cushaw we grew a few years ago. They’re a winter squash that can be planted without protection a couple weeks after the last frost, and we usually harvest them just before the first frost in the fall. They’re excellent roasted and in soups, but our favorite cushaw recipe is cushaw pie, which is very similar to pumpkin pie. As with the zucchini, we’re starting our cushaw in buried cow pots in a sunny location under a cold frame amended with vermicompost. The warm microclimate provided by the cold frame allows us to start the seeds 3 to 4 weeks earlier than we would without protection. The cover will remain closed until seedlings emerge. Then we’ll vent as needed to keep the plants from getting too hot before removing the cold frame some time in May. We’ll also keep the area well watered. The last summer crop I’ll plant today is cucumbers. We usually start them about 2 weeks after our average last frost date. But under the much warmer micro-climate provide by a cold frame, I’ll start them 1 1/2 weeks earlier than our last frost date. As with the squash, I’ve placed this cold frame in one of the more sunny spots in the garden. After applying a thin layer of vermicompost, I plant the cucumber seeds ½” deep. I’ll thin them to about 1 plant every 6 inches after they emerge. Cucumbers germinate best when the soil temperature is between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so the lid will stay on until plants emerge at which point I’ll start venting the cold frame. After removing the cold frame some time in May, I’ll install a trellis for them to climb. Next I’ll transplant onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collards, and I’ll direct sow Swiss chard and strawberry spinach. To transplant kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower, I brushed aside the leaf mulch, dug a hole deep enough to bury the plant up to its first true leaves, added a handful of vermicompost, and buried the plant up to its true leaves. After watering, I returned the leaf mulch. Kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower are all related and attract similar pests, so to make it more difficult for pests like cabbage moths to find them, I planted them all over the garden next to unrelated plants instead of planting them all together in one place. After brushing aside leaf mulch and applying a thin layer of vermicompost, I transplanted our Walla Walla onions in a variety of sunny locations in the garden. I made planting holes deep enough for the roots and planted them about 3 to 4 inches apart with just the bottom of the bulb under the soil level. After watering, I returned some of the leaf mulch. Planting onions in a variety of locations next to unrelated plants confuses pests and reduces pest damage. Finally, I planted a square foot of Swiss chard and a square foot of strawberry spinach, both of which can be directly sown before the last frost. I followed the square foot gardening spacing of 4 per square foot for the Swiss chard and simply broadcast the tiny strawberry spinach seeds. I’ll thin them later if I need to. I applied vermicompost before planting, but I won’t add leaf mulch until the plants are at least a few inches tall. Well, that’s all I’m going to plant today and for the next couple of weeks. 2 weeks from now I’ll plant potatoes in grow bags, and 3 to 4 weeks from now I’ll finish spring planting when I transplant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and I direct sow beans and squash. And here’s a quick look at what our garden layout looks like now. It’s only mid-April, but all of the green areas have already been planted. Planting out the rest of the garden between now and mid-May will be a breeze. To see more of our spring planting videos for 2016, please see this link or the link in the description below. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.