Garden box
Ted Sponsel photo Gardening boxes help heat soil faster.

FAIRBANKS — As I write this column, it is 59 degrees at my house and every gardening nerve in my body is trying to push me into premature transplantation.

Our last frost was early last year, so this year the urge is stronger to set things in soil instead of waiting until mid-May. Unfortunately, even if the air temperature stays unusually warm and there are no night frosts, the soil has not had time to warm. I remind myself that if I must use a pick axe to gouge a hole into the garden, then it is too early to transplant. (A confession: I have sown some peas, poppy and pak choi, but the seeds will just lie there until they get good and ready to sprout.)

Instead, the present Linden is going to make the future Linden happy by using the time to do a few chores that will make my gardening life easier this summer. Once the season really gets going, it is too late or sometimes too time consuming to do some of these.

My biggest project is having another raised bed constructed. Year by year, I convert more and more of my garden and backyard into permanent raised beds. The wooden beds are 3-feet wide and 3-feet tall; some of the beds are 6-feet long, while others are 8- or 10-feet long. I also have a pea bed that is 6 inches tall, 6 inches wide and 80-feet long; it is located along our back fence so the peas can effortlessly climb 5 feet up.

The last few years, I have purchased one metal horse watering trough per year; the expense involved is less painful if spread out over several gardening seasons. While costlier, these warmed the soil even faster than the wooden beds. Suddenly, I had success growing corn and winter squash varieties that took longer than 90 days to mature. And my dahlias grew like they were on steroids. However, I discovered that certain root crops performed more poorly in the metal beds, possibly because they like cooler soils, so this year I am putting in another lumber bed for more root and cole crops.

Regardless of how tall your beds are, or what they are made of, raised beds have so many advantages that I would never go back to ground level gardening again. The soil warms faster in the spring; because the roots can go much deeper than they can in our cold and sometimes frozen soils, I can plant things much closer together thus…