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Cold Weather, Warm Weather – Start Planning Now

This past week I took some time and shopped a few local garden centers. Talking with some of the employees, they see this being another record-breaking year for gardening.

My tip to you is to start thinking about what you would like to plant in your garden. If you can, buy your seeds now. They will keep until you are ready to plant them. Seeds can be kept for a few years before they will not germinate when planted. I have personally used seeds that were two to three years old.

In some cases, time affects the germination rate, meaning it might not be what the package says. I suggest planting more than you need and give away any excess. Do not be afraid to purchase your seeds now; just keep them in a dry place.

If you are looking to grow some cold weather vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, or radishes, their seeds will need to be started in February. They can be transplanted into your garden sometime in March. Cold crops do best in lower temperatures, between 65°F and 70°F.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans, corn, and peppers are considered warm-weather vegetables. Their seeds can be started indoors sometime in March. Plan to transplant them into your garden in late May. Warm weather crops like the heat and do best when the temperature is between 75°F and 80°F. Please remember that just because the air temperature is warm does not mean that your vegetables will grow. The soil will need to be warm as well to get them growing.

Cold weather crops will grow in soil that is 40°F, and warm weather crops like the soil temperature around 70°F. To speed up the soil’s temperature, you can put down black plastic over the beds, cut small holes, and then dig the holes for the seed/plant. When the air temperature begins to rise, you can remove the plastic if you like or leave it on as a weed barrier. I personally remove the plastic so I can work the soil under the plants, which allows water and air to reach the roots.

The one thing you will need to be mindful of is the night temperatures. I keep an eye on the night temperatures through the second week in June. Some of you may remember last year when we had the heavy frost that killed many gardens and destroyed the trees’ young fruit buds. This was very unusual, but it can happen. I talked with several other gardeners who lost crops due to the frost. They had to start all over again, buying plants that were already growing.

If you are concerned about the frost killing your tender plants, you have options. One way is to buy a crop cover from a local garden center. This will look like ground cover you would put down under shrubs before you mulch. Another way is to use empty buckets, but all the leaves have to be under the lip of the bucket to be effective. My go-to method is using old sheets. They can be used year after year. One final way is to plant in garden pots and bring them indoors when the temperature drops. Remember, first thing in the morning; you need to remove all of the covers. Leaving them on for a long period will cause the plants to overheat and die.

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