Don’t Plant Your Veggies Too Early!!!
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Three days of temperatures in the mid-fifties makes every gardener worth his or her salt want to get out and start planting their vegetable garden. With the daffodils pushing up leaves and the buds on the trees swelling, spring looks like it is on its way. But beware, the ‘garden-gods,’ like the Greek gods of old, love to play tricks and torment their innocent subjects.
Take it from one who has been made a fool by the ‘gardening deities’. The average final frost date is April 20. Lately however, we seem to get a frost closer to Mother’s Day. Even though I can still hear my grandma telling me to wait to plant my garden until the leaves on the oak trees are the size of a squirrel’s ear, more than one spring has found me planting tomatoes and peppers in April, only to be out in the cold like a fool in the dark covering up the cold sensitive plants with anything I could find. The next morning I would be out there before work removing the sheets, blankets, buckets and flower pots that I had used to guard my tender plants. I am sure my grandma would have chuckled at the sight.
The soil temperature in the spring can be in the 30s-50s F locally depending which side of the mountain you are on according to NC State Climate team website. Most of our garden plants need soil temperatures around 65 degrees to germinate and grow successfully. If you plant your warm season seeds and transplants too early, they will not grow due to the cool soil. A tomato planted in the cool soil will just sit there until the soil warms up, so what is the point of planting early and having to worry about late frosts?
Another reason to wait to plant your summer vegetable garden is that Henderson County soils are still saturated from the snows of earlier this year. Running your tiller through your garden will only form big sticky clay clumps. The soil needs to be relatively dry when you plow.
Don’t fret though. We can still plant some spring veggies. Leafy greens, turnips, radishes and mustard can all be planted indoors in February and outdoors in mid-March according to NC State’s gardening calendar. It is also a great time to soil test your garden and apply lime as needed.
Waiting to plant your summer garden until Mother’s Day will save you time, money and frustration. You will also avoid becoming a victim of the ‘gardening-gods’ favorite practical joke; the late spring frost.