Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Harvest (!) and Soil Temperatures for Planting

My first real harvest of spring-planted veggies:

Cilantro, Black-seeded Simpson lettuce, Purple Plum radishes  PHOTO/Amy W.

The garden hasn't yielded much since January 1 -- a last little bit of broccoli before the hard freezes, a few green onions, some carrots -- so the lettuce, cilantro, and radishes that I harvested yesterday mark a turning point in the gardening year. They also made a great contribution to "taco night"!

As the spring crops mature to harvest stage, the planting for summer crops needs to begin. North Carolina State University has published a planting chart/calendar that includes soil temperatures to help us all work out the best order in which to plant our gardens. Gardeners who also have jobs, families, and other additional responsibilities don't usually manage to get the garden planted all at once, and knowing which plants can do well in cooler soil temperatures can help gardeners decide what to plant first.

According to the chart, corn can be planted at soil temperatures as low as 50 degrees F, and so can pole beans, but squashes and tomatoes need a minimum soil temperature of 60 degrees F, peppers and cucumbers need 65 degrees F, and okra, melons, eggplants and Southern peas need a soil temperature of at least 70 degrees F to do their best.

For those of us in Cobb County who are planning to put seeds in the ground this coming weekend, taking a thermometer out to check on the soil temperature at a 4 inch depth at various points around the garden can help determine what to plant. In my yard, the soil temperature is approaching 60 degrees F, which means there is a lot I can plant now. It also means that I might need to replant those cucumber seeds that I put in the ground last week, when the soil temperature was a little lower.

2 comments:

  1. I have a question for you. For the past three years I have put out broccoli transplants when they first appeared at the garden center in the spring. The first year (two years ago) they did great and we had the best broccoli. Last year, they grew nicely and started to make florets and then we had a weird hot couple of days and they went straight to flower. This year they have been pretty much sitting in the bed doing nothing. It's been a cooler spring. Then last week they finally started to grow some last week and you could see tiny little florets tarting. I was away for the weekend and looked at the plants last night and guess what - they are flowering. Those tiny florets are turning to flower. Is broccoli always such a "crap shoot"? I do brussell sprouts and collards in the fall and usually have success. Should I do broccoli in the fall and forget about spring? I just like broccoli in the spring though? Any ideas?

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  2. Hi Barbara! Yes- spring broccoli here in N. Georgia is a crap shoot. My experience is that when we have warm-ish days, then a cold snap, then return to warm-ish weather, the broccoli goes to flower. We had a week of warm weather, then that freeze last week, and now it's warm again. And there we have it. Some years, though, the spring-planted broccoli is glorious!

    I don't know whether it is possible to prevent that bolting to flower by using frost blankets and row covers to moderate temperatures around the broccoli. If you really love spring broccoli, it might be worth a try next year. I grow broccoli in fall - setting out transplants in August - and avoid the fuss. Hope that the rest of your garden is growing well! -Amy

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