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When do you start planting when the weather is off?

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When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  HieronRemade on 2/4/2012, 9:40 am

Hey Everyone,

I hope everybody's off-season is going well! I've been wondering about something and thought I'd try to get some insight from more experienced gardeners.

I don't know what it's like in other parts of the Midwest, but here in Cinci, OH, we've had a very mild winter, more like an early Spring many days. Obviously predicting the weather is a tricky business even for the next day, but looking at the rest of the month on weather.com it's looking to stay in the mid 40's. So what I'm wondering is this: when the weather is weird like this, do you go ahead and start planting, or do you hold off and stick to the "X weeks before frost free date" kind of schedule? The reason I asked is that a lot of seed will say on the packet to plant as soon as the ground can be worked. Well, I think I could have worked the ground straight through Dec. and Jan. to now!

Anyway like I said if anyone has experience with weird-weather years like this I'd appreciate any insight. Between animals, disease, and the extremely wet Spring (= late planting) last year my garden was mostly a bust so I'm really trying to do my homework and plan/time things properly this time around. Thanks!

Mike

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  walshevak on 2/4/2012, 10:18 am

Yesterday I planted 1/2 square of radish, one square each of bok choy, chard, bibb lettuce, red ruby lettuce and 4 squares of snow peas. Last night we had the first frost in 2 weeks, but the daytime temp is already in the 50's. If the weather stays warm and the seeds grow, I'm ahead of the game and i"ll add additional squares of the same at normal time for later harvest. If not, I'm only out a few seeds of each veggie.

This "winter" has been more like spring with warm days and some nights of frost, but the hoop houses have protected from the frost and I only had to worry about a few 18* nights. Only lost a few lettuce heads and 2 collards of my late fall crops. Even the frozen lettuce bounced back. I keep waiting for the shoes to drop, HARD. Can't decide if it will be a really cold spring or straight to summer super early.



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Mild winter

Post  StellaBlueMama on 2/4/2012, 10:28 am

Strange "winter" indeed! We've had many days (almost most days!) with 40-60 degrees here in Omaha! How many days I was outside and said to myself "where do I live again??" ~ it has felt more like living back in San Francisco than Omaha! In fact, I was outside last week without a coat or shoes! (I know, that's silly...but I went to take the trash out, and my garden was CALLING TO ME!) I couldn't resist the urge to play in my dirt a little, and to my shocking surprise - nothing was frozen! Even the area out front where I'm going to plant my new spring bulbs turned right over!
However, you know what a fickle friend our Midwest weather can be! We were blessed (?) with a good 4 inches of snow last night, with perhaps another 5 more coming today! Winter was certain to tell me "hey, don't get so excited! I'm still here!" lol
On the upside? We REALLY needed the water!

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/4/2012, 11:18 am

Disclaimer: I am not from the Midwest....your mileage may vary.

I have lived in a mountain valley most of my adult life. Recently I moved back to the coast. (short trip, 40 minutes and 25 miles). We have a maritime climate and often have mild Januarys and Februarys. I'm not even sure when my last average frost date is, I just know when to start cold tolerant plants and when to wait until summer weather (summer does not really come to the PNW until a week or two after the 4th of July). All that to say, peas, favas and cold tolerant greens (parsley, lettuces, mustards and the hit or miss spinach) get planted directly into the ground when I have 10 hours of daylight; usually right around Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

As of today, February 4, I will get 9 hours and 41 minutes from sun rise to sun set. There is blue sky and the garden is starting to sing to me BUT I'm going to wait for that extra 19 minutes.

Debs.....who will spend the day pruning berries and trees, cleaning up garden paths, maybe turning compost and fussing over a tray of seeds started in January for planting out in March. But what I won't do is push a seed into MM....yet.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  quiltbea on 2/4/2012, 12:04 pm

In Maine we often have weird weather but not for long. It gets cold, cold, cold pretty quickly again and more snow so I stay with my plan. As far "as soon as ground can be worked," I take that to mean AFTER the winter is dying down, not in the midst of it.



above: April 6th last year. I covered a few boxes with plastic to warm them up sooner and keep them dry from the coming rains.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  jpatti on 2/4/2012, 6:00 pm

I'm in PA, and we also have had almost no winter, and it's in the 40s and 50s most days, one day last week it got into the 70s.

I'm behaving as if it's a normal year, just started cabbage, bok choy and broccoli.

I keep thinking if I were to go out, pull the mulch back to let the soil warm, and throw some peas in the ground... THERE WILL BE A BLIZZARD THE NEXT DAY! Wink

So... I am restraining myself.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  HieronRemade on 2/6/2012, 10:36 am

Thanks for the tips everyone...I guess I'll just stick to the standard dates. Heck, according to those I was supposed to start broccoli and onions indoors yesterday and as it is I won't get to that for several days. And btw - we just had a pretty hard frost this morning. Very Happy

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  rod champion on 2/6/2012, 11:00 am

I planted lettuce and spinach and put a plastic cover over them to heat the soil. it has all come up. Carrots too. My plan is to continue with the clear plastic. On and off as the weather goes.

We will see.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  snowjay on 2/6/2012, 1:15 pm

Sounds like a good plan to wait... Besides, the Farmer's Almanac says that we could be in for a wet/snowy end of the month. (NE)

~~Laurie

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  littlesapphire on 2/6/2012, 2:36 pm

Last spring, we had a really beautiful week or two where the weather really got warm and the soil was workable, so I thought I'd plant my strawberry plants and a raspberry bush a little early. Big mistake! We got a huge cold front that came through and refroze everything for probably three weeks. Needless to say, the strawberries and raspberries didn't make it.

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Think about lettuce and spinach

Post  tomperrin on 2/6/2012, 3:00 pm

I've got them sprouting under plastic - seeds planted Dec 21 in Central Jersey. Garlic was planted the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Checkout Eliot Coleman's books on Winter Harvesting.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  Smartchick on 2/6/2012, 5:08 pm

I haven't gotten brave enough to try "cheating" the season yet. Maybe next year. I'll probably just stick with the usual planting dates even though, like StellaBlueMama, I'm in Omaha and it's the first year I can remember being able to be outside by choice on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and my birthday (last weekend). And then we got 10 inches of snow on Saturday so now I can't even see my SFG! I'll start my broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower under the lights in a couple of weeks and go from there!

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  camprn on 2/6/2012, 6:44 pm

I am going to stick to my planting schedule and not be lured in by the mildness of the season so far... if the weather remains mild for the next 6 weeks, I will get the hoops cranking with cold crops... maybe I will plant my peas on St. Patrick's day...Patience is a virtue What a Face

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  ksbmom on 2/7/2012, 7:07 pm

I've been thinking for the last week that I should have started those tomato seeds a few weeks earlier than I did! I followed our usual 6 weeks before last frost (which is Feb. 25th for us). We had our usual couple of days of freezing temps in January but since then I've been trying to hold off turning on the A/C! Even my husband admitted last night that "you might be right about the weather staying warm" Shocked But I know that if I'd planted already we'd get a freak late freeze like we did a couple of years ago. Hope this doesn't mean a REALLY long summer....

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I'm counting on a late March blizzard

Post  tomperrin on 2/7/2012, 7:44 pm

in NJ: heavy snow, slush, snow shoveling heart attacks, fender benders, icy roads, 4 foot high drifts, school closings. You know the drill.

But, if it's under plastic, (especially double plastic) and the plastic and the pvc pipe hold up, the plants should not get frost bitten. My garlic survived two inches of ice on top of the plastic, and my lettuce and spinach have sprouted in the same square. I just pulled a pailfull of green weeds off last year's squares and tossed them in the compost pile.

I also predict that all will be gone in two days, high winds will carry off the excess water, and our new squares, if we were smart and able to get them filled with new MM, will be properly saturated and ready for spring planting.

This year, I will be covering my new squares with plastic to keep the windborn seeds off and to warm the dirt underneath.

I can hardly wait.bounce

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  ashort on 2/7/2012, 7:54 pm

I'm already in strong like donkey-kong....

I planted 4 of my 2x1.5 beds with garlic and shallots the first of December. My first 2x12 bed was planted in mid December with a variety of greens and radishes and carrots - I have a hoop over it and lights for heat if needed. In mid January, I planted 1/3 of a 2x12 with leeks and the other 2/3 and 2 more 2x1.5's with onions. The last weekend of Jan I planted a 4x4 with 8sq of spinach, 4 carrot, 2 pak choi, and 2 mizuna.... I got strawberries going in this weekend and hopefully some potato and cole crops shortly thereafter....

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Soil Temp

Post  CharlesB on 2/7/2012, 8:05 pm

What really drives your plants growth is the soil temp. You will hear many people say "Oh, I planted one pea plant, and the next three weeks later and they both did the same". This is because they aren't going to take off until the soil temp is where it needs to be. The soil will not produce Nitrogen and other things your plants need at too low or too high a temperature. I have a plastic dome over one of my SFG's and have been growing cabbage and carrots over the winter here in Eastern, Pennsylvania. However the soil is too cold and they are basically in stasis until Spring. Which I don't mind, they will take off once the soil temp is up.

So even with the weather being off like this the soil temps won't be that much different than a regular winter. So if you plant early it won't make much difference. You are just going to be at risk of frost the same you would any other year as well.

The soil in our SFG beds does get warmer than the surrounding ground soil. So that helps us out a bit in spring. I have spinach and swiss chard uncovered that is still alive actually here but it doesn't look very good :-).

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  llama momma on 2/8/2012, 2:21 am

Plus cold moist soil subjects plants to fungi attacks and can slow down growth, weaken, or kill them. The gamble isn't worth it to me. A compost thermometer doubles as a soil thermometer. Mel's book tells you what temperature seedlings need, efficiently taking the guesswork out of it.

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  Windsor.Parker on 2/8/2012, 2:41 am

@llama momma wrote:Plus cold moist soil subjects plants to fungi attacks and can slow down growth, weaken, or kill them. The gamble isn't worth it to me. A compost thermometer doubles as a soil thermometer. Mel's book tells you what temperature seedlings need, efficiently taking the guesswork out of it.
+1

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  HieronRemade on 2/8/2012, 9:29 am

It snowed here last night. Razz

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Re: When do you start planting when the weather is off?

Post  jpatti on 2/8/2012, 10:22 am

It's supposed to snow here today, an inch or two. But will be in the 40s tomorrow, so this won't last.

But with most of February and March ahead, we do have room for a serious winter still...

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