“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.” ~Mark Twain
Aside from the effects of Brother Clement’s weather, it’s never too early to plan this year’s garden. In our part of the country, we’re somewhere around six to eight weeks from the average date of the last frost. Note, I said average. Last frost dates jump around like a cat on a hot stove. Last frosts have occurred as early as mid-February or as late as April, both extremely rare, but they do happen. Best guess is to expect a frost 50 percent of the time after a published average date, so be careful planting tender crops such as tomatoes, beans, etc. Be prepared to cover some crops with frost cloth, etc., even if you use the following planting guide:
The same chart I just referenced also makes note of the optimum soil temperature for planting. If you wish, you could buy a soil thermometer, but (secret hint) a probe type meat thermometer works well, too.
I’ve made a few quick trips through the Big Box and Ranch stores, and they’ve replenished their displays with seed marked for this coming season. Seed potatoes and onions are awaiting your purchase, too. They’ll be going into the ground shortly. Don’t try to use those potatoes sprouting in your pantry, though. Most have been treated with a chemical that retards growth.
Seeds left over from last year and are wondering if they’re still useable? Easy enough to see if they’re still viable. Place a number of seeds between two pieces of damp toweling. Check every few days to see if anything is sprouting while keeping the toweling damp. A week to ten days later count the sprouting seeds and use this as a guide as to the percentage of good seed you have. Of course, most seed is rather cheap.
Ordering seeds? Time is short, although on-line ordering speeds shipment greatly. One caution should be to make sure the seed you are ordering is for something that will grow well in our climate. While our season is plenty long, some won’t do well in the heat of summer. If you are wondering, ask your local Master Gardener Vegetable specialist. If they don’t know about a specific variety, they’ll know where to find the information.
Remember that garden plan I told you to make last fall? Now’s the time to drag it out and see what and where you wish to plant. Check your tools and sharpen your blades. In a few weeks, you’ll be wanting to test the motors on your mower, tiller and anything mechanical you might use, to see that they’re in top operating condition. New air filters and spark plugs do wonders sometimes.
The busy season is just around the corner.
“Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes, the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year.” ~Ogden Nash
Written by: Wayne Bowman, Hunt County Master Gardener