DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — When It’s Time To Plant

Spring is often fickle in its arrival. We may have several nice, warm days followed by snow and freezing temperatures. Other years, we may have no problem. This year has been a mixed bag.

On May 15, 1981, we had a real taste of having it both ways. We had an early thaw, and many gardeners had started their planting. The lilacs were ready to bloom. Some early vegetables were sending up shoots.

But the night of May 12-13 saw temperatures dropping in to the low-20s. The lilac and apple blooms were frozen, and we would have few blooms. Those who planted early lost their gardens or had they suffered substantial damage. Finding replacement tomato, pepper and other plants was a real challenge.

We can’t prevent such a disaster from occurring, but we can lessen the damage by just taking our time in planting. We don’t have to be first to plant.

Remember that our last killing frost occurs around Memorial Day. Gardens can be planted as late as June 15 and still produce good results. In fact, I had a successful bean crop one year that was planted in mid-July.

While colder weather seems to be on tap for the coming week, we can till our gardens, purchase our seeds and locate the tools we will need soon.

Many vegetables can be planted early. They include peas, spinach, radishes, leaf lettuce, onions and potatoes, to name a few. These crops can take off with the cold, moist conditions.

Once we reach mid-May or Mother’s Day, midseason crops may be planted. These include beets, rutabagas, kale, carrots, dill, parsnips and cabbage plants. If temperatures dip during this period, the seeds will remain dormant until they are safe to emerge.

When it comes to late-season vegetables, if the weather is cold in late May, you can simply delay planting them for a week or so with no problem. These include beans, tomatoes, peppers (hot and mild), cauliflower, watermelon, muskmelon, pumpkins, squash (summer and winter) and sweet corn.

When planting most vegetables, the soil should feel warm and be dry. To check, take a lump of soil and try to form a ball in your hands. If you can do that, the soil is too wet. Wait a few days and recheck.

As far as fertilizer, you can apply as you plant or you can wait until the crops begin to emerge.

Don’t be discouraged with our up-and-down weather conditions. You still have lots of time to plant your garden!


One thought on “DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — When It’s Time To Plant”

  • Mary Ann April 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Could you write a piece on container gardening?


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