Planting advice for yo-yo weather

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

By Eddie Smith

Guest Columnist 

With the weather starting to warm up, some people are in the planting mood. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and other cool season vegetable transplants can be planted right now.

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Check for availability at your garden centers and farmer’s co-ops. Early-bird gardeners try to get their cabbage, collard, and broccoli plants out as soon as possible. English peas, spinach, head lettuce, beets, radishes, and mustard can be seeded in early March. Sometimes they make it, and sometimes they don’t. It all depends on our capricious early spring weather that can be typified by a 40-degree drop in temperature in just a few hours.

Irish potatoes and onion sets or transplants can be put in the ground in mid-March. Those of you that have already planted your potatoes this year may have poor results due to the cold weather and soil moister causing the seed potatoes to rot. When planting seed potatoes, be sure that each chunk of potato you cut from the seed potato has a least one eye or bud from which the stem of the plant will grow. For you novice gardeners, the eye should be looking up when planted so the potato can see which way to go! Remember the book entitled Don’t Bend over in the Garden Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes by Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard? Think about that the next time you’re bent over digging taters!

One limiting factor for early spring planting other than our yo-yo weather is when the soil will be dry enough to till. One way to get around this is to grow your cool season vegetables in raised beds. These beds will be workable and ready to plant before beds prepared at existing ground level.

I would be cautious about planting tomatoes, bell peppers, and other spring/summer vegetable plants too early this year. We have experienced a very cold winter which may bring us some late freezes.