Cornell Cooperative Extension

April 14, 2014

Is it time to plant? Not yet

Gardeners across the North Country have had a stressful winter, wondering what the sheets of ice, endless snow and sub-zero temperatures are doing to their perennials, berries, trees and shrubs.

All we can do is wait and see how things get through.

The next biggest stressor for gardeners is going to be deciding how early you can start planting your garden.

I’ve learned to not even try to make predictions related to the weather, especially as it relates to plants. Luckily many plants are quite resilient, so even if they get off to a slow start in spring they often catch up by summer.

I have no idea what May is going to be like, and therefore no idea if you should make any adjustments to your usual gardening practices. Just last year we had a killing frost in early May followed by those endless days of pouring rain that lasted into early July.

All I can do is advise you to be ready for anything. Go ahead and plant your peas and spinach at the end of April if that’s what you usually do, but save a few seeds for replanting in case those don’t make it.

When possible, plan to make successive plantings and hope that the timing works out for at least one of them. Make a plan for how you’ll protect delicate plants if a late frost hits, or else delay your usual planting until you’re certain all chance of frost is past.

Here’s a quick review of hardy (cool season) and tender (warm season) plants. Hardy, cool season plants are those that can tolerate colder soil and a light frost. Today I’m focusing on annual plants, not your shrubs and berry bushes.

Even though they can take cool soil, none of them like cold soil. Wait until your soil temperature, not the air temperature, has reached 50 degrees before planting any of these: onion seedlings or sets, leeks, shallots, peas, spinach, lettuce, arugula, potatoes, carrots, chard, parsley and parsnip.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension