Ok, I’ll admit it: I rush the season. When the weather warms and eagerness overcomes my better sense, I push seedlings and seeds into the soil, tucking them in at the first hint of spring.
Because of this I wait as days turn to weeks, wondering if the seeds rotted in the soil. I wait with impatience as seedlings sit and sulk, unimpressed by their new home. They’re not dead; I check – those seeds just lay in the ground doing nothing as I put up trellises and string, ready sun shades and mulch. Clearly one of us is slacking.
Turns out it’s the soil. If your ground isn’t warm and cozy, the plants won’t thrive, and the jump start I gave the season will fizzle until that soil heats up.
Fortunately for us there’s a nifty website you can go to, to check the soil temperatures in your area. Check out greencastonline.com, a site run by a major company who likes to make sure its seed succeeds. I’m not endorsing anything here – I just like their soil temp site. It’s under agronomic crops, should you decide you’d like to click over to weather, then back again.
Boy, this is fast – currently our soil is 48F, good for planting kale, lettuce, pak choi, parsnips, peas, and spinach. But days to maturity come into play too, so think ahead to conditions that will be in play once the plant starts producing. Peas may fry and lettuce bolt in our balmy 90F summer. But a few more degrees and I can plant the chard or leeks.
Beans typically need soils to be warmer than 60F, ideally 68 – 70F; all of the truly tender crops – tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, corn and melons need the soil to be 70F. Otherwise they sit there, brooding over the fate that left them in the hands of a rude, thoughtless gardener who plops their bottoms into chilly soil. Fedco has a great chart for crops and the soil temps they need for planting.
With these two tools you can click on your area to get information on your soil, precipitation, weather, etc. And this year I intend to use them, so that when I pop my plants in, they’ll leap from the ground and I can get down to the business of gardening, not waiting.
**Yes, you can warm the soil with plastic, walls o water or cold frames. Take your soil temp after five days to see how far your temps have increased.