Spring is in moving along in fast-forward mode. Soil temperature readings have been over 60ºF, providing good germination conditions for pretty much anything that is sensible to plant at this time of year. Such exceedingly warm conditions are cause for concern, though, as plants may get off to too-early a start and not be prepared for more normal conditions (let alone a true cold spell) in later spring. Here’s a look at the recent weather conditions, and what it means for our current planting plans.Looking back at the severely plant-and-fruit-damaging freeze of April 2007, one factor that made the freeze so problematic was the exceptionally warm weather preceding it, not just with some warm days, but also with a long stretch of warm nights. The current warm spell is outpacing even 2007, based on our bloom dates of daffodils as well as these temperature graphs from the National Weather Service (note the long stretches of warm night-time temps in both years; the current forecast continues above normal for the next week):
Another concern with this extra-warm air mass is the potential for some really nasty thunderstorms & damaging hail, always a threat in spring in any case. One good hailstorm can have months of repercussions.
In spite of concerns about what will happen weather-wise, there’s no way we can pass up trying to get an early start to the season. Our plans for spring generally allow for a 3 week target window to accomplish particular planting tasks; this allows for inevitably variable weather and wet ground. This year, we’re basically pushing the very early edge of that window. Here are some of the tasks on the agenda for the rest of the month:
Direct Seeding (2nd plantings in most cases)
–Lettuce & shungiku for baby mix
–Radishes & Hakurei turnips
–Baby brassica mix
–Spinach & beet greens for baby mix
–Parsnips (usually wait until April, but may start early given the conditions)
–Pre-sprout peas (most of the bush peas are in; now moving on to pole peas)
–Sweet potatoes: start slips on slower-sprouting variety
Transplant to Ground
Bed Preparation & Plant Maintenance
–Weed management needs to begin in earnest. Warm weather is making everything grow, including the weeds. There’s both hoeing & hand weeding to be done. Henbit & deadnettle are especially prolific in some blocks this spring; these need to be controlled before setting seed. Dock from seed-ridden straw purchased in 2010 is making an appearance and needs to be eradicated.
–Pull mulch off of beds to be direct seeded; hoe weeds as needed.
–Prepare beds for transplants; remove mulch if necessary & hoe weeds as needed.
–Establish strawberry beds for new plants.
–Prepare Qb block for cabbage transplants; move compost piles off of beds (work some into Oc1 & Oc2).
–Keep mushroom logs moist & monitor for production.
–Be ready to put new fruit trees in ground as soon as they arrive.