Everywhere I go, it seems, I bump into people who say, “I read your blog…. Have you planted your garden yet?” And I have to tell them: No, it’s still too early in central Mississippi.
Traditionally, down here anyway, the time to plant seeds was done by the moon, and around Good Friday. For more than 30 years, I’ve always planted the week after Easter because we more often than not have a cold spell right at Easter, and I’m fairly assured that the crop will do well if planted afterwards.
This year, Easter is April 20. So, I’ll probably plant the weekend after, or around April 27.
The past two years, we’ve had warm winters, leading people to believe they can plant earlier than normal. (Although last spring was cold and rainy which didn’t do well for early planting.) Normally, April 15 is considered an early planting time. But the year before last, I probably could have planted in February and it would have done OK.
You want to plant as early as you can past the last frost, but not so early that the soil is cold and your seeds or plants just sit there and possibly rot in the ground.
Here’s a pdf frost chart for Miss.: http://bit.ly/f8QSAb.
For all states, see: http://bit.ly/i5SmsT.
As you can see by the chart, it’s a gamble to plant this time of year. As the chart shows, on March 23, for example, for Jackson, MS, it’s 50-50 whether the temperature will drop to 32 degrees and 90 percent that it will go down to 36 degrees. It’s only 10 percent, though, to reach 28 degrees. How lucky do you feel?
Sure, we could have a warm month and you would be fine. But we could just as equally have an ice storm. Or one killing frost between now and Easter (which often is the case).
I’d just as soon not take the risk of having to reorder all my seeds or worrying if my plants were stunted, and would rather wait a little a bit to plant. It’s true that organic growers want to plant as early as possible to get a headstart on the bugs; a luxury that people who spray poisons can avoid. But having the first tomato on the block is not that important to me; having a good, healthy stand of tomatoes is much higher on the personal scale of priorities.
Most seed packets specify the proper soil temperature for sowing. Some plants do OK in cooler soils; some don’t.
For an ATTRA quick list of U.S. organic seed suppliers, see: http://ow.ly/sSsEm
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.