These single digit temperatures on Tuesday morning are surely nearing an end!
On the bright side, robins have been spotted in the area. Mentally, it is encouraging to go to the stores and see all of the spring lawn and garden items.
Many are starting to get the garden itch. Personally, my mouth is starting to water as I think about sweet corn. Let's look at some issues to consider for purchasing seed, starting plants indoors or purchasing starters of flower or vegetable plants.
Our average length of frost-free growing season in Clay and Owen counties is typically 171-180 days. The average last date of a freeze (temperature at or below 32-degrees) is April 26-30 in northern Owen and Clay counties and April 21-25 in southern Clay and Owen counties.
However, the average last date for a light frost (last 36-degree temperature) is May 1-5.
Abnormalities though can and do occur. I will never forget the frost/freeze on the first day of summer in 1992. The key to early planting is to not establish more plants out of doors than you are willing or able to cover. April 6-10 is the average last date for a hard freeze (last 28-degree temperature) where plants might even freeze when covered.
Also, it is important to consider the type of plants that are being established out of doors. Sweet corn, being a warm season grass, does not do well during extended cool spells, yet it can tolerate being frozen when younger than the five leaf stage since the growing point is below ground prior to that stage of growth where new growth can originate.
Tomatoes and green beans, though, have growing points upon emergence that are above ground and are very susceptible to frost and freeze.
The cool season vegetable garden items that should be planted early (around April 1) include broccoli, cabbage, onions, radish and peas.
If one can cover items should a frost occur, one is usually better off getting items planted as early as possible so the delicious produce arrives earlier and insect or weed pressures are typically reduced.
Two extension publications found online, HO-14 "Starting Seeds Indoors," http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-14.pdf, and HO-91, "Spring Garden Calendar," http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext.HO-91.pdf, would be of interest to those of you feeling the garden bug. The HO-14 publication provides dates for starting various plants inside to have them ready for spring planting.
It is certainly time to be getting busy with the cool season plants like broccoli and cauliflower, but there is still plenty of time to get tomatoes, peppers, etc., started indoors for transplant to the garden this spring. These are two excellent resources to help you get started right this spring in your garden.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 Ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
March 10 -- Aquaculture Program, Spencer, 7 p.m.,
March 26 -- PARP Program, Putnam Fairgrounds, 1 p.m.,
March 31 -- Fish Cage Construction Workshop, Spencer, 6 p.m.