Spring Plantings

Scott SchluterMarch 4, 2012

So...not much of a winter this year. What about those plants we usually put in "once you can work the ground"? This ground was workable most of the entire winter. Does "peas in at St. Patrick's Day" turn into peas right now?

I've had spinach, kohlrabi, and beets going through the winter in beds covered with plastic overnight and on the few cold days we had. Is it time to consider putting in lettuce, spinach, broccoli, peas, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage, swiss chard, etc. now or should I wait until normal planting time starting mid-late March?


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For me "once you can work the ground" has as much to do with moisture levels as temperature. I need to wait until the soil is dry enough so that I won't be messing up the soil structure before I start planting. If that's not an issue for you, why not try a first planting of many of these crops to see if you can get an early harvest? I do know that some of the cole crops don't grow properly if they get cold temperatures too early, something about broccoli and maybe cauliflower not forming heads right(?)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 5:37PM
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Ooh, I replied to this thread this afternoon, but forgot the 2nd step, so it was held. I see nhbabs has raised the same issue I was commenting on. Well, I'll just submit it anyway ...

I'm so glad you asked this, because I've been wondering too.

The soil in my small raised bed is saturated right now, so I think any seeds going in might rot - but a few days of sun, and covering in plastic (or those window panes, if I can get it together) during rainy spells should get it dry enough to work pretty quickly.

Which reminds me ... the phrase "when the soil is workable" doesn't just mean when it's thawed. Soggy soil can't be turned without damage to its structure - its ability to hold air and moisture are seriously compromised if its worked when wet. You probably already knew this, but in case any newbies are reading the thread, it's a pretty important distinction. I made that mistake more then once when I was starting to garden; never again!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 8:04PM
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I'm of the belief that the recent winter weather has no bearing on the weather to come. Which means that I personally will not plant my peas until 1 April - when I normally plant them. And I am still planning on using a late May last frost date.

I remember a huge snow storm in May 1987. I think it was on 1 May. I had just gotten my first new car, and I ended up in the median strip of Route 2 out in Harvard. Whenever I'm tempted to plant early, I think of that!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Scott Schluter

Thanks guys! I never knew the proper definition of "workable soil" I guess. That explains a few years when certain things did not come up. I am in South Coast Mass. I use April 25 as my frost date to plan plantings (using the packets suggestion of how many weeks before/after last frost), and Memorial Day Weekend for my plants and warmer weather plants. Most of my stuff I start as seedlings inside, under lights.

I don't know many gardeners so I mostly wing things and practice the three Ls on this forum. Thanks in advance on any help you give me. If I set up a planting plan, would anyone be willing to critique?

Here is a link that might be useful: My home blog

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 5:22AM
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Scott Schluter

Ok, here is my plan. I do seedlings for a lot of things that are normally direct planted and have had good luck. Squashes and cucumbers in newspaper pots a number of weeks ahead of going outside had produced well for me. I've got shop lights on a timer in a warm spot; it's been working for me. I'm in Wareham, MA. Any advice appreciated! TIA!

Inside March

Outdoor end of March

Outdoors Mid April
swissh chardd

Indoors Mid April
summer squash
winter squash

Outside Memorial Day

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 11:39AM
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OK, now I'm curious - what are the three Ls?

Regarding your planting plan, and the question of whether anything can be planted now - I see a week's worth of above-normal temps coming up, so I'm going to start tomorrow sowing a few pea seeds every couple of days. If the first few sowings don't materialize, not much is lost. My veggie garden is really tiny, and getting smaller every year, as more of my little yard is taken over by ornamentals - still I can get enough peas, or maybe sweet peas if that's what's left in my seed collection - to do multiple plantings. Do you do yours all at once? Is there a benefit to that?

Also - do you ever direct-sow dill? Those seeds are very hardy, and can go into the garden with the peas - likewise in several small batches.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Scott Schluter

Thanks Digging.


I usually do my peas all at once so I get a big batch to process for storage and eat fresh. My garden is a decent size so we are talking about 3 packets or so of the peas.

I did a direct sow of dill last year early and it didn't come up so I'm trying a little later. May get it in before Memorial Day by a week or two.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Oh, I was certain one of the Ls was laugh - guess not! Dill self-sows for me, maybe you're a more vigilant weeder than I am.

That's quite a list, by the way, so I guess you really do have a good sized garden. I grow asparagus, a little lettuce, winter squash, assorted herbs (lots of basil, a flat of parsley, plus all the hardy herbs) and a few tomatoes, and peas, if I can remember to plant them.

The rest of our yard has gone to shrubs and perennials. I can't really start any seeds in the house - we don't have a good spot for it and I'm too forgetful.

Hope some of the forum's veggie gardeners will weigh in on your schedule!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 9:26AM
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ron48(z6 Mass. Essex)

Lets see now....it was almost 70* the other day and 1/2 " of snow yesterday. 19* last night...

The soil in my garden is unfrozen down 4-5". But very wet. If one believes the germination temperatures listed by the seed companies than none of your seed should germinate.

The exception to the laws of nature are in my case, cold frames, plastic tunnels, raised beds. plastic mulch, good sun light.

Warm the soil, reduce the moisture and increased sunlight.

I sow lettuce in my window boxes in the winter, the red lief types are the first to show up.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:51PM
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I often presprout some of my peas and then plant them out early (for me the first week of April or as soon as the snow is gone.) Spinach and potatoes are also tolerant of cold weather and I plant them as soon as the soil is dry enough. The peas I just soak for about 12 hours and then put them where they will stay a moist for a day or two; I usually use a plastic bag and an old towel left damp. Plant them out and in my experience they will start growing when the conditions are right as opposed to rotting. I tend to plant peas a couple of times since they are my favorites raw out of the garden and that gives me a longer time to eat them. I also presprout the potatoes in open egg cartons in a cool room for 2 or 3 weeks before I plant them.

I agree with DtD that on this forum the laughing has to be included in those L's.

For Daddymem's schedule, it looks a lot like mine, and I am quite a bit farther north. My tomatoes,eggplants, and peppers go out most years around Memorial Day, though my seeds that require warm soil like beans are usually a little later. So you are playing it safe, but may be able to plant some things earlier, depending on how soon your soil is warm and dry and what your temperatures are. I'm in a valley, and can only remember frost once in the last two weeks of May over the last 15 or 20 years.

My schedule hasn't allowed starting solanaceous plants like peppers, tomatoes and eggplants in recent years, but I used to start peppers mid-March and tomatoes a week or two later, and that worked out well for transplant size. (Peppers just always seemed slower to get started.) I usually warmed & dried the garden beds with a plastic covered low hoop tunnel and then planted in Wall-o-Waters to get a jump on the season a bit. Squash and cukes were always after the tomatoes and eggplants by a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 1:35PM
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