soil temp

slowpoke_gardenerJanuary 25, 2014

I buried my soil temp. sensor about 3 days ago, the grown was frozen at the time. The highest temp I have seen so far is 34.4 degrees. I may have to wait a while to plant.

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canokie

I was just looking at the Mesonet maps last night and the averages for our area are in the mid to upper 30s also. Is this colder than usual for end of January? I was thinking that it is... I recall planting stuff in early to mid February in prior years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Temperatures

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:18PM
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mulberryknob

If the crocus and daffodils are any indication, it is colder. In years past--some, not all--I have had daffs and crocus blooming by the third week of January. Not happening this year. The leaves are barely poking above ground. No buds in sight yet.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 4:10PM
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wbonesteel(7)

Until the nighttime air temps come up a bit, the soil temps hardly matter. otoh, I do have one row of taters, two rows of peas and spinach in the ground.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 7:40PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I think soil temps in the 30s in January are pretty typical, to the extent that anything here is consistent enough to be considered typical.

You can go to the Climate section of the OK MESONET and view the county pages that have averages for your county. There's a brief one-page synopsis of each county, and then there's a more detailed multipage document for each county, and that's the one that has your average soil temperature for each month.

You can plant some cool-season crops in February, but it just depends on what sort of weather you're having in any given year. Some years the winter weather is a lot warmer than it is in other years, and you can get away with planting really early. Other years it is really cold and you'll lose early plantings to cold air or to freezing air temperatures, frost, sleet or snow (or any combination thereof).

About the only thing I consistently plant every February is onions. Everything else (cool-season crops) might be planted in February, but maybe in March, or even in early April depending on what our soil temps and air temps are at any given time. If you transplant plants into soil that is too cold for them, they just sit and stall and don't grow anyway, so there's not much point in planting early. I've planted potatoes early some years only to have them frozen back to the ground. They'll regrow, but they tend to produce smaller yields, and if they freeze back several times and regrow several times, they are expending all their energy on producing new foliage and that often means a lower yield when it is time for the tubers to set.

We have had so many really late, freezing nights here that I don't push the limits and plant early nearly as much as I used to. It just doesn't pay off most years, and it pains me to say that because I love to plant early.

I try to sort of go with the flow and start seeds whenever the little voice in my head tells me it is time. So far, the voice in my head is saying it is too cold and likely to stay that way a while, so I'm not in any big hurry. I don't even look at the calendar, I just wait for my instincts to kick in and say "do it now". So far, they are silent. My friend, Fred, used to try to push me to plant beans and corn as early as he did, but his early ones often froze, and my land is at a lower altitude and gets colder at night, so I just wouldn't do it. Sometimes he had planted beans and corn 2 or 3 times before I finally planted mine.....so just watching him do that was a good lesson for me about the perils of sowing seed too early in cold soil.

At our place, not only is the soil really cool, but there is not rain and the soil moisture level in the soil is far below what it normally is at this time of year. There's no reason for me to get in a hurry to do anything if rain isn't going to fall.

You cannot plant by the calendar. Plants don't grow by the calendar. They grow when the soil temperatures and air temperatures are in the right range for them. I take all those planting calendars with a grain of salt because they are based on the average weather conditions, and we rarely have conditions that exactly match our averages. We're either above or below average most all the time.....and in winter, planting when the air and soil temps are too cold seldom pays off.

I really pushed the limits our first few years here and planted as early as I could, and didn't really feel like it helped me get a much earlier crop, if it was earlier at all.

When the air temperatures are colder than plants like, it sets them back. It can freeze them to the ground and then they'll eventually resprout, but that means they are using energy that otherwise could go into producing a harvest. It can kill them. It can make their growth stall for a long time. With some plants, like broccoli, if the plants are exposed to certain temperatures for a specific number of days, it can cause the plants to produce poorly even months later. If some plants, like potatoes, freeze back to the ground once or twice or more, they'll still produce potatoes, but they'll generally produce less than they would have if they were planted later and never froze. Lettuce handles cold pretty well, and so does spinach, but even they can freeze back once the temperatures hit the single digits So, you have to weigh the negatives associated with planting too early with any positives you expect to gain from planting early. For me, there is very little that's worth planting early. Tomatoes, of course, always are worth planting early, because if you can protect them and keep them alive, you'll get more fruit to set before we reach the temperatures that impeded fruitset and you'll likely get an earlier harvest. You have to weigh even that, though, against the possibility that the plants will freeze back to the ground and you'll have to start over.

I'm not seeing many signs of spring yet. We have had dandelions blooming and a few spring beauties, but the cold freezes them back to the ground when it hits the mid-teens or the single digits. Then we don't have any flowers for a few days, and then they recover and send up new blooms....and along comes an 8 or 10 degree night that freezes them back again. None of our daffodil foliage is up yet, but there are a few herb and wildflower plants growing very low to the ground. They are volunteers and they have been frozen back repeatedly the last two months.

I may change my mind later, but based on the weather at our house, I'm not in any hurry whatsoever to plant anything yet in 2014, and my instincts about planting times rarely let me down.

Dawn

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 12:22AM
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chickencoupe

Larry, I got the seeds in the mail, yesterday. What a wonderful surprise. I look forward to BREAKING MORE GROUND because of it. Nah... I'm just kidding. I love it. Looking forward to trying these new root crops! Sounds yummy.

Now, if it would just warm up...

bon

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 9:12PM
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slowpoke_gardener

Bon, I am glad you got seeds, but I don't remember sending any seeds out this year.

My soil temp was 33 yesterday and I need to replace the fuel line and change the oil on one of my tillers, so I tilled the sweet potato bed. The soil tilled and looked very nice. I had forgotten Madge had planted bulbs in that bed, needless to say that did not go over very well.

Larry

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 9:36AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

larry

sounds like you got a mess on your hands. LOL

I tested my yard with a digital instant read and got 35 degrees about 4 inches down.

Mike

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Larry, If your tiller chopped up the bulbs, don't you get credit for leaving behind twice or three times as many bulbs as you found there when you started tilling?

My soil temperature in beds raised 4"above grade was about 53 to 54 degrees today, under mostly bare soil that had less than an inch of mulch on top of it. Of course, our high temperature was 71 today and it was partly sunny so it almost felt warm out there. By this time Sunday, I doubt the soil temperatures will be in the 50s.....and more likely will be in the 30s. However, just a couple of nights ago we dropped to 6 degrees, so I am kind of surprised the soil is as warm as it is. We also have lots of dandelions and chickweed in bloom, and my perennial onions and garlic have foliage about 4-6" tall, although the foliage was bit back by the cold on that 6-degree night. Poa annua is sprouting in the yard and garden, and I was pulling it out of raised beds as I worked on cleaning up the beds yesterday and today. The irises also have several inches of foliage sticking up out of the ground. Apparently they don't realize it still is winter here and spring is still a long way off.

Our air temperatures have been all over the place in January---from the upper 70s to the single digits--and back to the 70s again. It seems like right after we have a gorgeous day in the upper 60s or in the 70s, it immediately is followed by a big cold front with ice, sleet, snow or just monstrously cold winds. Today was the nice day, and then this weekend we'll see the cold return with a good chance of some type of wintery precip.

I am sure some rain is going to fall. It is almost time for me to plant my onions, and about the only time we're guaranteed to get rain at our house is when it is time for me to start planting cool-season crops. We always get that rain right before planting time or during it, and it tends to slow me down. It is hard to be unhappy about the prospect of precipitation, though, because the January precip was pathetic across the entire state.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:33PM
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chickencoupe

Larry

Apologies. It was a different Larry. And thanks for asking this question about temps.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:50PM
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