This spring’s delightful weather has all gardeners and would-be gardeners anticipating the flavor of home grown vegetables. When is it safe to plant seeds and plants in the garden?
The answer is: it depends on the crop. Cool season vegetables are able to withstand frost and can be planted as soon as the soil is ready.
How do you know when the soil is ready? Hold a handful of your garden soil in your hand and squeeze your hand shut. Open your hand and observe; does water run out of the soil, does the soil stay clumped together in your hand, or does it crumble apart? If the soil crumbles, then it’s ready for planting. If water runs out of it or if it stays clumped, it’s not ready yet. Try again in a week’s time to see if it crumbles. (See photos.)
Testing the soil to see if it is ready to plant.
Which vegetables are the cool season ones? Lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas, and onions are among the most popular. (See our tip sheet on Planning Your Garden.)
Warm season vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and peppers), on the other hand, will not survive frosty temperatures (See our tip sheet on Planning Your Garden). So, we need to wait patiently until the threat of frost is past, or be prepared to cover these tender plants if the temperatures dip to frost or freeze levels.
When will it be safe to plant these? (link to chart ) Many Michigan gardeners plan on planting these crops over the Memorial Day weekend. These plants have definite soil temperature requirements for growth so planting them early in hopes of having ripe tomatoes sooner will only work if the weather cooperates.