Beware the Urge to Plant

The days are getting longer and warmer.
The grass is getting greener and the ground is warming up.
green pastures
And I’m ready to play in the dirt and plant my garden!
While it’s ok to plant cold season crops like broccoli, lettuce, and spinach now, it’s still too cold to plant tomatoes and peppers in the ground.
I was at a local big box store a few days ago and couldn’t believe how many people were buying tomato plants.  Yesterday, as I was visiting my local Farmer’s Co-op I noticed the same phenomenon.  I asked the guy that checked me out why they sold tomato plants so early.  He said people start asking for them in March and if they don’t get them early, they will go somewhere else to buy them.  “Do they know it’s too early to plant them?”, I asked.  He laughed and said, “Yes, but the urge to have to have the first tomato of the season is too strong for some people.”
He’s right.
My dad has always had a garden.  He knows better than to plant early, yet one year he planted 80 tomato plants the first of April.  I reminded him that our last freeze date is April 15th.  I also reminded him that when we grew tomatoes commercially, they did not even give us the plants until May 15th.
He planted them anyway.  We had a freeze.  They all died except 3.  He bought more and replanted.
I think we all know the moral to this story.
So, for those of us in NW Arkansas, the last average freeze date is April 15th.  I always wait and plant my warm season veggies (tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, okra) the end of April/first of May.  (If you remember last year, we had a very rare snow May 3rd).
By waiting (and I know it’s hard), you allow the ground to warm, too.  Plopping a tomato in the cold ground may make you feel better, but cold soil could slow down the growth later on.  Studies have shown that tomatoes planted early typically produced tomatoes the same time as those planted late.  Same goes for peppers.
Seeds may not germinate in cold soil, either.  Corn and okra, for example, like warm soil too.  You might get lucky and have some germinate early, but most likely they will sit in the ground and rot and, well, that’s just not right.
So, around mid-April, start keeping an eye on the weather and extended forecasts.  Be patient. Warmer weather will happen this month!
p.s  my meat chicks arrived yesterday! Stay tuned….