GREENFIELD, Ind. — One of the most important aspects of gardening is knowing when to plant. However, it can be difficult to know the exact time to begin planting in order for a garden to fully flourish throughout the growing season.
Roy Ballard, retired Purdue Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Hancock County, said if your garden fails to thrive, simply adjusting your planting time, based on the plants’ heat and cold tolerance, might make a big difference.
“Plants don’t recognize calendars,” he said.
It used to be said that Mother’s Day was the frost-free date. Down in southern Indiana, along the Ohio River, that frost-free date was Derby Day, while up toward Michigan, colder weather causes gardeners to lose a few weeks and they sometimes don’t plant until mid-May.
But just because the term is frost-free, it doesn’t mean there may not be another frost. It should simply mean less damage to the plants.
“It’s a pretty vague part of gardening,” Ballard said, adding that if individuals only have a few plants, they can cover them with blankets, plastic, or even an empty milk jug.
The purpose of doing those things is trying to trap in heat from the sun that was built up during the day. It’s not perfect, but it does work, Ballard said.
For plants to be successful, soil temperatures need to be fairly warm. For example, Ballard said, soil temperatures for tomatoes, sweet corn and green beans should be close to 60 degrees.
If sweet corn is planted when it’s cold, it will sit there in the ground not sprouting or germinating, which is when insects and disease can become a problem.
One suggestion is to start the seed inside in a warm and moist area in the house, and once it starts to soften and sprout, individuals can then put their plants in the ground, Ballard said.
Individuals should wait until the soil temperatures and the air temperatures are fairly warm to start working in their garden, rather then pushing the envelope and planting them early.
“Peppers and tomatoes really don’t like to be chilled,” Ballard said.