Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Time to Plant

I have been advising gardeners to delay planting tender plants this year due to a weather pattern that has been in place since late October, 2013.  The pattern made it more likely for a late freeze.  Normally the last freeze would occur in the Midlands by late March.  Most would simply wait until Easter, but Easter is quite late this year.  The latest freeze was on March 27th and it was a hard freeze with a low of 28° F.  It was very close to freezing on March 31st with a low of 33° F, but there was frost that morning.

Another cold, dry air mass is making its way south and computer models have been suggesting that a frost or freeze might occur on Thursday, April 10th.  High pressure will settle over the area with clear skies, light winds, and dry air for Thursday morning.  The forecast for Columbia is for a low near 40° F that morning, but outlying areas may drop into the mid 30s.  This would be enough for a light frost in low-lying protected areas due to radiational cooling at night.

This will likely be the last chance of a frost or freeze.  If it does not happen then the previous dates will be the last freeze or frost.  The chance of a frost or freeze on April 10th was strong enough to advise gardeners to wait.  The seven-day forecast reveals that it will be time to plant this weekend.

The 7-day forecast made Wednesday, April 9, 2014 for Columbia, SC.  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: WLTX-TV.

A warming trend will begin after the chilly start Thursday morning and will last through the weekend.  It will be getting a little warmer each day and temperatures will be warmer than normal by Friday.  This provides an excellent time to plant this weekend.  The cold weather will be behind us and rain will be likely for the first of next week.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Minimum soil temperatures at a 4-inch depth are in the upper 50s.  There has been adequate rain since December and there are no areas of drought in South Carolina.

Why should you plant a garden?

Not everyone can, but I have been advising people who can that it would be a good idea.  Drought will impact some of the major vegetable growing areas for the third consecutive year.  This year the greatest impact will be in California.
What comes from California?  Click on the image for a larger view.  Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

As you can see from the graphic above a good portion of our fruits, vegetables, and nuts come from California.  It amounts to about half of the fruits and vegetables in the country.  The current drought will greatly reduce the acreage planted.  This means that fruits and vegetables will be more expensive this year at the grocery store.

There are advantages to growing your own vegetables.  You control when they are picked and how much, if any, pesticides you use.  They will taste better from the garden than from the grocery store.

I advise growing only those vegetables you commonly eat.  Any occasional or exotic vegetables can be bought at the store.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with vegetable dishes.  Most of all try to make it fun.  You’ll eat better and may just learn a thing or two.