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Michael Wheeler: Soil temperatures not yet ready for spring planting

POSTED: March 9, 2017 5:51 p.m.

Editor’s note: GeorgiaFACES news editor Sharon Dowdy of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences contributed to this column.

March in Georgia is always a roller coaster of ups and downs with warm weather at the first of the week and a cold rain on the weekend.

Generally, we all get to the point in late winter that we just wish for warmer weather and the emergence of a few flower buds only feeds the fire. And this year has been unusual as spring seems to be here early.

With the return of warmer weather, planting gardens and sowing lawns become a weekend priority for many. But relying on warmer weather as a guide to planting is not generally the best way to go.

“In Georgia, we may have a warm front come in one day and a cold front a few days later,” said Bob Westerfield, a consumer horticulturist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. “It may hit 75 degrees outside, but the air temperature isn’t important when it comes to gardening; the soil temperature is.”

In Hall County, soil temperatures are averaging around 55 degrees for the past few days.

“That soil’s not ready for tomatoes. Summer crops need from 60 to 65 degrees,” Westerfield said.

Green beans can handle temperatures of 55 degrees, but it is still not quite warm enough for them. If gardeners ignore his advice and seed their gardens, he says the seeds won’t germinate.

However, gardeners who cannot resist the temptation can still plant cold season crops such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach and turnips.

Gardeners can track soil temperatures a couple of different ways. They can do it directly by using a meat thermometer to test the garden soil, or they can use UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network at www.georgiaweather.net.

Hall County has two stations, which is rare. One is on the north end of the county on Clarks Bridge Road. The other is on the campus of University of North Georgia Gainesville in Oakwood.

Soil temperatures “creep up slowly” and Georgia soils should be ready to sow in seed by early-to-mid April.

For more information on vegetable gardening in Georgia, read the UGA Extension publication, “Vegetable Gardening in Georgia” at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.ugaextension.org/county-offices/hall.html. His column appears biweekly and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.



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