The Rockdale Gardener

Gardening Posts From Rockdale Cooperative Extension

When Can I Plant My Tomatoes?

Three weeks of temperatures in the mid-sixties makes every gardener worth his or her salt want to get sp veggie 2015 (1)out and start planting their vegetable garden. With the daffodils blooming and the buds on the trees swelling, spring looks like it is here. But beware, the ‘garden-gods,’ like the Greek gods of old, love to play tricks and torment their innocent subjects.

Take it from one who has been made a fool by the gardening deities. The average final frost date is March 20-25 according to UGA. However we can have freezing temperatures as last as April 30!

Even though I can still hear my grandma telling me to wait to plant my garden until the leaves on the oak trees are the size of a squirrel’s ear, more than one spring has found me planting tomatoes and peppers in March, only to be out in the cold like a fool in the dark the first week of April covering up the cold sensitive plants with anything I could find. The next morning I would be out there before work removing the sheets, blankets, buckets and flower pots that I had used to guard my tender plants. I am sure my grandma would have chuckled at the sight.

The soil temperature this week at 2 inches deep is around 65 degrees, according to UGA’s weather station network. at 4″ is is 60 degrees. Most of our garden plants need soil temperatures around 65 degrees to germinate and grow successfully. If you plant your warm season seeds when the soil is too cool, they will not grow. A tomato planted in the cool soil today will just sit there until the soil warms up, so what is the point of planting now and having to worry about late frosts?

Another reason to wait to plant your summer vegetable garden is that Rockdale County soils are still saturated from the rains of earlier this year. Running your tiller through your garden will only form big sticky clay clumps. The soil needs to be relatively dry when you plow.

Don’t fret though. You gardening nuts can still plant spring veggies. Leafy greens, turnips, radishes and mustard can all be planted following UGA’s gardening calendar. It is also a great time to soil test your garden and apply lime as needed. Take two cups of soil to the Rockdale County Extension Office.

Waiting to plant your summer garden until the second week of April will save you time, money and frustration. You will also avoid becoming a victim of the ‘gardening-gods’ favorite practical joke; the late spring frost.