With the crazy weather we have been having, I thought it would be a good time to talk about this. I’ve been planning on doing this post anyway.
Cole Crops (Cabbage, Broccoli, etc.) and Onions – Cole Crops and Onions need to be planted as soon as possible in early spring. March being the best time in general but late January in the deep south and April further north. They can all handle cold weather and a few frosts or freezes. Wait until the threat of most of the heavy freezes has past before setting them out. Where we are here in Zone 7, it is best to plant Cole Crops and Onions in late February and Early March.
Strawberries – can be planted starting in January and February in the south up until April in the north. Here in Zone 7, you can plant strawberries in February.
Tomatoes – you want to plant your tomatoes in the garden when the night temperatures stay consistently above 60 degrees F. You can plant your tomatoes sooner when the nights are above 50 F or even 40 F but they won’t do much growing until the night temperatures stay in the 60’s. If you do chance it and plant when the nights are cooler than 60, it would be beneficial to cover your tomatoes with buckets or something else to help protect them and keep the young plants a little warmer during the night. Here we advise people not to plant their tomatoes before April 15.
Cantaloupe, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peppers and Watermelons – all like warm temperatures and do not do well with night temperatures below 60F. You will want to wait until you are sure that the nights will stay above 60F to plant these vegetables. Will they survive nights with temperatures below 60? Sometimes they will survive, but the plants will be severely stressed and may or may not pull though. Usually you will see cold damage on the leaves (curled leaves, brown and black colorations, wilt). Around here we tell people April 25 or so is usually when the nights get warm enough and is a good date to plant.
In Fort Smith, the average last freeze is March 22 BUT the latest freeze was April 17. Fifty miles north of here in Fayetteville, AR, the average last freeze is April 15 and the latest recorded freeze was May 9. Fifty miles and there is nearly a month difference on the average freeze date. Tonight our low for Fort Smith is forecasted to be 29 F while in Fayetteville it is 23 F.
My point is that location and every year is different and therefore there is no set date on when to plant. My best recommendation is to be careful, err on the conservative side. If you think you are ready to plant, give it an extra week then check the forecast. If there are no cold fronts coming, then you’re most likely good to go.
But unless you wait until the last recorded freeze date in your area, you still may get bit.
Nothing is ever perfect.