Early Spring Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Early Planting Season

by Erica Peterson on April 2, 2012

Traditionally, the Kentucky Derby marks the time when it’s safe to plant vegetable gardens in Louisville. But with an unseasonably warm March, many may be wondering whether it’s safe to move that deadline up. Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer.

With weeks of days when the temperature was in the 80s, green thumbs across the city are twitching. But unfortunately, it’s probably not time to break out the trowels yet.

Jimmy Henning is the Associate Dean for Extension at UK’s College of Agriculture.

“It’s not black and white. But it is an interesting discussion, because I guarantee you: farmers are asking us, ‘so what does it mean? Do we plant earlier?’” Henning says. “And then you have to go back to the data.”

And the data says the number of warm days before March 30 doesn’t necessarily correlate to the date of the last frost. The weather this year is similar to 2007, when an early spring came in March, but freezing temperatures around Easter killed many of the plants.

“We probably had people planting [corn] in mid-March,” Henning says. “Now, the probability of getting a frost on that and killing it is pretty good. But this might have been the 20 percent year that it doesn’t happen. So they hit the lottery, so to speak.”

Ultimately, Henning says it’s a gamble. If the gain is worth the risk, go ahead and plant.

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