This weekend we celebrated that time-honored tradition that most of us hate: changing the clock.
For me the change usually takes a few days to get used to — I’m particularly sensitive to light levels for waking up. Heck, I still kept getting up early in the morning last week when I had the flu.
The clock changing part isn’t as much an issue — my “go-to” timepiece, my phone, sets itself. The microwave and stove clocks go largely ignored.
The only clock that really needs setting is a cranky old electric clock I picked up at an estate sale last year. It grunts and groans along, telling the time. But it also reminds me that it is time to “spring forward” in the garden as well.
This nifty old clock that was sold by the Burpee Seed Company for its centennial in 1975 has a dial face for garden planting times. Not that I plan my garden by it, but it is a good visual reminder.
At the end of the long winter, it is a nice reminder that the garden season is just around the corner (or dial). Spring is just a few days away, after all.
This is the time of year where lots of things start to happen in the garden, and it is easy to fall behind. Here are a few things you should be thinking about in the garden over the next week or so:
• Seed starting indoors
Now is the time to get an indoor start on those favorite crops like tomatoes and peppers. These are the things that folks most often think about when they start seeds indoors.
Now is the time to start them for first planting after the danger of frost. You can still start them for a month or more for later planting though. You can also start Swiss chard (one of my favorite leafy greens) indoors now as well.
• Seed starting outdoors
Now that we’ve sprung forward, we can start thinking of planting things outdoors as well. Now is the time to start things outdoors that grow in cool weather; crops such as peas, radishes, spinach and leeks.
These crops can germinate in cooler soils and are often the first things planted and germinated in the garden. Keep in mind that they may be slow to germinate if the weather is too cool. These crops germinate best when the soil temperature (not air temperature) is between 40 and 50 degrees.
• Plant trees, shrubs and roses
Now is also the time to think about planting woody plants for the garden season. These plants can grow roots while the soil is warming up and prepare to send out leaves when the time is right. If you plant them now before the last frost, you’ll want to plant dormant plants that don’t yet have leaves or new growth on them. Those you need to save until after frost.
• Plant lettuce outside
Some folks will start lettuce or buy lettuce plants to set out. Now is the time to plant lettuce starts outside, especially for the heading varieties like iceberg that take a long time to mature.
• Planting potatoes?
It is a long-standing tradition in our area to plant potatoes in the garden on or around St. Patrick’s Day. While celebration of Irish heritage may make us think of the staple Irish crop (and the potato blight that brought so many Irish families to our shores), it really isn’t the best time to plant potatoes.
You may have some success getting early potatoes out, but more often than not the cool soil temperatures delay growth and the potatoes end up rotting in the ground. It is better to wait a few weeks and ensure success — you can plant potatoes much later in the season and still have success.