There may be nothing like early spring heat temperatures to lull a gardener right into a false sense of safety. Threats of freezing temperatures in elements of the state this week are snapping many would-be planters again to actuality.
The Nationwide Climate Service on Wednesday issued a freeze look ahead to elements of Piscataquis, Penobscot, Kennebec, Oxford, Franklin and Cumberland counties via Thursday morning. Temperatures are anticipated to drop into the higher 20 levels Fahrenheit, beneath freezing.
Among the many precautionary actions the Nationwide Climate Service recommends is defending outside crops and crops from the chilly that would kill them. This might be carried out by protecting crops or by bringing potted ones indoors.
That, stated Kate Garland, horticulturist with College of Maine Cooperative Extension, is sweet recommendation to heed. She recommends that anybody occupied with placing seedlings or transplants into the bottom this week ought to wait.
Maine sometimes sees the ultimate frost of the yr by the top of Might, although there are elements of northern Maine that may expertise a frost proper up till the top of June. Latest heat temperatures across the state that hit the 70s during the last week under no circumstances imply these closing frost dates are going to be earlier this yr.
“Again in 2020, there have been some very chilly nights in early June that caught a number of gardeners abruptly,” Garland stated. “Years earlier than that, I’ll always remember the frustration of getting my hardened off tomato crops get hit by a chilly night shortly after Memorial Day weekend. It wasn’t a full frost, but it surely was chilly sufficient to essentially set them again to a degree the place I made a decision to replant.”
Regardless of how favorable circumstances are in Might, Garland recommends planting most warm-season crops like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers the primary week in June.
“Gardeners within the additional north might wish to wait one other week to 10 days to be on the protected aspect,” she stated. “Extra necessary than the particular date is the climate forecast.”
Despite the fact that it’s protected to plant cold-tolerant vegetable seeds like onions, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, swiss chard or beets now, seedlings needs to be planted later.
Nevertheless, Garland stated now could be the right time to start out hardening off these seedlings.
Hardening off is the method of getting seedlings that had been began inside acclimated to the outside by slowly exposing them to the weather. Seedlings transplanted on to an out of doors backyard will usually die from the shock of fluctuating temperatures, snapping off from wind or burning in direct daylight.
“I’ve been rising roughly 2,000 seedlings indoors and have been lugging them out and in of the home each day for over every week now,” Garland stated. “They’re starting to toughen up, however the night temps are too chilly to threat leaving them outdoor in a single day.”
It’s potential to buy seedlings from nurseries which have already been hardened off, Garland stated.
“It’s all the time a good suggestion to ask the nursery employees whether or not issues are hardened off and able to plant earlier than making any assumptions,” she stated. “Your native nurseries need you to achieve success, so that they’ll be a terrific useful resource.”
It’s comprehensible that given heat climate, some gardeners jumped the gun and have already planted seedlings. Despite the fact that temperatures are going to drop this week, Garland stated there are issues they’ll do to guard the crops.
The simplest factor to do is canopy the crops at night time with plastic or material. These covers can both be eliminated when daytime temperature rises, or have air flow to permit daytime hotter air to flow into.
“The secret is ensuring these cozy areas don’t get too sizzling throughout the day,” Garland stated. “If it’s only a few crops, you might wish to contemplate placing them again of their pots and giving them just a little extra transition time.”
Earlier than putting any seedlings into the bottom, gardeners ought to test the forecast for nighttime temperatures for the following week to 10 days.
“We now have had late frosts previously,” Garland stated. “It might simply occur once more.”