2014 A Year To Be Planting – Drought – Cool Season Planting Time Slipping Away

If there was ever a year in recent memory to plant your own food or vegetable garden, this is probably the year.  Over half of all our fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. come from California and they are in a terrible drought, like our farm friends in much of western Oklahoma.  The federal water reservoirs are not releasing water this year to large areas of vegetable and orchard farms across California.  Depending on who you believe, somewhere between 500,000 and 850,000 acres of vegetables will not even be planted this crop season.  Because of the drought, hundreds of thousands of acres of fruits, berries and nuts will not get the water they need and will produce smaller fruit and much less fruit while under drought stress.  Expect produce and fruit prices to go up dramatically this summer and fall as a result of this extreme drought.

 We are in the last couple of weeks for planting your 2014 cool season crops.  Many old timers believe the best time to plant potatoes is around St. Patrick’s Day which seems appropriate for Irish potatoes.  They should definitely be planted over the next couple of weeks to develop the best yield.  The same goes for onion sets and onion plants.  You need to plant young plants of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce right away to get your best yields before we get too hot and stress out these cool season crops.  We are already at the tail end of the planting season for seeds of beets, carrots, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, peas, spinach, turnips and radishes.  We are also in the last couple of weeks to plant bare root crowns of rhubarb, asparagus and horseradish.  This is the last call to plant bare root fruit trees; berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and blueberries as well as grapes.  You can plant container grown fruit trees and berry crops as the season warms up and throughout the growing season but time is running out to plant these crops while they are bare root and less expensive.  Visit your local nursery or garden center and select the varieties you want to grow and get them planted before March runs out on all these cool season crops.

Hopefully we have seen the last of our single digit low temperatures and we will begin a steady warm up as the days get longer and the sun gets brighter.  Soon we will be starting to enjoy the first flowers of spring from our crocus and daffodil bulbs and flowering shrubs like the yellow forsythia and orange or red quince will brighten up our days.

We should wait until April 10 or 15, after our last average freeze date, to start planting the warm season vegetable seeds and plants including our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, etc.  This gap between cool season veggies and warm season veggies is a great time to prune our rose bushes and apply our pre-emergent weed killers.  The weed and feed type products allow you to kill crabgrass and other summer weeds before they germinate.  Properly applied and watered in, they will kill weed seeds trying to sprout over the next 6 to 12 weeks and reduce weed competition for your turf grass.  Weed and feed versions will kill the weeds while feeding the grass and should be applied before the redbud trees are finished flowering.

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