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IU's Lea Woodard shares tips for planting this summer's garden

Mar. 27, 2014

Old man winter may still be lingering outside our door, but warm weather is just around the corner.

In fact, Lea Woodard, coordinator for Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, said that right now – even with evening temperatures predicted to dip as low as 28 degrees March 29 -- is a good time to start planting some of your summer vegetables.

lettuce

Lettuce is one of the vegetables that can planted now, said Lea Woodard of Hilltop Garden and Nature Center.

"Spring is upon us and our gardens beds are thawing out,” Woodard told Inside IU Bloomington March 26.

“Don't wait until after the frost date to start working on seeds and plants for your garden. If you like to start your vegetable plants from seeds, now is the time." 

Woodard provided a few tips for preparing a garden for summer.

• While it’s too cold to plant tomatoes and peppers out in the garden right now in Bloomington, many other varieties of vegetables can be direct seeded (rather than starting the seeds indoors earlier) through April 10. These “cool season” seeds include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, peas, lettuce, radishes, beets, kale, potato, turnips, parsley, parsnip, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, onions (sets or seeds). If these seeds are started any later, they will not produce fruit early enough before the weather gets too hot for them and the plants will go to seed or die back. Carrots and chard can be direct seeded any time after April 1.

• Tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds can be started indoors now. These seeds should be started 6 to 8 weeks prior to being planted in the ground.

• The average frost-free date for Bloomington is April 25; this means a 50 percent chance remains that there may be a frost after this date. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant should not be placed in the ground outside until any risk of frost has passed which is around May 10. The latest that Bloomington has historically had a frost is May 27. Following this year’s frigid winter weather, it will be prudent to keep an eye on nighttime temperatures throughout the month of May.

• If an unexpected frost happens, don’t worry. Plants can often be covered with a light sheet or cloth to protect them. Plastic will work too, but try to use stakes or a wire or plastic hoop over the plants that supports the plastic so that it does not touch the leaves. Sometimes condensation will form on the inside of the plastic and will freeze. If the plant is touching the plastic, the leaves of the plant may also freeze. If the weather is expected to drop below 32 degrees, cover your plants that evening and make sure to take the cover off during the day when it warms back up.

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