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Robert E. Thomas
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Mary Kroening, 573-882-9633
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Avid gardeners ready to plant their first annuals and summer vegetables may want you hold off until Mother's Day, said a University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.
"A lot of people hear that April 15 is the average frost-free date in mid-Missouri. They say, 'We are frost-free, and I can go out and plant anything that I want.' But April 15 is only the average frost-free date. Fifty percent of the time you have no frost after that date and fifty percent of the time you can still have a frost," said Mary Kroening.
Cool season crops such as peas, beans, lettuce, spinach and beets can be planted from mid-March to mid-April. However, summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers are more at risk for late frost damage, she said.
Gardeners should shoot for Mother's Day as their planting date for summer vegetables since no frost has been recorded in Columbia beyond May 12, she said.
"I tell people if you plant early, plant only what you don't mind losing," she said.
"Sometimes if it is not a real harsh frost, you can get by covering the plants, but if the temperature gets down in the 20s, annual and vegetable plants will not survive," she said.
Sixty degrees is about the ideal soil temperature for planting. Soils in mid-Missouri are now well below that temperature.
"People also think you can plant your summer bulbs into the soil and not worry about frost because the bulbs are not going to grow yet," she said. "But the bulbs planted in such cold soil just lie there and rot."
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