It’s early April, and the weather still can be cold and blustery at times. But even so, it’s about time to plant your cool-season crops along Colorado’s Front Range. Some of you ambitious types may already have a few crops in the ground.
One of the best ways to determine whether to plant is by checking the soil temperature. To do this, stick a soil or meat thermometer four inches into the soil in four areas of your garden plot. If you’re growing beans stick the thermometer down six inches. Record each temperature. Do this for a few days. If your readings average 40 to 50 degrees, it’s time to plant.
You can even warm the soil faster by covering it with black plastic. It’s not cheating.
Or you can simply check daytime temperatures to make sure they’re not dipping below 40 degrees.
Which are the hardiest cool-season crops? Peas, radishes, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and onions, to name a few. I’m not talking about tomatoes and peppers here—those are warm-season crops, which we typically don’t plant until late May or early June after the risk of frost has passed. But you can go ahead now and plant seeds indoors for those crops.
Warm-season crops need outdoor soil temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees.
For more information about when to plant various crops, check the Colorado State University Extension website.
If you’re wondering which varieties to plant, take a look at All-America Selections (AAS).
Each year, the folks at All-America Selections carry out rigorous trials on flower and vegetable varieties to determine the best performers. Then AAS posts the winners each year on their website.
It’s a big deal in the green industry for a variety to be chosen as an AAS champ.
For the first time in AAS’ history, the judges have selected a strawberry and a currant-type tomato for 2016. The strawberry variety is the ever-bearing Strawberry Delizz F1, and the currant tomato variety is Tomato Candyland Red.
Often the newly named varieties are difficult to find in garden centers because the seed companies and growers haven’t had time to ramp up production on the winners.
So if you can’t find the 2016 champs this year, simply buy selections from earlier years. You can bet that by next year, seed companies and growers will make the 2016 winners more widely available.