I’m sure you’ve noticed that about every seed pack and every “how to plant” article for spring crops starts out advising us to sow when the ground is workable. So, we do.
How many times have you planted radishes, lettuce, peas, and other crops and waited 10 days, 2 weeks, or more for them to germinate. In other years they’ve come up within a day or so.
As I have mentioned so often, each year has many variables. Planting when the “soil is workable” does not consider the variables. But if you time your planting based on soil temperature, you have a better chance of getting your crops off to a good start.
Optimal Soil Temperature Charts
There are plenty of charts on the internet that help you out by showing the optimal soil temperature for germination of various crops. One of my favorites is http://tomclothier.hort.net/page11.html. But when planting without a soil thermometer you’re just guessing at best.
I ordered mine today.
A Significant Benefit for Warm Weather Crops
It will be especially helpful in determining when to set tomatoes and peppers in the garden. If the soil is too cold they just sit there. And I recently read that pepper plants can be stunted all season if planted when the soil temperature is under 70 degrees. I have my suspicions this has happened to me, but with a soil thermometer I can avoid it in the future.
You’ll Know When to Expect Germination in Your Cool Weather Crops
I’m looking forward to knowing the soil temperature when I plant my peas and other cool weather crops. According to the soil temperature chart the optimum temperature for quick germination of peas is 77 degrees. Also according to the chart, if I want to plant at 50 degrees I can, but germination will take about 14 days.
Almost a Must to Know What’s Going on with Seed Started Indoors
Last year because of the cool spring my tomatoes didn’t germinate in my flats until June! I would not have had tomatoes by July 4th had it not been for a good friend sharing some of his starts with me. This year I have determined to try at least one flat of tomatoes inside. My soil thermometer will indicate if the soil temperature is right.
It’s Pretty Simple to Use.
- You want to find consistent ground temperature over three days. (Or average the temperature out over 3 to 5 days.)
- Take the temperature at mid-day.
- Leave the thermometer in the soil a few minutes before taking the reading.
- When you are preparing to plant seeds get your measurement for soil temperature from the first 2 or 3 inches of depth. Most seeds require the temperature to be consistent for this depth.
- When transplanting measure 5 to 6 inches deep.
A Tip for Keeping Your Soil Thermometer Visible
I know one thing I’m going to do immediate upon receiving mine — and that is — paint the top red so I won’t loose it in the soil. (I have lost tools for a year or more because when I turned around to look for them I couldn’t find them.)
I think this little tool is going to be one of my favorite things. It runs about $6 to $10 (stainless steel is more) and can take the guess work out of when to plant.
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