Weathering the Elements

| 5/19/2013 9:48:55 AM

Tags: Seed germination, Soil temperature, Day night temperatures, Karen Newcomb,

Weathering The Elements 

Nature’s peculiarities often alter the growth and quality of homegrown vegetables.  Temperatures that are too high or too low, summer hail, and too much or too little sun may damage crops.  While we can’t control Mother Nature, we can learn to co-operate or compensate so that our gardens have a better than even chance.

Germination Wisdom 

Most vegetables germinate seed, grow, and set fruit within a surprisingly narrow temperature range.  Each vegetable seed has individual requirements regarding soil temperature.  Lettuce and onion, for example, tolerate soil temperatures down to 32° F; germination at such low temperatures is slow, but the seed will survive and will sprout as the soil temperature warms up.  Bean and sweet corn seeds, on the other hand, will rot if left in the ground more than a few days at temperatures below 55-60° F. 

Vegetable seeds also cease germinating when the temperature rises too high—somewhere between 86 and 104° F, depending on the vegetable.  During hot weather, surface soil temperatures often climb far above this range.  Even if the seed has germinated, the seedlings (especially carrots and beets) can die of heat injury at the soil surface.  Gardeners can aid germination and seedling survival during hot weather by spreading 2 inches of organic material (such as compost) over the soil after the seeds have been planted.  This protective layer reduces soil temperature and holds in moisture.

Soil temperatures for Vegetable Seed Germination 

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