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February 2018, Week 2, Outdoors Planting Begins For Some Now

A day late and a dollar short, but better late than never, here's the Week 2 thread.

This is the week it all begins, at least for folks in southeastern and southern OK, where it finally is time to put onions and some other cool-season plants in the ground. I haven't done either, but expect my onions to arrive today. I'll probably plant them in a few days, certainly before the end of the week, but first I'm going to put a soaker hose on their future bed and water low and slow so the soil in and beneath that raised bed will have adequate moisture in it.

For most of the state, we gardeners have been almost two months without receiving even a measly 0.25" of rainfall in one day, so it is safe to assume the moisture levels in the upper levels of the soil are low. For some parts of the state, the last good rainfall was in early October. Here's the map that tells the tale:

Consecutive Days Without 0.25" Rainfall in One 24-Hr Period

In our garden, I'm only worried about the lack of moisture in the upper 2-3 inches of soil right now. When I dig down deeper with a trowel, I find some moisture in the soil---probably because of the wonderful 2.5" of rainfall we received in mid-December, Without that moisture, I think I wouldn't be planting at all because we'd likely already be in Extreme Drought here right now. As it is, planting a garden during Severe Drought is enough of a leap of faith as it is. I've just got to believe that it is going to rain (I mean real rain, not the piddly little one-hundredth inch here or there that we're getting this winter) again at some point. I no longer trust a forecast with rain in it at all because no matter what they forecast we get nothing or next to nothing.

I'm also not real thrilled with the overnight lows. They are staying consistently lower than forecast and that's not good for a gardener's plants. The forecast low last night at our Mesonet station: 22, actual low (as of right now) 14. For some reason, the NWS forecast models have been consistently off by 6-10 degrees on our overnight lows this season, and for me, knowing the overnight lows is important in determining when to plant. Even cool-season plants have a point at which they can freeze to death or suffer severe cold injury, so it matters to me if the lows are in the low teens instead of the low 20s, for example.

For those of you wanting to plant onions, normally onions planted in well-drained soil can tolerate temperatures below 20, and often down into the upper single digits, with no damage. It gets dicier if your soil is sopping wet. I've had onions freeze to death in wet soil at temperatures that don't bother them in drier soil. Remember, though, that what also matters is the air temperatures to which they're exposed after they reach the 5-leaf stage. At that point, just a week of cold temperatures can stall their growth, and later cause bolting after they resume growth. So, I plant as much with the next month's air temperatures in mind as with the current temperatures in mind. Even if you get snow, young onions can tolerate it well---and even like it because the snow brings them moisture and also insulates them some from the cold air. Remember how our daffodils do in snowy weather? Their little flower heads may droop a bit but they perk up as soon as they snow melts. That's about how onions handle snow. I'm going to go ahead and plant onions this week pretty much on time as long as something external (like fires) doesn't keep me out of the garden and prevent me from getting it done.

I might drag my seed potatoes out of the deep, dark recesses of the darkest corner of the walk-in pantry under the stairs and see if they are starting to sprout yet. I don't think it would hurt the seed potatoes if I put them in the ground now, but I may need to chit them for a week or two if they aren't sprouting on their own yet. I plant potatoes pretty deeply---about 8 to 9" down, so there should be adequate moisture available to them, and by the time they've grown enough to emerge from the soil, surely the nights will be quite a bit warmer than they are now.

Other than that, my plan for the week is to sow more seeds indoors---I am behind on that partly because of the wildfires and partly because that little internal gardener's voice in my head has consistently warned me for weeks to go slow and not get in any sort of a hurry. I've been listening to that voice because it generally is steering me in the right direction. For as far south as we are, we still can have shockingly cold nights very late in Winter and even through late Spring, even when the days are very warm. This feels like one of those years. One thing to watch for? Low dewpoints. When the dewpoints are low, our temperatures drop like a rock the second the sun starts to go down. That happened last night. When we went to bed last night, our temperature was already 1 degree lower than the forecast overnight low, and it was like 9:00 p.m. or so.

Yesterday when we went to the Wal-Mart in Gainesville, as we drove by the Garden Center, I noticed all the spring gardening transplants were gone. I was puzzled because they usually don't move them indoors---tending to let them freeze rather than proactively covering or protecting them. Well, when I went into the stores, all the little cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuce, and herb transplants were sitting on racks inside the building, joyfully smiling and beaming at the warmth and nice store lighting. For once, the personnel at this store didn't let their cool-season plants freeze overnight. Yay! Perhaps that's a good sign, because sometimes they've let everything freeze to death---and I'm talking hundreds and hundreds of plants.

What I hated about going into the store yesterday.......the way that certain retailers go overboard on every single holiday any far overboard that it turns me off and I don't want to buy a single holiday thing from them just because they have jumped the shark. (Y'all remember Fonzie jumping the shark in Happy Days, right? That was a sure sign the show was too old and going overboard and needed to be cancelled!) If this store had one Valentine's Day bouquet of fresh-cut (or, lol, not so fresh....) flowers, it had 500, They were everywhere. You couldn't walk anywhere in the store without having to go past massive row after row of bouquets. And, that's just the bouquets. Need a Valentine's Day themed cookie or cupcake? Relax. They have dozens and dozens of different options. Need an innocent little green house plant? They have all kinds with plastic hearts and red or pink ribbons added. Don't even get me started on the special section of ridiculously overdone and overpriced Valentine's Day cards and other merchandise that mostly is candy/excess sugar that no one needs and cheap plastic junk toys. Need a stuffed animal of some sort for your Valentine? No problem. They have hundreds of options. Want to buy the sweet little girls in your life something for Valentine's Day that does not involve sugary sweets or useless stuffed animals that just clutter up their rooms? Ooops, you're in trouble there, but I eventually emerged from the store more or less victorious in that area. Now I remember how much I hate the way the stores overdo the holidays, but the sad reminder that there's more to come lies in the fact that Easter merchandise is already being crammed into the store shelves beside the Valentine's Day stuff. They cannot even let one holiday arrive before shoving the next holiday down the public's throat. All of this reminds me why I am a gardener joyfully and a shopper grudgingly---the only shopping I really like is garden shopping and it still is too early and too cold at night to do much of that.

This weekend was quiet---no real ice problems here, though it was awfully cold. There were no fires, and the fire pagers didn't wake me up at night with calls because I have a new strategy to ensure I can sleep at night---I completely turn off my cell phone and my fire pager. I decided I either needed to do that and find a way to get some sleep or I was going to die of sleep deprivation. It was so nice to not hear one little beep, buzz or siren sound waking me up during the normal sleeping hours that I intend to turn them off before bedtime every night. Inevitably, at some point, I'll miss a fire because I won't know it is happening. Guess what? I don't care. If the chief of my VFD (who also is my spouse) doesn't like it, he can fire me and I won't be mad...I'll rejoice at having my life back.

There's some rain in the forecast for this week---perhaps rain that might fall in tenths of inches instead of in hundredths of inches, at least for some of us. I don't know whether to trust the forecast or not because the forecasted amounts of rain have failed to materialize for months and months now...but here's a look at what is forecast:

7-Day QPF

I'm not expecting much in my location but some of you in eastern and southeastern OK might get a decent amount. We all just need to pray for western OK because they are not getting rain and things are looking really bad for them. I don't even think heavy rainfall now will save them from a really bad fire season in the March time frame, though anything at all would help a little by pushing some green-up of some sort of plants. Even winter grasses and weedy things would be nice if they sprouted in some lovely shade of green.

Okay, I've rambled on enought...what's new with yall?


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