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I am not a meteorologist, but looking at the American and European weather models for the next seven days and expected averages over the next 30 days, I think it’s safe to say you can go ahead and plant your summer crops after May 20th. This is great news, since some years we must wait until as late as June 5th to do so.
Precautions to prepare for, 7 days and 30 days out. Prep tips for week of planting
May weather for us may be warming up, but this also means you need to be ready for the thunderstorms. Have your irrigation out and in place now to ensure that you have adequate coverage everywhere you plan to plant.
Until the plants have emerged, seeded beds will need additional watering aside from drip lines.
If a storm is predicted, protect your newly-planted starts with straw or cover with cut-out milk jugs to minimize hail damage. This will help shelter them from hail.
Go ahead and seed-in your beds for things like beets, beans and corn. Make sure you plant them at the proper soil depth and if heavy rain is predicted, you can cover your rows with garden mesh to help keep your seeds from washing out of the row.
Make sure your beds are prepped and walking paths are ready or you will make things that harder on yourself later on. A garden can be worked in wet weather if you have paths laid out and straw laid down.
Tips for buying soil, and gravel: retail for first time gardeners
So far this year I have seen several people make some amazing buys, and have also seen some people get scammed.
Buying soil from a private seller in bulk:
Shop around online for prices. A good benchmark for a 5-way garden mix is 45.00 per cubic yard. A 5-way mix consists of 75% sandy loam, 5% peat moss, 10% animal waste usually chicken, 5% wood dust, and 5% garden compost.
If someone makes a claim that the soil having been tested, ask for a copy of the results before payment is made.
If someone is selling raw soil from acreage and claims that it is 100% organic, be weary and ask for proof since the soil has been there longer than we have been here. Chances are that at some point in the past, a chemical was applied and most pesticides applied prior to March 1971 can still be found in soils when tested.
Gravel is normally sold by weight, not by the yard. A premium 5/8 inch will run average in cost from $35.00 to $60.00 per ton based on the kind of rock. Not all rock is the same.
An alternative to gravel is pulverized concrete- it works really well for garden paths and is cheaper than gravel. It’s also a way to preserve our limited gravel supply for our roads.
Tips for buying starts and other plants
When buying starts, be sure to look at how many are in each mini planter. Some have 1 while others, known as pony packs, have 2 to 6 plants. Carefully checking how many are in each mini planter ensures that you ensure you are not buying too many or too little.
Look for plant packs that are moist but not drowning in water.
Look for pots with roots extending past the pot. These plants are stressed from sitting too long and may experience transplant shock.
When buying shrubs and roses, look for plants that are not protruding past their pots. Make sure the graft has not been covered with soil.
Next look for signs of damage from mishandling, broken branches or scarred bark. If it’s a rose, know that until it’s past the transplant stress, it may not bloom but it should be fine for early fall flowers.
If you don’t know something, find out about a product first so you know what’s correct and what’s fair in price. This will make for a better experience and can reduce the number of trips to store later.
When it comes to plants and soil warranties, be fair. If you bought plants, put them out in the ground and walked away for two weeks without water them and they die due to your negligence, start over, but don’t expect free plants from the store. This goes for soil as well– if you don’t keep up on the seeds, that’s no one’s fault but your own.