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Published April 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Advice for gardeners: Not yet

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Well, right now, gardens shouldn’t be growing.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Well, right now, gardens shouldn’t be growing – at least not tender, annual plants like tomatoes, peppers, petunias or snapdragons, according to Robin Trott, educator with the Minnesota Extension Service in Douglas County.

Even though Mother Nature has provided a warm spring with wonderful temperatures during the day, the temperatures at night are still not where they need to be.

“It’s too early to plant,” Trott said Monday afternoon in a phone interview.

She said the “magic number” is 50, as in 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the overnight temperatures. And the temps need to be reliably 50 degrees for a lengthy time frame, not just two or three nights.

“Temps are still dropping down in the 30s and 40s at night,” said Trott. “If you plant now, you’ll probably be buying more later.”

The reason, she said, is because tender annuals can’t tolerate the colder temps. They will probably not grow and will just get moldy.

For this area, Trott said the average frost-free date isn’t until May 24.

“We are a good month ahead of where we should be,” she said. “So, I would err on the side of caution and not plant.”

However, if people really want to get outside and do some planting, Trott suggested planting trees or shrubs or even some perennials like poppies.

She noted it is also OK to plant potatoes, onions, spinach or even pansies because they can tolerate the colder temperatures.

Trott also said that if people want to get outside in their gardens, they should just prepare the area; get it ready by clearing it out.

She also suggested people could sharpen their tools or get the lawn mower ready.

“We are getting to the point where we can start cutting our grass again,” she said.

For farmers, however, Trott said many of them are out in the fields, planting corn, but that’s different because the corn is treated and can withstand the elements.

She believes it’s good for farmers to be out in their fields this early.

But it’s not OK for the average gardener to be planting their summer vegetable or flower gardens.

“I cringe every time I hear people tell me they put their tomatoes in,” she said.

If people really want to plant their tomatoes, Trott suggested putting them in containers that can be brought inside the house at night – at least until night temperatures are a constant 50 degrees or higher.

More information about gardening and planting can be found on the University of Minnesota Extension website at www.extension.umn.edu/Garden.

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