Time to Plant the Garden?

May 2, 2011

I’ve started receiving some of those emails I get each April and May.  They go something like this…“hey Mark, is it time to plant my beans, tomatoes, and corn?  Are we done with morning frost?”

The short answer is:  I wouldn’t plant the “warm weather” veggies just yet.  Definitely not if you live outside of the main urban parts of Portland.  We are probably done with frost in the warmest parts of the metro area (Portland, Gresham, Beaverton & Oregon City).  And by the way, “warm weather veggies” don’t include peas, cabbage, potatoes, carrots etc…  Those can handle our cool spring weather from here on out just fine.

But as an experienced gardener (at least for the past 15 years), I’ve found the far bigger problem is a period of consistently cool AND wet weather, not just a single frost.   Any warm weather plant needs warm soil and will sometimes just rot during a 10 day long wet spell.  So I like to wait until mid-May at the earliest, then see what the 10-14 day maps are showing.  In the years where they’ve shown a pretty decent stretch of weather for the 2nd half of May, I’ve gone ahead and planted (gambled).  I’ve been burned by early June cold/wet spells occasionally.  Or last year…well, let’s not go there.

So what do we see on the long range maps?  I see a mix.  Pleasant weather through the end of this week, but then a cold trough with showery and cool weather Saturday-Monday (maybe beyond).  After that models are mixed.  I don’t see an extended period of warm and dry weather, at least not shown by several different models.  And we’re still in a “La Nina Spring”, which means the chance for a warm May is pretty low.  Another reason to hold off. 

Give it another 10 days, this probably isn’t the year to take a risk planting early.  Of course part of the fun of growing stuff is “pushing the season” a bit, meaning you can alter the climate around your plants with plastic, water etc…

Note how little rain we had today…last Thursday and Friday it was obvious that this week would be mainly dry and it appears it’ll stay that way through Friday. 

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


Weather Podcast: Brian and Mark

May 2, 2011

Brian Macmillan has posted our 2nd podcast here: http://nwweatherpodcast.wordpress.com/

In this episode, the guys talk to storm chaser, Meteorologist Greg Nordstrom, about this week’s tornadoes in the south.  Also, this month’s extreme weather records and kids’ questions.  Plus the latest marriage plans in the weather center.