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Due to the unusual weather in the Midwestern USA this year with record highs being set almost on a daily basis, should I plant my summer garden earlier? That is, does this affect the growing season for tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers and so-forth?

I am in Zone 6a.

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Could you be a bit more specific about "Midwestern USA"? You needn't give the exact location if you're concerned about privacy, but a USDA hardiness zone would be great. You can find yours here. Optionally, you can also probably put that info in your about me (see mine for an example) so that users can easily lookup that info. –  Lorem Ipsum Mar 23 '12 at 0:04
    
@yoda sure, modified the question to add that. Zone 6a. –  nixeagle Mar 23 '12 at 1:18
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2 Answers 2

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I'm having the same thoughts about kicking the season off early, but I'm waiting for two reasons:

  1. I don't have transplants started and ready to plant out yet. I'm not starting anything like tomatoes or peppers early because of the risk of frost if things return to "normal" for a week in mid-May. I'm not sure I'd have enough row cover to protect everything.
  2. The ground is still very cold. I stuck a soil thermometer in my garden a couple of days ago and while everything has melted, there may still be chunks of frost a few inches down (i.e. completely frozen ground) and the soil temps at the surface are only about 50°F. Not much will germinate at this temp, and even plants that will germinate will do so very slowly.

I will, however, probably plant out hardy plants a couple of weeks earlier than usual, assuming the soil warms up early. For example: onions, spinach, peas, and kale. (Probably transplants of the spinach and kale, just so that they germinate quickly inside and then I'll transplant them small.)

If you have a packet of seed for, say, lettuce or spinach, and you're never going to use up the whole packet, you might as well plant some out and see what happens. If the weather stays this warm, you'll have early salads. And even if it gets cold again (or snows in April!), it probably won't hurt the hardy stuff much anyway.

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You could, and you will probably be able to get away with it (e.g. I also planted peppers out a few weeks back, and in previous years they would have been caught by the last mild frosts).

However, just because it is warm now does not mean it will be above average in a few weeks time. So you have to weigh your chances up - if it goes back to normal or a little below normal in, say, two weeks time (i.e. beyond vaguely accurate forecasts); will the plants survive? And sometimes you just have to take a chance and follow your gut!

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