Don't fall victim to early planting; cold temps likely still ahead

Days below freezing in April.
If the recent sunshine and mild temperatures have given you spring fever, you probably aren't alone. However, it's important to remember we are still in March. And we still have April ahead of us. If you've lived in Michiana for long enough, you're well aware that cold weather is certainly possible through April and sometimes well into May. To break it down and put it into perspective, we can look at the number of days below freezing during the month of April over the last few years. Last year featured 19 days at or below 32° in April. There were 8 such days in 2017 and 11 in 2016. The average number of April days with temperatures at or below 32° is roughly 9. So, this means we still see frosts and freezes throughout April as multiple mornings -- and sometimes afternoons -- feature temperatures in the 20s and lower 30s.

Average last freeze and hard freeze. NWS
For South Bend, the average date for the last spring freeze is April 25th. The last hard freeze occurs, on average, on April 16th. Most locations in Michiana are right around those same dates except for lakeside communities, where Lake Michigan plays a substantial role in frosts and freezes. For instance, Benton Harbor averages its last springtime freeze on May 12th! That is more than two weeks after South Bend's last average freeze. Again, this shows that the potential for cold -- and sometimes very cold -- temperatures exists well into April and even May.
So, despite the recent sunshine and mild temperatures, planting and gardening should be done with caution. Preparing your garden and lawn for growing season is more than O.K. as of late March. Beginning the indoor growing process for many plants is also something that can be begun. Transporting those plants outdoors shouldn't be done yet, however. There are numerous websites with great information on planting and growing season in Indiana. Here are a few to check out:

Urban Farmer

Indianapolis Orchard


Indianapolis Orchard
Overall, any vegetable planting should not be underway quite yet unless you are planting peas and potatoes. By the first week of April or so, conditions are typically supportive of planting onions, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, lettuce, spinach, and asparagus. Crops that shouldn't be planted until the second half of May include tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, green beans, zucchini, summer squash, melons (be cautious), and cucumber. If planting flowers or other plants not in the fruit or vegetable category, it's best to check up on their specific requirements regarding sunshine, temperatures and soil content.

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