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"As soon as the soil can be worked" - what does that mean exactly?

This is on a lot of my seed packets....does this mean a mid feb temporary thaw of a few days duration is a good time to plant? the soil isn't frozen, so go ahead and throw some seeds in?

Or does it mean a reasonable expectation that the last frost is over?

TIA!
 
When it says that it means it is a plant that can handle cold and frost. It means when the ground is not muddy but tillable and workable. If you have sand this is earlier than if you have clay which clumps longer since it is wetter. For my area the 'earliest the ground can be worked' is 4 weeks ahead of the average last frost day. It might be said the ground can be worked usually around when the daffodils bloom; and average last frost day is around when late tulips and lilacs are blooming. But that is not the last chance of frost or the time delicate stuff can go in. The last chance of frost is generally when iris and peonies are blooming. For my zone mid April is the earliest the ground can be worked and is signalled by the potato farmers planting. The last chance of frost here is Memorial Day but we usually don't get frost much in May. Since it is possible and the soil isn't that warm pumpkins, melons and sweet potatoes go in no earlier than first of June here.
 

 

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Small market and CSA grower. 1/2 acre. Doing too much by myself but trying. http://www.localharvest.org/member/M33044

Central Minnesota Zone 4

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Your soil probably can be "worked" sometime in March. That means the ground has thawed, and you can pick up a handful of dirt, squeeze it, and it will sort of fall apart on its own. This is time for direct-seeding peas, radishes, all manner of greens and anything else that's cold-hardy. I've found that if you direct seed the brassicas they're more immune to cutworms, if that's a pest you have.
 
[hr]Live as though you'd die tomorrow; Learn as though you'll live forever.
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Think "chocolate cake". If you can pick up a handful of soil, lightly squeeze it, & it falls away like chocolate cake crumbs, it's ready to be worked.

If it oozes water or remains glued together like a lump of PlayDoh, you still need to wait a bit.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My body is a temple - unfortunately, it's a fixer-upper."

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"And no, I'm NOT being snarky."

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Zone 7a, Culpeper, Virginia

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Thanks all!

I'll be on the ready!
 
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50 degrees for a soil temperature. I have found that I have much better results if I measure the soil temp. As Minnie said, sandy soil can be worked much earlier but it is still too cold.

my 2 cents. mk
 
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At our place what usually happens is that the soil is ready, the seeds are ready, the tools are ready, but what's not ready is me. Too d*mn cold out there.
 
[hr]Live as though you'd die tomorrow; Learn as though you'll live forever.
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Soil is workable when the soil moisture is just right, not too wet and not too dry. You can tell when that is by doing what flatiron described, grab a handfull of soil and squeeze it. When the ball that is formed is poked with a finger falls apart easily, the soil is workable.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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yes, I agree in that is what it means for soil to be workable, but I get a much better germination rate, if I wait until the soil temperature is 50 degrees. I know that peas are suppose to go in as soon as it is workable, but last year I measured the soil temp, and planted when 50 degrees and had the best peas ever, with close to 95% germination rate.

I understand the idea of winter sowing, but in the early spring, here, the air temp swings widely in a day, easily from 20 - 70 degrees. While the earth temperature changes much more slowly.

I have found I get much more vigorous plants if I don't rush this first bit for anything I direct seed. just my two cents
 
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You are so right Mrs K. It doesn't pay to rush things. I still try and fight nature every year, doing all sorts of things like using plastic to warm the soil etc.

This is sort of a funny story of my attempts last year: I spread clear and black plastic over large sections of my snow covered garden last spring to try and speed the snow melt. I notice that snow is melting faster from the sections not under plastic. I then spread mulch and compost on top of the snow under the clear plastic thinking that the dark will absorb heat better than the white snow. The last place in the area for the snow to melt: under the plastic! go figure!

I know I'll probably continue my futile efforts to speed spring along because it's been a long winter and I'm usually desperate by then. One day when I'm old and wise I'll put a thermometer in the ground and sit back and wait until the ground is ready to plant my seeds.
 
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Yes to both of you. I knew a market grower in MA, Italian fellow, who said tomatoes love hot weather and no matter what you do they won't produce until hot weather. He'd start his 6-8 weeks before last frost, then pot them up in his little greenhouse once or twice more, and not put them out until mid- to late June -- long after everyone else. But he had the first tomatoes every time. clap
 
[hr]Live as though you'd die tomorrow; Learn as though you'll live forever.
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There are some things you can just "throw on the ground" even it it's practically frozen, if that gardening itch just HAS to be scratched. Think of things that self sow, often they need a bit of cold treatment anyway: larkspur, parsley, allysum, coriander/cilantro, dill, borage, summer savory, cosmos, etc. I love to wander around in February scattering larkspur seeds, thinking of June!
 
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quote:
Yes to both of you. I knew a market grower in MA, Italian fellow, who said tomatoes love hot weather and no matter what you do they won't produce until hot weather. He'd start his 6-8 weeks before last frost, then pot them up in his little greenhouse once or twice more, and not put them out until mid- to late June -- long after everyone else. But he had the first tomatoes every time. clap



nice technique - will remember that - for when I get a green house.....
 
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quote:
There are some things you can just "throw on the ground" even it it's practically frozen, if that gardening itch just HAS to be scratched. Think of things that self sow, often they need a bit of cold treatment anyway: larkspur, parsley, allysum, coriander/cilantro, dill, borage, summer savory, cosmos, etc. I love to wander around in February scattering larkspur seeds, thinking of June!


oh - dill, summer savory, parsley and cilantro are on the list for 2010....I'll be sprinkling soon
 
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I always have to laugh at the "as soon as the soil can be worked" mantra. Around here you can usually "work" the soil for a few weeks in March. But if you're foolish enough to try planting anything you can kiss it goodby in April, and I don't care what it is. April can be a pretty brutal month on the high desert.
 

There's plenty of room for all God's creatures.......................right next to the mashed potatoes.

 

The high Utah Desert---Zone 3 to 5

(it's a crap shoot every year)

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