Northeast Weather Blog

Earth Day 2009

By: sullivanweather, 7:15 AM GMT on April 22, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day!


April 22nd, 2009 will be the 40th annual Earth Day, celebrated to raise the awareness of environmental concerns and sustainable living. Since its inception in 1970, many environmentally friendly laws have been passed due in part to the awareness raised by Earth Day and the message sent therein.

This blog will try to convey some ideas that we all could do to lessen our impact on the environment and to make everyday Earth Day.

Recycle! Perhaps one of the biggest impacts that we could have on our environment is recycling. There's many everyday products that we all use that are recyclable that wind up in trash bins headed for the landfill. There's the common items we have all become accustomed to recycling such as newspapers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, batteries, oil changes for your car, etc. But there's also things that we should recycle that haven't gotten the same attention over the years which have - computer parts, cell phones, home appliances all have huge impacts once in the landfill due to the chemicals they leech out into the ground which could possibly find it's way into groundwater drinking supplies.

Purchasing power. We all have the ultimate say on what we buy when at the store. Living in a country with a free-market society there's many options open to us when we go out and buy goods. Produce should be purchased from local growers that grow their produce using an organic process. Reading labels helps also. There's many products on store shelves whose packaging contains recycled materials. Choosing to buy such products over ones made from raw materials reduces our impact on the environment. Of course we can also lessen our dependence on store bought produce when we grow our own vegetables. Currently I'm running a series of blogs that promotes growing an organic vegetable garden. If planning on growing such a garden always choose plants from local nurseries and use organic fertilizers. There's many petrochemical fertilizers in the market which has negative impacts on the surrounding environment around your house and in the foods you decide to grow.

Plant a tree! Not only will growing a garden help to lessen one's impact on the environment, but planting trees and shrubs in and around your property, or where ever you're allowed to plant one helps. Arbor Day falls on the last Friday of the month of April and many communities have tree planting campaigns at local parks that one can get involved in. If planting a tree around your house make sure you do not plant one under power lines for they will most assuredly be cut down by your local DPW once it grows tall enough to interfere with those power lines. So choosing the proper location is paramount. Also make sure you choose a tree that's appropriate for your area. Refer to your USDA zone map to make sure you plant a tree that will survive the weather of your specific region. By signing up to a membership with the Arbor Day Foundation you will receive ten trees for free which will be a great way to help out the environment.

Pick up trash! It may not be any of one's business, but going out on your road to pick up roadside trash is a great way to help clean things up! Earth Day is a great time to involve yourself in such an activity for roadside weeds are usually low, if they have grown yet at all and trash is easily visible after the snowmelt. If partaking in such activity make sure to wear bright coloured clothing to make yourself visible to oncoming traffic and wear gloves. Towns also have such campaigns around this time of year where you can get together with members of your community to clean up roadside trash. Contact your local DPW to see if such programs exist within your community. If they don't SUGGEST IT!

Combine your trips in the car! The consumption of natural resources, namely fossil fuels, has become a hot topic recently especially in light of the global warming issue. So when traveling in your car try to combine trips. Do your grocery shopping on your way home from work or simply don't do any unnecessary traveling. Of course there’s other ways we could lessen our consumption of fossil fuels such as car pooling and buying hybrid or appropriate vehicles that have high fuel economies.

Write a letter! Somethimes words do speak as loud as actions. Write a letter to your local state or federal government representative and demand change aimed at advancing environmental concerns. You could also call your representative and speak to them directly.

Also, if you have an hour of free time I highly recommend that you listen to this lecture by Jeremy Rifkin aired March 4th on Northeast Public Radio about sustainability and advancing into the 21st century living green.


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Fig.2 - USDA plant hardiness zone map of the eastern United States circa 1990. Credit: USDA

Garden Series

Blog 1: Planning the Garden


Blog 2: Cool season crops


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In the first two blogs of the gardening series we have discussed planning the garden for organic growing and cool season crops. This blog in the garden series will delve into companion gardening. Over the years gardeners have discovered that certain plants, when grown together, augment each other's performance or help to repel pests such as insects and caterpillars. However, there are certain combinations of plants that hinder each other. This blog will help you select which crops should be planted with one another to maximize the performance of your organic garden.


Vegetables

Beans - Beans come in two types (excluding lima beans), bush and pole. Bush beans are what their name implies, growing pods on bushy plants while pole beans grow as twining vines and will need support from a trellis, fence, posts, or anything they could wrap their vines around. One of the 'three sisters', beans add many benefits to the garden, including another member of the 'three sisters' - corn. Beans add nitrogen to the soil which corn, a very heavy feeder, will find beneficial. Bush beans should be planted in rows in between corn while pole beans can actually twine around the corn stalks, using them as support. Beans also have shown to be of aid when planted with cabbage, cucumbers, summer savory and especially carrots. Beans dislikes include any member of the onion family. Pole beans also are hindered by kohlrabi and sunflowers. In an odd twist, beets and bush beans grow well together, however, beets will not grow well pole beans.

Beets - As mentioned above, beets will grow well with bush beans but not pole beans. Onions are also of benefit to beets, as well as lettuce and cabbage. Kohlrabi also is friendly to the beet plant for they both require the same growing conditions and take nutrients from different levels of the soil. In addition to pole beans, beets to not grow well with field mustard.

Broccoli - A member of the cabbage family that does well growing amongst aromatic plants such as dill, camomile, sage, peppermint and rosemary. Vegetables that perform well with broccoli include, potatoes, beets and onions. Broccoli dislikes tomatoes, pole beans and strawberries.

Cabbage - Cabbage covers a wide range of vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. As discussed in the broccoli section, cabbage finds mutual benefit from a variety of aromatic herbs and vegetables which helps to repel pests such as the white cabbage butterfly. Cabbage is a heavy feeder and lots of compost should be worked into the soil before planting cabbage along with regular bouts of compost added into the top layer of soil or appropriate amounts of organic fertilizer. Cabbage dislikes pole beans, tomatoes and strawberries, so try to avoid planting them together.

Carrots - Carrots do best when planted along side tomatoes. Both crops serve as mutual benefit to one another by helping to add nutrients to the soil to help each other grow as well as tomatoes help to shade carrots from the heat of summer. Long bouts of hot weather will cause carrots to lose their sweetness and crispness. Carrots, when planted in summer under tomatoes for the fall, will survive the first several frosts and freezes being a cold tolerant plant. So once the tomatoes are killed off by frost they will have the benefit of full sun late in the season. Carrots enjoy the company of onions, leeks and herbs such as rosemary or wormwood which repels the carrot fly whose larvae attacks the young rootlets of carrots.

Cauliflower - Celery when planted amongst cauliflower will repel the white cabbage butterfly. For all other cauliflower info see cabbage

Celery - Celery grows well with leeks, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage. Remember that cauliflower and cabbage do not grow well together, so when planting the celery amongst tomatoes and cabbage/cauliflower make sure to put the celery in between those plants. Celery should be planted in a trench as opposed to a hill or row and could be planted in a circle so that the roots make a bed for beneficial garden dwellers such as earthworms.

Collards - Collards do well planted with tomatoes due to the propensity for tomatoes to repel the flea beetle the number one pest of collards. For all other information on collards see cabbage

Corn - Corn grows well amongst a wide variety of vegetables including, potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. Squash varieties of crops gain benefit from the shade the stalks provide during hot summer days. Peas and beans grown with corn add nitrogen to the soil which is used by the corn, which are extremely heavy feeders. Tomatoes should not be planted with corn due to a common pest - the tomato fruitworm or the corn earworm. Cucumbers, pumpkins and squash planted around corn will help to deter raccoons, which find those plants offensive.

Cucumber - Cucumbers grow well with beans, peas and radishes. The beans add nitrogen to the soil which cucumbers will feed off of. The radishes repel cucumber beetles which are a very voracious pests that will decimate young cucumber plants. Sunflowers may also be grown with cucumbers as they will shade the plants preventing them from wilting during hot dry summer days. Cucumbers dislike potatoes and should be grown far apart in the garden due to a blight that cucumbers develop via the potato plant. Cucumbers also dislike aromatic herbs.

Eggplant - Eggplants are a delicacy of many pests which could very quickly eat their way through the leaves of the plant leaving them unable to photosynthesize, eventually killing the plant. Leaf hopper beetles and Colorado potato beetles are the main pests that will decimate the eggplant. Bush beans help to repel the potato beetle, while a hot pepper and garlic spray can be used to help repel other pests. To make the hot pepper spray, crush hot peppers and garlic cloves together and set inside water. After 24 hours strain and add enough water to make a spray that will be sufficient to mist your plants with an initial spray, after rainfalls or whenever pests arise. Use the strained peppers and garlic to add to the soil around the base of the plants which aids in pest prevention as well.

Kale - A member of the cabbage family, kale seeds can be sowed following the harvest of spring peas and beans and can be grown amongst cabbage or potatoes. For other information see cabbage

Kohlrabi - Grows best with onions and beets as well as aromatic herbs. Kohlrabi can also be grown with cucumbers for their roots occupy differing soil strata. Kohlrabi is also a heavy feeder, requiring lots of water and compost and will benefit from filtered sunlight. Kohlrabi dislikes tomatoes, pole beans and strawberries.


Leeks - Leeks grow well amongst celery and onions and share a mutual benefit with carrots, which repel the carrot flies that attack them. Leeks are heavy feeders and should be planted in a bed rich in humus and compost.

Lettuce - Lettuce grows well with strawberries, cucumbers and carrots. Radishes planted amongst lettuce make them especially flavourful. Since radish repel cucumber beetles a section of garden containing cucumbers, radish and lettuce are an unbeatable combination. Since lettuce is a cool season crop they will require shade during the height of hot summer afternoons. Onions grown alongside lettuce will help to control rabbits, if rabbits are a problem in your area.

Onions - The onion family, which includes chives, shallots, leeks and garlic, is a great companion for many common garden crops due to their aromatic properties and their inability to rob the soil of its nutrients. They grow well with all members of the cabbage family, beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and summer savory. Just about the only plants onions don't get along with are peas and beans.

Peas - This legume performs great in most gardens due to the shallowness of its roots and the fact that they don't need much soil amendment, although wood ashes help greatly in controlling aphids which can be a pest of peas. Peas grow well with a wide range in crops including carrots, radishes, cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, beans and corn as well as many aromatic herbs. However, they are detrimental to the onion family.

Peppers - Sweet bell peppers grow well with basil and need to be stakes or caged for their stems are quite fragile and can be broken by their heavy fruit. Hot peppers have little known pests, although some moth and butterfly larvae may attack a few of the fruits. Usually the plants produce enough fruits to lessen this issue. Hot peppers and sweet peppers should not be planted together as your sweet peppers will not be as sweet as originally planned.

Pumpkins - Although most pumpkins are grown for jack-o-lanterns come Halloween, pumpkins are a nutritious high yield squash that can be used as a side dish or in pies. Pumpkins grow quite well with corn and dislike potatoes.

Radish - Radishes can be a gardeners best friend if you particularly like cucumbers or any member of the Cucurbit family. Radishes protect these plants from the cucumber beetle which can decimate cucumber and cucurbit family crops which include the melons, pumpkins and squash. Radishes also prevent the two-spotted spider mite when grown with tomatoes. Radishes also grow well with kohlrabi, pole and bush beans. Lettuce makes radishes more tender while garlic juice prevents disease. Radishes do not grow well with hyssop and should not be rotated with members of the cabbage family.

Squash - These members of the cucurbit family will find benefit when planted with radish for they deter cucumber beetle infestations. Squashes will also find benefit from being planted next to nasturtiums.

Tomatoes - Tomatoes and hot peppers are perhaps the most widely studied plants and much is known about them. Tomatoes grow well with chives, parsley, onions, basil, marigolds, nasturtiums and carrots. Garlic will prevent red spider mite infestations while stinging nettle will improve their keeping quality. Tomatoes should not be planted next to peppers, members of the cabbage family, potatoes or fennel. Tomatoes should also be kept away from corn due to a common pest - the tomato fruitworm. Crushed tomatoes leaves along with water and a spoonful of cornstarch then strained will make for a fungicidal spray against black spot on roses. Smokers beware! Tobacco contains diseases that tomatoes are susceptible to, so wash your hands before handling tomatoes if you smoke.

Soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm
Soil moisture 0-200cm
Fig.3 - Weekly averaged soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature 0-10cm
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Fig.4 - 6-hourly updated 0-10cm soil temperature. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature and anomalies 10-40cm
Soil temperature 10-40cm
Fig.5 - Weekly updated 10-40cm soil temperature and anomalies. Credit: NOAA


Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C

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Current watches, warnings and advisories.


Eastern US current watches/warnings
Fig.6 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.

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Forecast Discussion

Coming later...


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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Fig.7 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

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Current snowcover

Northeast Snowcover
Fig.8 - Snow cover as of April 8th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Fig.9 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Updated: 6:47 PM GMT on April 23, 2009

Permalink

Swap of Seasons

By: sullivanweather, 9:59 PM GMT on April 08, 2009

Current watches, warnings and advisories.


Eastern US current watches/warnings
Fig.1 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.

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Forecast Discussion

Synopsis - Issued - 4/8/09 @6:00pm


Vertically stacked low pressure over Canada will exert its influence over the region for another 24 hours or so, but conditions should gradually improve during the course of the day on Thursday. Meanwhile, low pressure will be developing over the Plains. This low will slide by to the south of the region Friday and Friday night, bringing rain to the coastal plain but across the interior, especially the higher terrain, snow may become an issue with sufficient cold air in place. System departs early on Saturday, though it will be rather chilly and brisk in its wake. Backdoor front slides through Saturday night reinforcing the chilly air over the region to close out the weekend. Another slow-moving cut-off low pressure will move towards the Northeast to begin next week bringing continued cold, unsettled weather and possible snow to the higher terrain once again. Welcome to April in the Northeast.


Short-term - Issued - 4/8/09 @6:00pm


Cold cyclonic flow along with minor shortwave disturbances rotating through the region has kept persistent snow shower and flurry activity over the interior of the Northeast for much of the day. These will wind down during the late afternoon and early evening with the loss of diurnal heating and draw back towards the higher terrain of northern New York and New England overnight. Skies will slowly clear out across the south as drier air moves in. Lows tonight will range from the 30’s along the coastal plain and southern interior to the 20’s across the north. Winds will be out of the west around 10-15 mph during the late afternoon diminishing to 5-10mph overnight.

Vertically stacked low over Canada will slowly move north during the day on Thursday allowing for an improvement in weather across much of the region. The only exception will be over northern New York and New England where these locations will lie of the southern fringes of a broad northern stream trough. Here skies will be mostly cloudy and a few isolated terrain enhanced snow showers may dot the landscape during the afternoon with contribution from diurnal heating. Temperatures should remain in the mid 30’s to low 40’s. Meanwhile, to the south abundant sunshine will grace the skies and temperatures will make a nice recovery. Highs will reach into the 50’s along the coastal plain and across the southern tier of Pennsylvania as well as interior valleys. Elsewhere across the interior temperatures should remain in the upper 40’s. Winds will be out of the west around 5-10 mph.


Mid-term - Issued - 4/8/09 @6:00pm


Somewhat difficult forecast in the midterm as several features converge on the Northeast, possibly yielding a late season snowfall for locations in the interior. To begin the period Thursday night, the tail end of a weakening cold front will drop into the region settling under a weak vorticity axis aloft associated with the base of a broad northern stream trough. This front will hardly be noticeable in terms of sensible weather, as only a slight increase in clouds will note its presence. However, across the northern half of the region, 850mb temps will drop by 2-3°C overnight and the weak baroclinic zone over the Northeast will sharpen some. After midnight, clouds will increase from the west over Pennsylvania due to the increase in isentropic lift ahead of the system over the Mississippi Valley. These clouds will lower and thicken and possibly begin to precipitate by daybreak across southwestern Pennsylvania but, for the most part, the region will stay precipitation-free through the night. Temperatures will be near average across Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to the increase in clouds but across the north, under clearer skies and a chilly airmass, temperatures will be some 5-10 degrees below normal.

A small window for some interesting weather Friday morning as precipitation pushes into northern Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York where temperatures through the column may be cold enough to support a few hours of snowfall. Elsewhere, it will be warm enough for all rain but warm is a relative word. In reality, it will be quite chilly under the area of rainfall as temperatures struggle to climb into the 40’s. By afternoon, much of the snow will have changed over to rain in all but the higher terrain of the Catskills over 2,500’ where snow may linger or mix with rain throughout the day. A couple pockets of rain/snow mix may also linger at elevations over 1,500’ but there will be little, if any, accumulations during the daylight hours. There will be a sharp cut-off to the northern edge of the precipitation field as weakly confluent flow over northern New York and New England helps to suppress the system to the south. Here, the day will be partly to mostly cloudy (mainly mid/high clouds) and somewhat crisp, as temperatures climb into the 30’s across the higher terrain and 40’s in the valleys.

**Several factors may come together Friday night to produce a late season snowfall**

Additional shortwave energy will drop into the broad northern stream trough over southern Canada, helping to shear out the closed system over the Mississippi Valley as it heads east. However, this will also help to sharpen and maintain the baroclinic zone over the region and confluent flow over northern New England. 850mb 0°C isotherm will line up just north of the I-80 corridor with isothermal profiles in all but the lower boundary layer. With the loss of insolation, the cold atmosphere will begin to show effect as rain changes back over to snow. Developing northerly ageostrophic flow will aid in this transition as the low slides by to the south, helping to draw in colder air from the north. The changeover will occur first at elevations over 1,500’ along the NY/PA border to the southern Berkshires then slowly creep south overnight with snow perhaps falling at valley floor by daybreak before the precipitation ends. Locations over 2,500’ in the Catskills stand to see the most snow from this system, in the 2-4” range, while elevations over 1,500’ may see an inch or two. Below 1,000’ there will be little, if any, accumulations. Most locations south of I-80 will see a cold rain, with a couple exceptions. To the north, aforementioned confluence will keep precipitation from entering northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine. The low moves offshore on Saturday with precipitation ending during the morning hours as a few light showers of rain or snow across the interior with mainly rain along the coast. Skies will clear from west to east, though some late morning/afternoon stratocumulus development across the higher terrain will occur in cold cyclonic flow. Temperatures will run around 10 degrees below normal and it will be rather brisk as well, with modest pressure gradient between offshore low and high over the northern Lakes, 20-25kt boundary layer flow and weak cold air advection to help mix the column.

Cold air advection continues into Saturday night thanks to a backdoor front and additional shortwave in the northern stream. 850mb temps bottom out by daybreak around –13°C across northern New York and Vermont, along with 1000-500mb thickness values in the 510’s! Further south, 850mb temps drop to near –4°C down to the Mason-Dixon line, still quite chilly for what will be mid-April. Lows should be some 10-15 degrees below normal and a still brisk wind will yield wind chills into the single digits across the higher terrain of northern New York and New England! Skies will be mostly clear, though a stray lake effect band of clouds or snow shower cannot be ruled out.


Long-term - Issued - 4/8/09 @6:00pm


High pressure slowly builds east on Sunday, but not soon enough for the cold cyclonic flow over New England to produce another day of stratocumulus development. Sinking air under the high should preclude cloud development across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as skies will be mostly sunny. Despite the abundant sunshine, temperatures will remain somewhat chilly, with highs only reaching into the low 50’s along the coastal plain with 40’s over the interior (30’s mountains). This high will lead to ideal radiational cooling conditions across much of the region Sunday night as temperatures plummet once again to 10-15 degrees below seasonal averages.

Another vertically stacked low pressure will move towards the region to open next week. Precipitation will move into Pennsylvania during the day on Monday and into the remainder of the southern half of the region on Tuesday. Once again, chilly airmass over the region and high pressure over Canada may bring snow to some of the higher terrain while a chilly rain falls over the lower elevations and along the coast. A slow moderating trend may finally begin by the middle of next week but temperatures still appear to run below normal for the foreseeable future.


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Fig.2 - USDA plant hardiness zone map of the eastern United States circa 1990. Credit: USDA

Garden Series

Blog 1: Planning the Garden


In the previous blog we discussed the steps needed to be taken early in the season to plan the garden and some of the work needed to prepare it for planting. Now that we're started the next steps that need to be taken involve basics in weed control, garden pests and fertilization of the soil keeping in mind that we want to put in a garden in accordance with nature (i.e. organic!). Also, this may be the time you'll want to start a compost heap or bin. Although we briefly discussed amending the soil in the previous blog I will try to provide additional information that will help you find the appropriate fertilizer to the corresponding crops. I also want to discuss some crops that you could start early in the season that are frost tolerant that perform best while the weather is still cool.

First we'll concentrate on amending the soil. Even though certain crops require specific soil types and fertilizers you'll want to have a basic fertile foundation soil. Before you go out and purchase bags upon bags of soil, look around the your yard for anything that you could use to amend the soil with. If you're into yard work there's likely a pile of grass clippings or leaf mulch that has been rotting in an unused corner of your yard that you've been dying to get rid of, here's your chance. Find the most broken down parts of this pile and mix it into the garden dirt to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Now, grass clippings only go so far and if you plan on raising your beds you'll have to consider buying soil. The size of your garden will determine how much of what you'll need to purchase. I highly recommend adding peat moss to the soil, especially if your soil is sandy but even if it is hard clay. Peat moss helps to aerate soil and increase its ability to hold moisture. A 3.8 cubic foot bale will amend an area of 150 to 200 square feet and cost 8 to 10 dollars. Peat moss will come very dry, resemble saw dust and will have to be worked deep into the soil (top 6 inches) otherwise a heavy rainfall soon after adding it will likely wash it away or have it form clumps on the surface of the soil. Secondly, you'll also want to add peat humus to your soil, which is a dark coloured highly organic soil. Humus is the last stage organic material breaks down into and has many benefits in the garden. It helps with the breakdown of organic material and nutrients into forms that makes it easy for plants to uptake into their roots, moderates the acidity or alkalinity of soil and its dark colour helps to warm the soil temperature in spring. Peat humus can be found in 40 pound bags for around 2 to 3 dollars a bag. Add a 40 pound bag of peat humus for every 20-30 square feet of garden space and work into the top 4 inches of soil. In addition to the soil amendments, you'll want to add an all-purpose fertilizer to provide your plants a source of nutrients. Remember, buy an organic (non-chemical) fertilizer. I'll provide links at the bottom for such products.

There's only a few varieties weeds that over-winter and have begun to grow but soon there'll be many more weeds that will begin their growing season as soil temperatures are now beginning to rise aiding in their germination. There's several methods of weed prevention in the garden, however, there's only one I recommend - using a cultivator. Whether a long handled cultivator or a hand cultivator this method works best for it not only gets rid of the weeds but also aerates the soils. When using a cultivator be especially careful to get the weeds and not the crops or their roots which happens if one it not paying attention. For shallow rooted plants or root crops it is best to simply pull those weeds by hand. There's plenty of other ways of weed prevention, such as laying plastic or felt, but sometimes weeds still grow through and it also makes it impossible for the soil to get proper aeration and could also lead to mold/fungal disease. Again, the goal here is to avoid using any chemicals. I cannot stress this enough.

Now is also a time you may want to think about pest prevention so you won't have to deal with them later on in the year. As you were turning your soil you may have noticed white, brown or gray worms occasionally. These are cutworms, grubs and/or beetle larvae and will do significant damage to your young crops if left unchecked. Finding and killing these pests is not enough, there’s too many of them in the soil. A wonderful control method to rid yourself of these pests is beneficial nematodes, which can be bought from a website I will provide a link for at the bottom of the page. This company specializes in organic products that you could use in pest control and prevention and will send a great mail order catalogue. There's also a plethora of other garden pests that will show up as temperatures warm later into the spring and summer. There’s also certain flowers that you can plant in your garden that will attract natural predators that will feed on pests. Early in the season alyssum is a frost tolerant flowering annual that can be planted along garden borders to help get this process started.


Beets
Beets are a highly nutritious root crop which requires a high phosphorous, low nitrogen soil free of rocks or other debris. Beets also require a higher alkaline soil than most crops, so if you had used peat moss to amend the soil you may want to consider using lime to raise the soil PH as peat moss will gradually turn soil acidic. About a pound of lime per 20 square feet will do. Beets will tolerate frost so can be sowed directly into the garden a week or two before your last expected frost. Sow seeds an inch apart in rows about 1/2 inch deep and cover with fine soil. Once the seedlings appear you’ll want to thin every other plant. Seeds can be identified by their reddish purple colour. After the second and third sets of leaves appear you’ll want to thin again, leaving the strongest looking plants about 4-6 inches apart. Beets perform relatively poor if having to compete with weeds. Around the plants themselves you’ll want to pull the weeds by hand making sure not to disturb the root of the plant. Beets also need a steady supply of moisture. A lack of moisture will cause leaves to wilt and the root to not develop fully and become bitter to the taste. The entire plant is edible. Beet greens can be harvested early for a highly nutritious side dish, but leaving enough leaves on the plant to ensure proper food production. The root will normally mature in 50-70 days. Leaving beets in the ground too long will make their root become woody and tough in addition to losing flavour.

Broccoli
Broccoli is a highly versatile crop which performs best in the ‘cool season’ but there are varieties that can be grown where temperatures during the summer are routinely hot, although they will typically require shade during the hottest time of the day. A neutral PH soil is what broccoli prefers best although the crop will tolerate acidic or alkaline soil. Soil high in organic matter is preferred and should be fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Seeds should be sowed 1/2 inch deep about 2 inches apart and covered with fine soil. After seedlings appear and have grown their second sets of leaves thin plants to every foot apart. These plants also require a moist soil and grow very quickly once established. Harvest broccoli heads once the buds of the flowers begin to swell. You will only have a 2-3 day window to harvest the heads as the flowers will open quickly if left much longer. Cut the stalk about 4 to 6 inches below the base of the head. Broccoli will continue to produce side shoots for weeks afterwards into the summer.

Carrots
A root crop which needs deep, loose stone-free soil in order to maximize it’s performance. Carrots require full sun but will tolerate partial shade, especially if started late in the spring which will take the plant into the hottest time of the year. You may want to add the ashes from a wood fire to amend the soil as this adds potassium to the soil which promotes sweeter crisper carrots and will also ward off common pests to carrots. Too much nitrogen will make carrots mealy and fibrous roots susceptible to branching. Carrots can be directly sowed into the garden 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost as they will tolerate freezing temperatures to 28 degrees. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, cover with fine soil and keep moist. Carrots are slow growers and will need to have weeds removed by hand until plants are several inches tall. After the plants reach 2-3 inches tall thin the plants to roughly 3 inch spacing. After 60-80 days remove some dirt from around the crown of the carrot. If the crown of the carrot is ~1 inch wide it is time to harvest, keeping in mind that leaving the crop in the ground too long will cause the carrot to become tough.

Cauliflower
A true cool season crop which doesn’t tolerate hot weather and can be started 4 weeks before the last frost. Cauliflower should be planted in fertile soil rich in organic material. Cauliflower is also a heavy feeder and will need additional fertilization every 3rd or 4th week. Seeds should be started indoors early in the season and transplanted outside once plants are 2 inches tall. Seeds can also be sowed directly into the soil soon after it can be worked (zones 3-4). Seedlings take about 4-6 weeks to appear so patience is required and another good reason to start indoors to make for easier identification. Cauliflower prefers evenly moist soil and should be kept well watered. Once heads begin to form in about 4 or 5 months you’ll have to blanch the heads by covering them with the leaves of the plant or a brown paper bag. This blanching process will help to keep the heads white in colour but do not leave the heads on the plant too long otherwise they will lose their crispness. Cauliflower leaves are also edible.

Celery
Celery is a mild flavoured cool season crop which is a dieters dream vegetable for it contains many vitamins and nutrients but virtually no calories. Celery prefers full sun and well-drained soil loosened to a depth of around a foot. Seeds should be started indoors 10 weeks before the last frost, but can be directly sowed into the garden in zones 3-4. If sowing seeds directly into the garden sow them just under the soil surface 2-3 inches apart and cover with fine soil. After seedlings are 2-3 inches tall thin to a spacing of around a foot apart. Celery has a long growing season and are heavy feeders, so make sure to apply fresh compost or fertilizer at regular intervals of around 4 weeks. Once plants are around a foot tall you’ll want to blanch them by wrapping their stalks with screening or paper. This helps to keep them tender.

Chard
Chard is a cool season crop related to the beet and used for the large leafy ‘greens’ chard which comes in many different colours. Chard is another vegetable which can be directly sowed into the garden very early in the season, 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Seeds should be sowed at a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch at a spacing of 2 inches and covered with fine soil. To increase your harvest you can thin the plants to 4 inches apart until they’re 6 inches tall. Then remove every other plant in a final thinning to leave plants 8 inches apart, using the plant you had thinned. Harvest leaves throughout the season before they’re on the plant for too long as the stalks, or chard, of the leaves will become tough and the leaves will lose flavour. Also, use the chard leaves soon after harvesting, for they do not keep well, on the order of just a few days.

Leeks
Leeks are another cool season crop in the onion family which does not tolerate temperatures much above 80 degrees. Leeks are best started indoors as some varieties require a 5 to 6 month growing season. Whether transplanting leeks into the garden or directly sowing them, you’ll want to have a 1-2 inch trench to plant them into. As the leeks grow gradually fill in the trench with soil. Leeks will tolerate heavy frosts but not hard freezes, so make sure to harvest the leeks before temperatures drop below 24 degrees. Leeks store quite well for several months in crisper bins.

Lettuce
Lettuce is a cool season crop that comes in many varieties of colour, taste and texture. Lettuce should be directly sowed into the garden a week or two before the last frost. Most lettuce varieties will tolerate temperatures down to 28 degrees but not much lower. Full sun and well drained soil are essential for earlier plantings while later plantings towards late spring and summer should be of a heat-tolerant variety and will prefer a couple of hours of shade during the hottest time of the day. Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and cover with fine soil about 2 inches apart. After seedlings emerge thin to around 6 inches apart for leaf lettuce and a foot or more apart for head lettuce. Lettuce requires an inch or more of rainfall per week and an evenly moist soil. When harvesting lettuce you’ll want to do so early in the morning while the leaves have their highest moisture content.

Onions
Onions are a bulb that require slightly acidic soil high in organic material. Onions can be planted by seed or purchased at your local nursery as small bulbs. Onions can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked and depending on the variety will take from 100 to 160 days to mature for harvest. If planting bulbs set them roughly 4 inches apart. If sowing by seed an inch apart will do. After seedlings emerge thin to the required 4 inch spacing. Onions do not like crowding so be sure to keep their immediate vicinity free of weeds. Since onions have a long growing season a future blog will provide information on maintenance and harvesting.

Peas
Peas should be sowed into your garden as soon as the soil can be worked as they can tolerate rather chilly temperatures down to 22 degrees. Soak pea seeds in water overnight before planting as this will aid in germination. Peas require as much sun as possible as shade will reduce their sugar content and make them mealy/starchy. Peas will grow even in poor soil and will not require much fertilizer, but growing them in fertile soil does enhance their flavour. Peas are also shallow rooted so they will require regular watering, but not in excess. Peas are ready for harvest after the pods become plump. Daily harvesting will prolong crop production and keep peas from becoming hard/starchy. Peas will lose flavour quickly after harvesting, so blanching your harvest may be necessary. This blanching process will also be discussed in a future blog. Peas can also be stored by drying.

Potatoes
Potatoes are a tuber, or stem plant high in starch and a staple food crop. Potatoes grow best in sandy soil high in organic material which is well-drained. Seed potatoes can be purchased from your local nursery or whole potatoes which have grown eyes can be cut and planted. If you plan on using cut potatoes you’ll want to leave them out for a couple of days to dry out and heal, otherwise they will be susceptible to rotting. Potatoes can be planted a couple to several weeks before the last frost depending on the variety. Make sure you loosen the soil rather deep and remove as many rocks as possible as these tubers will need room to grow. When planting dig a trench and place potato seeds or cuttings in the trench and fill with soil right to the top of the tubers. As the shoots emerge and begin to grow you may also want to add organic compost around the plants as this will help to keep these plants well fed and help to support them upright.

Radish
Radish is a fast growing cool season crop ideal for adding to salads and in certain cooking dishes. Being a root crop, radish prefers loose well-drained soil free of rocks or other debris. Radishes can also be companion planted with many other crops for they deter certain pests, will not compete for space and will often be harvested before the other crops will need it. Radishes can be sowed directly into the garden at a depth of a 1/4 to 1/2 an inch 3 inches apart. Seedlings will emerge in 5-8 days depending on soil and weather conditions. For a continuing harvest radishes can be planted every 2 weeks through September. Radishes are usually ready for harvest between 25-35 days and should not be left in the ground too long for they will become woody and split.

Spinach
A cool season crop and one of the first crops to be planted in the spring, spinach is highly nutritious and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The soil should be loosened to a depth of around a foot and high in organic material. The spot you choose should receive full sun, although if planted later in the season may require a few hours of afternoon shade and should also be a heat-tolerant/drought-resistant variety. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart and cover with fine soil. Once seedlings emerge thin to 8 inches apart and add a top dressing of compost. Spinach should be kept moist and well cultivated. Harvest individual leaves as soon as they’re big enough to eat. However, smaller leaves can be harvested early for spinach salad or mesclun mix.

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Soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm
Soil moisture 0-200cm
Fig.3 - Weekly averaged soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature 0-10cm
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Fig.4 - 6-hourly updated 0-10cm soil temperature. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature and anomalies 10-40cm
Soil temperature 10-40cm
Fig.5 - Weekly updated 10-40cm soil temperature and anomalies. Credit: NOAA


Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C




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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Fig.6 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

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Current snowcover

Northeast Snowcover
Fig.7 - Snow cover as of April 8th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Fig.8 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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About sullivanweather

Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!

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