Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!
By: sullivanweather , 11:57 PM GMT on April 13, 2008
Hazardous fire weather expected today and tomorrow.
The combination of warm temperatures, low humidities and dead vagatation from last year has set the stage for prime fire conditions. Winds around too high and have generally been under 15 mph, but due to the very low humidities unattended fires, cigarettes tossed out car windows or any other source of fire could set a wildfire. Be especially careful over the next two days if conducting any burns during the afternoon hours when humidity values will be at their lowest.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
Espoma Natural Gardening Solutions
Environmentally Responsible Gardening Products - Garden's Alive
Soil moisture 0-200cm
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Soil temperature 10-40cm
Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C
Current watches, warnings and advisories.
Synopsis - Issued 4/16 4:30am
A deep layer ridge will effect the sensible weather over the Northeast over the next three days bringing mostly clear skies and temperatures warming to above normal levels for mid April while a vertically stacked low pressure will spin over the open waters of the Western Atlantic. This ridge will begin to break down over the weekend as a backdoor cold frontal boundary dips into New England and low pressure approaches from the west. Precipitation may sneak back into the Northeast by Saturday night and Sunday, lingering into early next week. Heights build again by midweek with temperatures region-wide returning to above normal readings.
Short-term - Issued 4/16 4:30am
A rather chilly start to the day on Wednesday as temperatures across much of the region will begin their climb from below freezing. Frost advisories and freeze warnings are issued for areas of southeastern Pennsylvania and central/southern New Jersey where the growing season begins on 'April 15th'. Despite the chilly start temperatures will recover quite nicely with highs climbing to above normal readings on bright sunshine and warming temperatures aloft. The only fly in the ointment will be along immediate coastal areas where onshore flow and mid/high level cloudiness may skirt these areas from the offshore low pressure system. Temperatures will rise into the 60's throughout much of the region except for the higher terrain of northern New York and New England where highs will likely remain in the 50's. Immediate coastal areas of Downeast Maine, Cape Cod, the Twin Forks of Long Island may also remain in the 50's given an onshore flow and possible cloud cover. Status quo for Thursday and Friday as stationary deep layer ridge remains intact over the region. Skies will remain mostly clear with temperatures moderating each day by 3-5 degrees for both daily min's and max's. A backdoor front may sneak down into extreme northern Maine shaving a few degree off the temperatures here, however, for the remainder of the Northeast this front will have little consequence in the shore-term. Low pressure system offshore and its associated cloudiness will pull away with surface high slowly shifting off the coast. The end result will cause the onshore flow to relax along the immediate coast with temperatures close to inland readings as flow turns offshore.
Mid-term - Issued 4/16 4:30am
Squeeze play will be on for the Northeast over the weekend as a backdoor frontal boundary continues to drop down into the region aided by a push by Canadian high pressure nosing southward into northern New England. Also in the mix will be an approaching shortwave via the Midwest on Sunday which will be deflected northwest of the region by the retreating, but still strong, deep layer ridge along the East Coast. Temperatures will noticeably cool over the northern half of the region on Saturday following the passage of this cold front. In addition to the cooler temperatures across the northern half of the region will be an increase in cloudiness and the possibility of some light showers and/or drizzle. The southern half of the region may see an increase in high cloudiness but that will do little to knock down the warm temperatures which are expected to be 10 degrees or more above normal. By Sunday the Midwestern low pressure will move through the central Great Lakes into Ontario and drag a trough into the region increasing the chances for precipitation. Only widely scattered light showers are expected, however. Clouds and showers will linger over the eastern half of the region on Monday with slowly improving conditions from the west.
Long-term - Issued 4/16 4:30am
Broad southwesterly flow in the lower layers of the atmosphere will develop behind the departing trough on Tuesday as temperatures will begin a moderating trend once again. This southwesterly flow will not only raise temperatures but bring about an increase in humidity as well. The developing deep layer ridge will rest firmly over the Northeast by midweek bringing perhaps the warmest day thus far this spring. With the increase in humidity there may be a few afternoon showers and thundershowers, which will become more concentrated as a deep trough approaches from the west by Thursday in a high meridional flow over the contiguous US.
Radar: Northeast Region Loop
Current Northeast Snowcover
Current SST's off the Northeast Coast.
Great Lakes SST's as of 04/03/2008.
Fillipini's Pond conditions (Lake across street)
11/11: 33°F - 1st morning with grease ice on lake.
11/24: 32°F - patchy ice on lake this morning
11/25: 32°F - lake iced over completely, melting along the shores during the afternoon.
12/1: Patchy ice has been on the lake all week. Lake should freeeze over completely tonight.
12/3: Lake is frozen over and covered with snow.
4/4: Lake is beginning to thaw from the shores inward
4/6: Lake is now completely unfrozen.
April Daily Weather Statistics
April 1st - 64°F/41°F....0.46"...25%...0.0"...(>1")
April 2nd - 41°F/27°F....0.01"...90%...0.1"...(>1")
April 3rd - 48°F/16°F....0.00"...80%...0.0"...(>1")
April 4th - 41°F/31°F....0.67"...0%....1.8"...(2")
April 5th - 46°F/37°F....0.08"...30%...0.0"...(>1")
April 6th - 46°F/36°F....0.00"...20%...0.0"...(Trace)
April 7th - 49°F/34°F....0.01"...30%...0.0"...(Trace)
April 8th - 59°F/29°F....0.00"...50%...0.0"...(0")
April 9th - 61°F/31°F....0.00"...90%...0.0"...(0")
April 10th - 64°F/43°F...0.00"...100%..0.0"...(0")
April 11th - 55°F/43°F...0.32"...5%....0.0"...(0")
April 12th - 70°F/42°F...0.44"...70%...0.0"...(0")
April 13th - 46°F/32°F...0.00"...30%...0.0"...(0")
April 14th - 49°F/27°F...0.00"...50%...0.0"...(0")
April 15th - 55°F/26°F...0.00"...95%...0.0"...(0")
April 16th - 65°F/25°F...0.00"..100%...0.0"...(0")
April 17th - 75°F/31°F...0.00"..100%...0.0"...(0")
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