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Weather has plants wondering what’s up

Are your plants confused by recent weather? After a roller-coaster spring weather pattern, that’s not surprising: summer temperatures mixed with rainy days (and overnight lows in the mid-40s).

If you planted tomatoes and other summer vegetables early, they’ll likely grow in spurts – or not at all. It may be sunny, but the real growth comes when the soil gets warm; that’s key to early garden success. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, squash and cucumbers need warmer soil to grow and develop, at least 50 degrees or above.

How do you tell? Get a soil thermometer; it will give you a quick and accurate measurement. Or try the old “sit” test: If you can sit five minutes in shorts on bare ground, the soil is warm enough to start planting summer vegetables.

▪ In the vegetable garden, you can plant seeds for beets, carrots, celery, chard, endive, fennel, jicama, melons, mustard, okra, potatoes, radish, soybeans, spinach and turnips. If the soil passed your “sit” test, also plant lima and snap beans, cucumbers, summer and winter squash and watermelon.

▪ Start to set out tomatoes as ground temperatures warm. Tomatoes need nighttime temperatures above 50 degrees. Wait on peppers and eggplants until early May; they like it hotter.

▪ Plant summer bulbs including dahlias, lilies and gladioluses. They’re surprisingly drought tolerant, too.

▪ Weed, weed, weed. Pull them out before they flower, or this task will just keep multiplying.

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