Spring is here — supposedly

Hello Trumbull County. We’ve been into spring officially for a little over three weeks now, but it really hasn’t felt much different than the two seasons preceding it. The forecast for a cold and wet spring has been pretty spot on, so I am hoping that the forecast for a warm and dry summer holds true. When it warms up to about 70 on Friday, it is going to feel downright tropical.

I went out Tuesday morning to check the soil temperature. It was still 36.1 degrees Fahrenheit, or not much above freezing. For those of you looking at your calendar for planting oats, peas, or any other cold weather crop, you might as well throw that calendar in the recycling pile. The soil needs to warm up 10 degrees for cold season crops, and an additional 5 degrees to plant corn and soybeans. Soil is a giant thermal sink, and it will take several days of warm weather to see those temperatures start to climb higher.

Although right now, it doesn’t matter if the soil is 100 degrees, because most fields are way too wet for tillage or planting. Lower and poorly drained fields still have standing water from our most recent rain and snow. The cold, wet weather is going to push back planting (gardens and fields alike) a few weeks this year.

When conditions are favorable for planting, it’s going to be a mad dash to get everything in the ground. I have been thinking a lot lately about a quote my mother has hanging in her home by James Whitcomb Riley — “It is no use to grumble and complain; It’s just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain — Why, rain’s my choice.” We can’t control the weather, and stressing out about it won’t make a bit of difference. (But I’ll probably still complain a bit.)

Although not ideal weather, it does present an opportunity for home gardeners to slow down and develop a plan for their garden or lawn. Now is the time of year when some folks start to stockpile fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and more in anticipation of planting weather. In my role, I work with a lot with farmers and gardeners to interpret soil test results for their property. I can provide targeted recommendations that will ensure plenty of nutrients for whatever they want to plant, while keeping in mind the need to protect our environment, namely by not overusing chemicals. The recommendations I can provide are based on research trials conducted by numerous universities throughout the country.

I was a little disappointed to see several local chain retailers advertising generalized fertilizer rates of “6-8 bags per acre” or “13 bags per acre.” While this ratio may be right for some property, the only way to determine the fertilizer needed for your lawn, garden, field, nursery, or containers is to have a soil test. If a bag of 19-19-19 fertilizer costs $21 and you only need one bag instead of eight, as the store may blindly recommend, you can do the math on how much money you can save yourself. Take my advice — don’t guess, soil test. If you want to have your soil tested, we offer the kits for sale in our office, or many ag retailers also sell the kits.

The Trumbull County Master Gardeners will be kicking off their Wednesdays in the Gardens series 6 p.m. Wednesday with a presentation on straw bale gardening. The Master Gardeners will be back on May 2 with a program dedicated to growing, maintaining and pruning roses. This free program series will continue every other week throughout the spring and summer at the Trumbull County Ag and Family Education Center in Cortland.

Do you want to learn more incorporating native plants into your landscape and how to keep invasive species out of your lawn, garden, or woodlot? The Trumbull County Master Gardeners will be hosting Robin Christensen 10 a.m. April 19 when she will discuss how to increase the number of natives in your garden while keeping the invasives out. Robin is the extension educator for Ag and Natural Resources in Portage County and was formerly caretaker for a 1,000-plus acre preserve in Michigan.

For information about programs, call the OSU Trumbull County Extension Office at 330-638-6783 or visit trumbull.osu.edu. Don’t forget to check out and “Like” OSU Extension Trumbull County’s Facebook page for current programs and information.

Lee Beers can be reached at beers.66@osu.edu.