Gardeners wary of early planting

Mother Nature likes to play tricks. While temperatures in the 70s and 80s have been tempting local gardeners to start planting over the past weeks, experienced growers warn that the threat of frost may continue through mid- to late May.

Nonetheless, Glen and Judy Mitchell, of Pine Island, took advantage of the warm days and planted broccoli and cauliflower several weeks ago. "I don't remember ever planting that early," Judy says.

The early warm temperatures also brought what she calls "volunteers" — reseeds from last season.

"I've had lettuce and spinach growing already," she says.

Asparagus also has begun to push up, and "the rhubarb is leafing out," she says.


Covering up what is already planted does provide some protection from cold and frost, though some are still pretty fragile.

Sandy Dietz, who with her husband, Lonny, owns Whitewater Gardens in Altura, is one who is always wary of early planting.

"Right now the ground is still too heavy — too wet. As soon as it drys out, we'll start planting, but we also don't want our broccoli and cauliflower to get hit with frost," which causes something called "buttoning," which stunts the growth of the heads, she says.

The Dietzes, who sell their vegetables at the Rochester Farmers Market, are prolific growers.

"We have 11 greenhouses, so we start everything from seed inside — right now, those structures are bursting at the seams," Sandy says.

The Dietzes will plant six acres of more than 30 different types of vegetables, including 15 varieties of potatoes, 25 to 30 tomato varieties with an emphasis on heirlooms, and six different kinds of carrots. Experience has taught us to wait, not to rush nature, she says.

At Garden Martketplatz in Byron, owners Randy and Sue Lantz and Pete Rupprecht (Sue's brother) also don't take any chances. Sue emphasizes that the ground has to be warm or the seeds will not germinate.



She has started many vegetables in their greenhouse and eventually hopes to sell vegetable starts that she has grown herself. Over the past few years, she says she has seen an increase in people wanting to raise their own vegetables.

"It has to do with healthy eating and freshness," she says, "plus the satisfaction that comes with growing your own."

Count yourself lucky if you are a friend or neighbor of Jeanne Gallenberg, of Rochester, who gives most of what she grows away. "I want people to enjoy it while it is all fresh," she says.

Gallenberg's vegetable garden is full of vegetables in peak season, including peas, garlic, asparagus, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and squash.She also likes to experiment with new crops — last year it was popcorn, the year before it was artichokes.

Gallenberg also is waiting to get into the garden. "I started spinach in flats this year and kept them out on my deck during the warm days, but I did move them in at night," she says. "I didn't want to take a chance that frost might get them."

What To Read Next
Get Local