In the course of my almanack record keeping, I have found that soil temperatures generally follow the normal average air temperatures within maybe ten degrees. But in the spring, the ground often lags behind the weather, remaining cold, and causing considerable anguish to the farmer and gardener.
For example, if your beans go in before the earth is warm enough, they rot where you lay them. “Nothing sprouts,” says the ancient Greek sage, Theophrastus, “before its proper time.” At least I think he said something like that…..
Lacking a soil thermometer and guidelines for its use, one might, even in this digital age of the 21st century, accidently sow seeds when the ground is too cold .
When in doubt, however, two old-time suggestions may be useful.
The first, from an ancient English herbal, is popular but tricky. It goes like this: “The best of growers have the seedsman go unclad to sow the field.”
As long as the feet are bare, too, the technique can be quite effective. Remember, however, the soil is what you want to check, not the air, nor the sensitivities of your neighbors.
To be on the safe side, you may wish to conduct a more reliable and potentially less controversial soil test described in this clever verse by the 19th century landscaper, the Marquis de Croissant (1834-1897): “If the ground be warm to the derriere,” states the Marquis, “’Twill surely give thee beans to spare.”
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of late spring. In the meantime, you might try one of those gardening tricks. Who knows how your beans will turn out!