Minnesota Farmer

A late start

The weather here in southwestern Minnesota has been cold and miserable for the most part.  It is raining again today, but I feel much better now that I finally got started with the planting.

This has got to be the latest start to corn planting in all of my 60 years.  Snow and cold have left the perennial plants slow to get growing, and new seeding just will not start when the thermometer stays so low.  Yes, we have had some really nice days, but all too often they are followed by more cold.  So despite all the signs to the contrary, I started planting corn yesterday, and today it rains.

There are certain signs I have been taught in my farming career, passed down from generation to generation.  They were all perfectly good back in my grandfather’s day, but are they any good today.  Maybe, maybe not.

  1. “Don’t start to plant corn until the barn swallows return.”  The return of the barn swallows tells you something about average soil and air temperatures.  The insect activity that is needed to support barn swallows is roughly equivalent to the ground and air temperature needed to get corn seeds germinating.  Newer corn varieties have a better germination percentage in colder soils (Cold Germ.) and can take cooler temperatures up to a point.  We still need warm air to keep the corn plant growing.
  2. “Oak leaves, or green ash leaves, should be as big as a squirrels ear.”  The growth of tree leaves may say a bit more about air temperatures than insect activity does, it is also more cumulative.  Either way you still need a certain amount of warm air and warm soil to get these later leafing trees going.  I’ve never stopped a squirrel to see how big their ears are, and I have wondered if it makes a difference what type of squirrel you have.  Still, a good set of leaves on latter leafing trees does signify warm weather is here.
  3. “To see if the soil is warm enough to plant you need to go out and set your bare butt in the dirt.”  I’ve never tried this one so I don’t know if it will work.  I’ve always suspected that this was said for the humor of it, not the facts derived of the statement.

Well this year I did not wait for any of these signs.  The calendar was screaming we need to start planting, so I did.  Since University data say the best average time to plant here in our area is between April 23 and May 10, I knew I had to get started.  Now, because of the rain, I am waiting again. 20121114_crop-report3_39Michael


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