Metro-East News

Another frosty night is on its way. So when can you start planting your summer garden?

National Weather Service forecasters have have put much of the metro-east and surrounding area on a frost advisory overnight into Friday morning, including Belleville.

"Those with agricultural interests in the Advisory area should protect tender vegetation. Also, potted plants normally left outdoors should be covered or brought inside away from the cold," the advisory stated.

The area has seen cold temperatures and lots of rainfall since spring began on March 20, so what does that mean for your summer garden plans?

Planting might be a mistake before soil temperatures warm up, but that shouldn't stop gardeners from planting.

The University of Illinois Extension office recommends a minimum soil temperature of 60 degrees, says Jennie Atkins of the service.

"We're probably not going to get sustained soil temperatures that everybody wants for a while," she said.

The extension office has 19 sites throughout the state that collect soil temperatures, including a station in Belleville near Scott Air Force Base, Atkins said.

The area is about three weeks behind the normal planting season, said Sandy Richter of Sandy's Back Porch.

"A lot of things most people are asking about, tomatoes, peppers and vegetables ... putting those into that cold soil right now, they are not happy. Some things just can't handle that cold soil."

Richter said planting tomatoes now, versus waiting for the soil to warm up, would not significantly impact the tomato season.

But other plants would be quite happy being planted now, she said, such as trees, shrubs and perennials.

"They're fine. They can go in now and have no trouble in the cold soil," Richter said, adding that the roots are growing even if the tops are not.

Atkins said she was more of a soil expert than a gardening expert, but she plans to plant soon.

"Personally, I will probably be planting (my tomatoes) this weekend just to be getting them out of the dining room," Atkins said.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535, @MaryCooleyBND