The Importance of Checking Soil Temperature

A lot of people understand that when there is a hard frost, many of the less hardy plants in the garden are likely to die. What fewer people understand is that soil temperature is just as important as air temperature in keeping the plants alive. This can be confusing because a frost is caused by a combination of air temperature and humidity. With the emphasis that even weather stations put on frost reports and warnings, it would seem that soil temperature is unimportant. This would be an incorrect assumption. For most garden plants to flourish, they require a healthy root system. If the soil temperature is too cold, the roots die or struggle to develop. This is the reason that plants may continue to grow in the fall even after they’ve been ‘singed’; that is, a light frost has occurred and perhaps killed a number of the leaves. If the soil is still warm and the roots are still in good shape, the plant continues to grow. Taken a step further, have you noticed how some plant seeds will lay on or in the ground, not germinating even when the air temperature becomes quite warm? Many seeds in this situation will actually rot, rather than germinating. This is because of the ground or soil temperature. If it isn’t warm enough, the delicate roots of seedlings won’t survive, so the seeds don’t germinate. Some seeds won’t germinate until the soil temperatures get substantially above what we might consider to be warm. Continue Reading →

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