The earliest that we ever sowed seed in our field on our vegetable farm was March 18th. As you know, for our Canadian Prairie location, this date was extremely early!
We were under the influence of an abnormally warm weather phenomena called "El Nino" back then, which provided us with a very mild winter and early spring thaw.
Our decision was to sow a field of Nantes carrots because carrots are frost tolerant, plus they were one of our most popular crops. Now, we knew it would be quite likely to see a good dump of snow after we sowed the carrots, but we weren’t worried because snow melts slowly and provides beautifully even moisture for the seeds.
The snow did come but the biggest challenge we faced was that the soil was desperately dry for weeks before the snow came in early April, resulting in some pretty spotty germination – about a quarter of what it normally would have been. On the positive side, we were eating those spotty, fresh, carrots by late May!
So was the early sewing worth it? Absolutely. The cost of the lost seed was more than offset by an early harvest. Of course, we sowed several more plantings of Nantes carrots in April and May and had much better germination and ended up with a bumper crop.
The lesson that I learned, that year, was that when Mother Nature tosses you an El Nino and allows you to gamble with a bit of early sowing of cold tolerant vegetables – go for it.
2016 may or may not allow for an exceptionally early sowing. But if the opportunity arises, I always remember that one March along with my Mother’s advice to gardeners concerned about early sowing in general.
She would always say, “The seed costs a few dollars, take a chance and live dangerously!” I could not have said it better.