Tomato seedlings

Editor’s Note: The Garden Shed features practical and how-to advice on gardening and taking care of plants and trees from experts with the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

If you are already planning your food garden for next year, good for you! It’s best to get a jump on the season early, especially if you had trouble getting seeds this past year.

With the massive disruptions in our food supply chains, we witnessed a record number of people growing food gardens for the first time and, consequently, many seed houses ran out of favored varieties and were overwhelmed on their websites by gardeners ordering online.

So, order early to get the varieties you want. A little online searching will yield the names of sizable, reputable seed houses right here in New York that carry varieties well adapted to our climate.

A corollary presents itself: in order to hedge against shortages and bad weather both, plan to start a spectrum of varieties that will assure at least some harvest if your early plants fail or are overwhelmed by cold, excessive heat, too much rain ... you get the idea.

Why? By the time it happens, the garden centers, box stores and seed suppliers might be sold out. Read catalogues to find both early and late varieties of your favorite veggies. Also, read carefully for varieties that germinate well in cool soil, but plan to save seed for another “starter” planting if the first one gets frozen.

Later in the year, don’t be in a rush to get heat-loving transplants into the ground. I have been holding the “tropicals” (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) inside under lights until about the middle of June. We have been unpleasantly surprised in our Zone 4b garden by 28 degrees or even colder as late as June 10 for several years in a row.

Naturally, this means adjusting the date for starting plants to have them ready a little later in the year. Don’t forget to place your protective row covers or have those cloches and other protections ready to go. It’s still wise to pay attention to the predicted “last” frost date for your area but with our ever-more-erratic weather, be prepared.

For help with planning your garden, contact your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

(Deborah Bigelow is a master gardener with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Allegany County.)

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The Wonderful World of Succulents

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County’s Horticulture Program invites gardeners for a Zoom presentation, “The Wonderful World of Succulents,” led by master gardener Carol Starski.

The program is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 29, via Zoom.

In the growing popularity of houseplants, succulents are often many of our first purchases. Starski has been studying these fascinating plants for many of her years as a gardener and she will share her knowledge, covering how to grow, care and propagate, while also showing us how to differentiate a cactus from a succulent.

Pre-registration is required and there is no fee for the program. Contact Jeremy Baier, Allegany County Cooperative Extension, (585) 268-7644 ext. 14, or by email jtb273@cornell.edu for details to attend.

There will be an opportunity for questions after the presentation has finished.

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