Plant Away!

We got reminded this week why April seventh is not the last freeze date but the last average freeze date as many areas of the metro and across the state either froze or flirted with freezing for three consecutive nights. For April 7 to be the average that means sometimes our last freeze is earlier than that date and sometimes later.   This year we got the later but hopefully we are now done with freezes until November. We have had freezes in recent years as late as May third so we always need to keep a watchful eye on early plantings.

With the weather warming we can now precede to spring planting.  This is the time we signal to “plant away” on pretty much everything except the very hottest blooded plants like periwinkle, sweet potatoes and caladiums. It is open season to plant most all of the warm season annuals, perennials and vegetables as well as trees and shrubs. Take advantage of any nice spring days the next few weeks to plant vegetables you can harvest later this season and flowers that will produce color you can enjoy the rest of this growing season.

Flowering shrubs are blooming in neighborhoods across our state including spectacular mounds of spirea, heavenly scented lilacs, impactful viburnum with their big snowball flowers and the many dazzling colors of azaleas. Ornamental crabapples trees are covered with a spectacular array of flowers and many of our fruit trees have been or are just starting to flower. Your fruit harvest could be impacted based on how cold you got, what stage of flower they were at and how long it stayed at or below freezing as well as how much moisture was in the soil and in the tree. Soon we will have a better handle on how this late cold front effected our fruit harvest and that will vary a lot depending o the factors discussed above.

We are all on edge and nervous about the Covid-19 virus and the barrage of news, views and information as we determine how to alter our lives and reduce our risks of catching or spreading this vile virus. One of the lessons we learn from working with viruses and diseases with plants and animals is the healing power of getting outside in the sunlight and fresh air. One of the ways we solve problems is to space out troubled plants to get more air movement around them and to get them out in the natural sunlight. The same is likely to help you physically, emotionally and mentally. Get outside and tend to your existing landscape whether it be watering, weeding, feeding or trimming. The most fun and the most rewarding is the planting of new plants.

Container grown plants can be planted most anytime but we get the best benefits by planting in April and May when the weather is generally comfortable and moderate for plants and humans, We have cool but not cold nights, get natural rainfall to reduce how often you need to water and you get to enjoy annuals and vegetables for their full growing season. The quicker you plant now, the more the plants will get established before our sizzling hot summer weather and the longer you will get to enjoy these annual crops. Perennial crops, trees and shrubs also benefit from spring plantings as it is easier to get established before summer. Since so many of us procrastinate, the big issue on trees, shrubs and perennials is to stop just thinking or dreaming about it and to actually select and plant these long term crops. The sooner you plant a tree, a hedge, flowering shrubs or perennials the sooner you can start enjoying them.

There is a renewed interest in vegetable and herb gardening with all the concerns about fresh food and food availability. Many of the most popular vegetables are easy and fun to grow whether in a traditional ground level flower or vegetable garden, raised beds, or in containers on your condo patio or apartment balcony. The most popular continue to be the many varieties of tomatoes from hybrids to heirlooms and little cherry and pear shaped to large slicing tomatoes. Peppers are the second most popular vegetable transplant and there are dozens of sweet and hot varieties to plant. Eggplant, squash, okra and dozens of other vegetables and herbs can provide you fresh tasty homegrown food.

There are literally thousands of varieties of colorful annuals now available at your local nursery, garden center or greenhouse. Go select some plants you have grown before, and some new plants to try out.

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