Ease into Spring Gardening

CHARLIE THIGPEN


Easter and Good Friday seem to kick off Spring gardening fever, and the whirlwind of planting begins. Many people think that it’s safe to set out tender plants such as tomatoes and basil after Good Friday, but the problem is that Easter and Good Friday correspond with the lunar calendar so the date moves. Last year Easter was on April 16th and this year it’s on April 1st . If you’re going to plant early, plant wisely and be ready to cover or bring in those tender warm-season plants.

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Planting Fever
An old, experienced farmer once told me how funny he thought it was that people wanted to get their tomato plants in the ground early but once they plant them the plants just sit there and don’t actually grow because the soil isn’t warm enough to promote root growth.
If you do plant your tomatoes early just plant a couple now, and then a few in a couple of weeks, and then a few more a few weeks later to stagger the plantings. By staggering your planting times you’ll have tomatoes coming in at different times of the season instead of all at once. If you have spring fever and have to plant something now, set out frost tolerant plants such as dianthus, geraniums, marigolds, parsley, petunias, snap dragons, sweet alyssum and Swiss chard. All these plants will take the frost but not a hard freeze. Later, more plants will be available such as coleus, lantana and many tropicals. Plant your garden in stages so you don’t get burned out.

Gardening Maintenance
When people think of gardening the first thing that comes to mind is setting out plants. There is so much more to gardening than planting. Now’s a great time to amend the soil in beds or borders with organic matter such as mushroom compost, leaf mold or soil conditioner. It’s also a great time to get unwanted weeds under control. Make sure all your beds are free of weeds before planting because weeds can quickly overtake new plantings and make your garden a mess.

Is It Dead or Alive?
After a rough, cold winter we are beginning to see what survived and what didn’t. On any deciduous shrubs that haven’t leafed out or evergreen shrubs that defoliated during the cold you can use a knife or fingernail to scratch the outside cambium or bark and see if plants are still green underneath. If you see green, there is hope the plant will come back. If a plant’s top looks totally dead you can cut the plant back to the ground but don’t pull it up. If the top is dead but the roots are still alive the plant may come back. It might take a little patience but plants have a will to survive and sometimes they recover stronger than ever. This year ease into gardening and plant only what you can realistically maintain throughout the spring and summer. Plant in stages and do a little bit during the week when you have time instead of making it a Saturday morning chore.

Ease into Spring Gardening
Enjoy your time in the garden and don’t let it be a burden. It’s a great way to exercise and enjoy the great outdoors in your own backyard.