The calendar noted March 20 as the first day of spring, or Spring Equinox. The garden centers are filled with beautiful young tender plants. You want it all. Hold on. Do not fill your shopping carts yet.
There are cool weather plants that can be planted early in our area. Growing up, Daddy liked to get the garden spot plowed up in early-mid February. Potatoes’ ‘eyes’ were soon cut off and in the ground. Green peas, cabbage plants and onions followed. Leaf lettuce, turnip greens, spinach and radishes were childhood favorites. Broccoli and cauliflower are also considered a cool season vegetable and can be planted early.
One major thing to check is the frost date in your area. Frost and temperatures around 32 degrees can cause harm to young vegetation. In our area, April 11-15 is a safer time to begin in-ground plants and seeds for your gardens.
You may enjoy starting plants from seeds in your kitchen window. This should begin six to eight weeks before the last predicted frost date. Squash, zucchini, green beans (pole and bush), cucumbers, peas, butter beans, sweet corn, melons and okra seed can be planted directly into the prepared soil. As okra has a hard outer seed coat, you may want to soak the seeds in water overnight before they are planted.
Local garden centers will have many varieties of bell peppers, hot peppers and tomato plants ready to be set out. If you do not have a large garden space, peppers and tomatoes do well in containers. Get brave and try some of the heirloom varieties.
April gives you time to set out most shrubs and trees. We usually have adequate rainfall but check often after planting to see if they need additional watering. Mulch. Many of the perennials in the flower garden may need to be divided and located to another spot or shared with friends and family. I have a clump of Shasta daisies that was shared with me, that I have divided and shared with several others. The ajuga at the front door was given to me when we moved into our home in 1978. I enjoy walking around the yard and remembering those friends and family that have shared with me. Be that sharing friend.
When all danger of frost has passed, set out those beautiful summer annuals. You will find many plants locally. Look for plants that will give you a long season of blooms like begonias, geraniums, impatiens and petunias. Marigolds and zinnias are easy to grow from seed and fun to plant with young children. The leaves of the coleus will give you beauty all summer. Have a plan before you shop. A planned grouping of the same variety or color will give you more pop than a few single plants scattered around.
Prune azaleas and other spring flowering shrubs after they have bloomed. Leave the foliage from the daffodils for several weeks after blooming. Those not-so-pretty brown blades are feeding the bulbs for next year’s bloom.
Lowndes County Master Gardener Olivia Sansing shares timely tips on behalf of the Master Gardeners’ group.