There is a time for planting spring flowers

April 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

Spring Weather

Spring is a roller coaster, with cold and warm spells alternating unpredictably. It’s hard to predict just the right time to purchase plants for spring planting. Gardeners and plant sellers alike have to do their best to keep the plants in top condition and get them into the garden at the right time. With experience you will know better when it is safe to plant and when it is too late. For now, here is a guide.

A Sunny Spot is Best

For your first beginning flower garden, pick a spot that is in full direct sun. It should be sunny all day long or for at least half the day including noontime. Shady gardens can be terrific, but for a first garden with lots of flowers, a sunnier spot is better.

Flat Ground is Easy to Garden

For a beginning gardener, flat ground is best because it is the easiest to work on. A slight slope will do fine, too, although the steeper it is the more difficult it is to garden on. A steep hillside is challenging.

Remove Grass, Sod or Weeds First

First, remove any existing grass or weeds including the roots. The more thoroughly you do this chore now, the better your results will be later. You can dig it out by hand or use an herbicide. If you use weed killer, be sure to read and carefully follow ALL of the label directions.

Amend Soil: Add Organic Matter

Next, loosen the soil and mix organic matter into it. Organic matter is a catchall term for decomposed materials such as compost, old rotten leaves, well aged stable manure/bedding, spent mushroom soil, or whatever materials you have available locally at reasonable cost.

Annuals vs Perennials

Keep in mind that most annuals do not tolerate frost, and plants will do better if planted into soil that has a bit of time to warm up after that cold winter. Many hardy perennials however can be planted quite early in the spring, especially if they have been kept outdoors at the nursery and are well acclimated to the weather (Perennials can also be planted in the fall with great success.) If you aren’t sure, investigate what is an annual and what is a perennial.

You Have Plenty of Time

You have an extended window of time, there is no critical “plant by” day to worry about in the spring although planting should be finished by late spring/early summer and as a general rule earlier is better. We tend to want to plant as early as possible, and we see those colorful flowers for sale and can’t resist getting started. But if you plant too early, you may lose your flowers to inclement weather, so be cautious. Some years, planting time runs earlier and some years later, it depends on the weather.

Caution: Forced Plants

Sometimes both annual and/or perennial plants are shipped in from a warmer area or are forced into active growth and early bloom and sold very early in the season, way too early to plant. This can be difficult for the gardener. Even if the plant is fully hardy in your zone, a forced plant is extremely tender and will be shocked by sudden inclement weather. Sometimes it is better to pass on these lovely but way too premature bloomers.

Ask Your Retailer

Plant Nursury

If the plant came out of a warm greenhouse and is fully leafed out, and/or is blooming much earlier than its regular bloom season, it may be too early to plant it outside. Ask your retailer if it is too early to plant it yet.

If You Have to Wait

If it really is too early to plant, hold your plants in their containers in a sheltered spot outdoors and protect from frost until your weather settles. A spot with morning sun and protection from the wind is good. Bring them into a garage or other cool but protected place at night so they do not freeze. Remember to water them so the soil stays damp while you are waiting to plant them. Do not try to hold them indoors.

by John Cox, Valley Crest Landscape – jtcox@valleycrest.com

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