Warm up by getting a head start on your gardenWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Springtime means gardening time, and whether you’re brand-new or an experienced gardener, there are always extra tips to help out that green thumb.
The earliest date to plant is the “frost-free” date of May 15, but there are a few other ways to get a head start on your garden.
“The earliest things you can plant are pansies,” said Mike Abernathy of Whiteford Road Greenhouse. “They’re real tough and frost-tolerant. They can actually be frozen and still survive.”
But growers aren’t limited to only planting frost-tolerant plants like lettuces, kales and alpines this early in the season. Sun-loving plants can also get an early start.
“You can always buy early and take them into your garage at night,” said Mary Machon of Bensell’s Greenhouse. “Usually you want to water weekly or every few days if you start this early. Then later in the season you can water up to twice a day.”
Flowers like geraniums can take up to two months to bloom.
“There are certain dates people have in mind. In order to have a really nice basket for Mother’s Day, you have to think ahead so the plants have time to bloom,” said Eileen Creque of Creque’s Greenhouse. “And geraniums are one of the biggest fertilizer hogs of all the plants we grow.”
Creque also warns to watch for lime green colors on leaves. If lime green appears, the plant is robbing nutrients from its older leaves and won’t feed the newer ones, so caretakers would need to give the plants extra nutrients.
“You have to be careful what fertilizer you buy,” Creque said. “You should look to make sure it’s going to last as many months as you need for growing. Some will say two or three months, but that’s based on natural rainfall. Other fertilizers are released every time you water them. So many times the fertilizer gets used up sooner than the package says it will.”
Machon also advises to water plants slowly and deeply. The roots will follow the water, and short roots mean a weak plant.
“You don’t want a wimpy plant,” Machon said with a laugh. “You want a tough plant. You have to condition them.”
Some plants don’t require much maintenance. For growers with long work hours and not enough time in the day, there are plenty of options to enjoy foliage without a lot of upkeep.
“People are turning from annuals to plants like succulents, which are very drought-tolerant. You don’t have to water them all the time because they’re used to heavy sunlight,” Machon said. “You can even pinch them and keep them growing, or put them in a pot and bring them in and out. There isn’t a lot of upkeep and they all look great together — it doesn’t matter which ones you choose. They also work well with all sorts of soil and even bloom in the wintertime. They’re so easy.”
A lot of other plants perform double duties too, which keeps costs down. Corn plants can be used as spikes for spice gardens, and potted xenias can be taken outside during warm months and inside during the winter. These are all great options for busy parents, the growers said. And for kids?
“Sunflowers, bush beans and marigolds are great for kids. They start sprouting after a few days and are pretty tough. They grow quickly, too, so kids can see the progress,” Machon said. “If we could get every person to plant just one plant, then that would be wonderful.”
From care-free succulents to attention-craving vegetables, there seems to be a plant for everyone, no matter what type of gardener you may be. You only need a little nudge with your green thumb.
By Blair Bohland
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer