- With dreams of juicy red tomatoes and bright pink begonias, gardeners everywhere are eagerly swapping their winter mittens for gardening gloves. After all, when the calendar flips to April, spring gardening season is upon us.
Or is it? Depending on where you live, it can be tricky to know when to start digging in. While the daffodils bloom in Tennessee, the snow could still be falling in Minnesota. When is it safe to plant in your area, and how do you get started?
Here are some tips for getting your spring gardening on the right timeline for your location and the steps to take for a budget-friendly bounty.
Before You Plant: What to Watch for
Of course, all gardeners keep an eye on the weather, watching for rain and hoping for sunshine. But temperatures play a key role in gardening success as well. The air and soil temperatures must be warm enough for seeds and seedlings. Pay attention to the following before you start your garden:
Last frost date. When you plant annuals (the flowers and plants that you replant each year), make sure they’re not at risk of dying due to a cold snap. Find out the average date your area sees its last frost. As you near that date, turn to the 14-day weather forecast to see if warm or cold weather is predicted.
Nighttime temperatures. When the days get warmer, you might feel encouraged to plant your garden or containers. Keep in mind that a 60-degree day can have a 40-degree night. A good rule of thumb is to wait and plant summer annuals when you see consistent nighttime temperatures of 55 degrees or above.
Planting zones. The United States is divided into planting zones based on average weather. Not sure what planting zone you live in? Check the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Plant Hardiness Zone Map. At the top of the page, you can even zoom in on your state for a closer look.
Planting Timeline: Steps for Spring and Summer
Early spring. If it’s not totally safe to plant in your area during the early spring months, you can still complete plenty of tasks to get your garden ready.
- Clean flower beds of winter debris and weeds.
- Plan your garden on paper so you know what to shop for.
- Mulch or top-dress your garden beds.
- Start seeds in trays indoors in a sunny window.
- Plant perennial flowers (the ones that come back year after year). These flowers survive in the cold, so if you find some outside at a garden center, you can go ahead and plant them. If they are inside a warm greenhouse, you’ll still have to wait for warmer weather.
- Prune shrubs.
- Depending on your climate, consider planting trees and shrubs in the spring — otherwise wait until the fall. They require lots of water, so they often struggle in the summertime if they’re not well established.
- Some bulbs, like elephant ears, can be planted when it’s cool. Check the bulb package for timing in your area.
- Repair any paths in your garden with additional stones or mulch.
- Start a new bed by tilling and turning the soil to get it ready to plant.
Late spring and early summer. As the weather warms and the ground is ready for your annuals, take these steps to get your garden underway.
- Lay drip hoses in your bed before you plant — it will make summer watering easy.
- Purchase your plants. Keep them watered until you can get them planted.
- Plant container gardens.
- Get your flowers and summer vegetable seeds in the ground.
- Add hanging baskets.
- Divide hosta plants and other perennials once they peep through the ground.
- Feed all your flowers.
- Clip hedges.
Getting Supplies: Money-saving Tips
A garden center is very much like a buffet line. It is so easy to want some of everything. It’s all beautiful, but getting it all can be pretty ugly on your wallet. Here’s how to save money on supplies and plants:
- Start with sales. Always check store flyers or look online. You’ll find different things on sale each week from early spring to summer. If you’ve made a garden plan, you’ll know exactly what you need.
- Look for coupons. Many retailers and manufacturers offer coupons. Be sure to look for rebates or coupons attached to products at the point of purchase.
- Start small. Select the less-expensive smaller container and take it home to grow it bigger.
- Divide and conquer. Some very full plants, like hostas, ivy, and grasses, can be divided easily. If you buy the fattest one, you may be able to divide it into two, three, or four small plants and only pay for one.
- Try seeds. It’s not only fun to see tiny shoots come up from seeds, it is economical. Seeds are often much less expensive than established plants. You can start some seeds inside in a sunny window. Others, like zinnias, can be planted right in the ground. Check the back of the seed packet for detailed instructions.
- Reuse potting soil. Don’t throw your old pots of dirt in the trash. Instead, dump them in a wheelbarrow. Mix in a new bag or two of potting soil and stir it well. Then reuse the dirt. This saves you from buying all new soil.
You can easily have the garden of your dreams with the right planning and budgeting. Happy spring!
Original source: LeaSchneider.