It is so fickle in my neck of the woods!
As I mentioned in my post yesterday, my garden went into hyperdrive last week as the temperatures heated up and “summer” arrived. And then – whiplash – a cold front came through, temperatures dropped, and it snowed. I know it sounds extreme – and it kind of is. But it’s also kind of . . . not. We often get snow in April. We also often get teasing little blasts of warm, summer weather in April.
That’s . . . what spring is like here.
And, no. I’m not worried about my garden.
The things that are blooming in my garden now . . . hellebores, daffodils, grape hyacinths, early tulips . . . are spring bloomers. By their very nature, they thrive in the spring. They can withstand extreme temperature swings. And snow. (Snow makes a great insulator, by the way; it doesn’t really hurt spring-blooming plants.) They can tolerate frost. This is their time to shine!
(That said, the weight of snow can bend the stems of daffodils, so I usually cut them to bring into the house if a spring snow is imminent.)
And most of the perennials that are beginning to emerge in my garden right now are going to be okay, too. Nature – which extends to our gardens – has a timeline that accomodates fickle spring weather. Sure. Sometimes lengthy, extreme warm-ups can push things a bit too quickly — so if (when. . . ) winter returns, there can be some problems. Or . . . a freeze that hangs around for a few days late in the spring can really mess things up, too. But that typical push and pull of warm/cold, warm/cold is what spring . . . is all about!
Last Friday, most of the nurseries in my area “opened” for the season. It’s always kind of a party for gardeners when that day finally arrives! No matter the weather, the gardeners emerge . . . looking for inspiration — and buying plants (because we just can’t help ourselves). EVEN WHEN WE CAN’T REALLY PLANT STUFF YET!
I have a few little “rules of thumb” for when you CAN start planting stuff again — and I thought some of you might be interested.
First, be familiar with your area’s average last frost date before you plant anything. (Note: I’m not talking about sowing from seed. That’s a whole different thing. . . ) Anyway, you can click on that link and be whooshed to the Farmer’s Almanac First and Last Frost Date information page — to look up your area’s 2023 projected last frost date. Ever since I’ve been gardening, the average frost date for my area has been somewhere between May 12 and May 18. I usually figure I’m safe with all my planting right around Mother’s Day. But I did notice that this year, my average last frost date appears to be May 4. (Climate change in action. . . )
Now, you can plant SOME perennials before that date. For example, I picked up some new hellebores at the “season opener” the other day, and it’s just fine for me to plant them now. How do I know this? Well, because hellebores are blooming right now in my garden! So, look to your garden. If you have a perennial in bloom or emerging right now, you’ll be okay to plant more of it. If, however, it’s not emerging yet (in my garden, that would be hostas, for example), it’s still too early to plant any new ones. You can also ask at your nursery. If they’re knowledgeable growers, they should be able to help you with your timing. (I don’t know that you’ll find that level of expertise at box stores, though. You might. But you also might not.)
The same holds true for transplanting. If you want to dig something up and divide it, you can do it right now — as long as it’s emerging. If it’s not really coming up yet, I’d wait until it is.
When it comes to annuals, though, you really want to wait for that average last frost date! In other words, hold off on planting your containers or window boxes until the frost threat is gone — even if the weather is screaming “summer.” If you make use of bedding plants in your borders . . . wait. If you buy hanging planters . . . wait. If you grow herbs from starts . . . or tomato plants . . . wait. Because those tender annual plants? They WILL succumb to freezes.
So what do you do if you can’t resist . . . and you buy some plants before you can plant them? Well, you’re going to have to watch the weather and act accordingly!
For example, I bought a flat of black-and-blue salvia the other day when I was at the “season opener.” (You may remember that these are the plants that attracted hummingbirds to my garden all summer long last year.) I know I can’t plant them in my garden until after May 4 (the average last frost day for me this year), but I also know that these are very popular plants — and they sell out quickly. So I bought ’em anyway. But now . . . I will have to work hard to keep them alive and thriving until planting time.
I kept the flat out on my patio in the sunshine, and I gave all the plants plenty of water twice a day – until the temperature started to plummet on Sunday night. Now, the flat is sitting inside my house. I’ll continue to move the plants in and out of house until planting time – depending on the weather – always making sure to water a couple of times a day.
Although . . . stay tuned! I just bought this . . .
It’s still in the box this morning, but we’ll get it all set up out on the patio soon.
Take that, fickle spring!