As temperatures rise area gardeners roll up their sleeves in anticipation of a prolific season. But area nursery owners say they must keep in mind the vagaries of weather, soil, and invasive pests.
The traditional starting point for planting is after Mother’s Day. However, some hardier plants can withstand the cold nip lingering before that, said Don Schmidlin, owner, with his wife Becky, of Schmidlin Greenhouse in Delta.
Pansies and snapdragons can weather a mild frost, as can cold crop vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and onions. Tomatoes and peppers also can be planted in late April or early May, but they must be coddled until warmer temperatures settle.
“If you’re going to protect them now, you can plant them now,” Schmidlin said. “If the extended forecast doesn’t throw a frost in there, you’re good to go.”
To be safe, cover them at night and when it’s windy, he said. And keep an eye out for upcoming cold snaps.
My mid-May, gardeners have the green light to plant anything. Schmidlin said many annuals, such as marigolds, petunias, and impatiens, display a delicacy when first planted but toughen up.
“Once they get established and get a root system they take care of themselves. You don’t have to monitor them,” he said.
An exception may be the geranium, which can require “dead heading,” or the removal of dead blooms.
Schmidlin said weather conditions this summer appear ideal, but plant maintenance remains key. Fertilizer is essential, but too much can burn the plant root. Plants in containers often get either not enough or too much attention.
“When it’s hot and dry, they take a lot of water. But people tend to under-water or over-water. You’ve got to be monitoring the water,” Schmidlin said.
For gardeners who don’t want much fuss, vinca is a perfect solution, he said. The flower is native to Africa and Asia, and thrives in dry soil and hot temperatures.
Connie Lynch, owner of Lil Bit Country in Wauseon with her husband, Charlie, agrees that planting early can be successful with some precaution. “If you can look ahead and see the weather for 7-10 days, and it looks good, go ahead and plant,” she said.
Protect plants from late frosts, but don’t cover them with plastic, which will retain the cold, Lynch said. Rather, use a blanket or sheet.
Depending on the plant, soil preferences can range widely, from sandy to clay. However, the hosta, a perennial, will grow in anything, Lynch said.
She said Fulton County gardeners seem partial to geraniums, snapdragons, zinnias, and marigolds, the latter whose scent deters insect infestation. Favorite vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini.
Be careful to guard perennial bushes from freezing conditions when they’re still small plants, Lynch advised. “A mild frost won’t hurt a perennial, a hard freeze will,” she said.
And beware of cabbage loopers, a pesky infiltrator of such cruciferous plants as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Above all, don’t plant your vegetable garden in a shaded area, Lynch said. Tropical plants, such as aloe, should be grown indoors.
Tracy Gleason, owner of Green Acres Greenhouse and Nursery in rural Archbold, said novice gardeners should remember not to plant too early.
“A lot of people don’t know the way the weather works, and when we can get frosts. They need to be prepared to cover plants up,” he said.
Gleason said a little-known fact is that the coldest night in May is during the full moon, usually prior to Mother’s Day. This year, however, it will be afterward, on May 18, “so just be cautious,” he said.
Petunias are his best-selling flower because they’re easy to care for and give bright color throughout the season. He and his wife, Lisa, also find calibrachoa and lantana flower species to be popular.
He warned gardeners to watch transplanted melons, which are susceptible to drying out from gusty winds. “They’re tender from being in the greenhouse,” Gleason advised.
And those living in rural areas who can’t seem to make plants grow shouldn’t necessarily blame themselves, he said.
“If people have a black thumb, it’s usually not them. Their water source is bad,” he said.
Water from deep wells picks up lots of minerals, and the ph factor can be high, Gleason said. “It’s the nutrients the plants need, except they’re out of whack. (The plants are) not getting a balanced meal. When we water out of our deep wells, those plants are only going to live for a couple weeks because we’re toxifying them.”
Relying on rainwater and using water from ponds, creeks, rivers, and reservoirs is better for the plants and makes a notable difference, he said.
Lynch said each year she is approached by enthusiasts who have no experience in gardening. She said that shouldn’t deter anyone from digging in.
“The way you learn is doing, and ask questions,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.