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it’s still early: Careful not to overplant this early

April 22, 2010
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

It has been so nice outside that I have a jumpstart on cleaning up the yard and getting the gardens ready for planting. I have heard the same from many of my fellow gardeners. In fact, it seems that many of our perennials are also appreciating the warm weather and just seem to be exploding out of the garden this year.

However, we need to slow down a little bit and make sure that we are not planting some things too early. Mother Nature is fickle. It has been very, very nice outside and I think we all have been appreciating it just so much more after the crazy winter we have had, too. But, we can still have frost and colder temperatures for a few weeks yet. In fact, though I have some of my cold weather plants in the ground such as potatoes, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, things like that, it is way too early to get those tomato plants outside and other warm weather plants.

You can be watchful and use things like wall of water or 5-gallon pails to keep those plants from catching the cold winds or a cold night time temperature. But, it has been shown that you actually don't really get that much of a head start on the growing season. So, tomato, pepper and corn growers, be aware that Mother Nature is out there waiting for you to try your hand at early planting, just to see what you are made of when she has that one last night of frost. The magic date of, hopefully, frost free weather is about the 15th to the 20th of May. We have a whole month yet to decide what we want and where to put it.

If you need to plant and we all have that need at this time of the year besides our farmers; then by all means start planting those new perennial plants, trees and shrubs. In fact, these types of plants seem to do better if they are planted while it is still cool outside. They get a better foot hold, so to speak, so they can develop those roots and take hold of that soil. Bulbs, rhizomes and other flowers that come in such a way, also do well in having been planted at this time of the year. It, too, gives them some time to develop their roots and get ready for spring.

And, if this doesn't help you out, then working on the lawn can start now as well. If your lawn looks like mine, it needs or needed a lot of help this spring. This is a good time to take care of lawn weeds and also seed in those spots that became thin during our tough winter. Lawns will green up and do better if we can do much of the lawn work now while it is still cool outside. It is also easier on the gardener to do all of that raking while it is cooler outside, too.

And don't forget about all of that pruning that needs to be done. If you have spring flowering shrubs, then pruning has to wait until they are done flowering. If they are late summer flowering shrubs, then you can do it now. You might have rabbit damage on these plants as well. These branches can be pruned out at any time but you might want to wait until you see if the branch(es) are still alive. Plants surprise me all of the time on what they can survive.

For more information on gardening, you can email me at



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