I made my first nursery trip of the year this past weekend. It was wonderful just feeling that greenhouse heat and humidity while the winds whipped up a frenzy of dust and chill outside. I did purchase 3 items which I’ll talk about later but I wanted to use this post as a simple warning. Aside from cold-weather veggie crops, trees, shrubs and very-hardy perennials, please put off any planting for a while longer. We are still more than a week from the last average frost date and even then it won’t wait to hurt a little longer before filling up your flower and garden beds.
Soil temperature is a huge factor, especially with warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and melons. You may have good-sized transplants that can weather a few cool days but it can really stunt their progress to have cold ‘feet’. I might wait closer to June before setting my transplants out. Transplants set out earlier can actually be set back weeks when it comes to actual production, so resist until the soil is warmer – 60F if you want to get technical. I had a grandmother that didn’t start her veggies until June and she always seemed to have a bumper crop.
Pots, baskets and raised beds will be more susceptible to temperature changes. Annuals might be in full bloom in the nurseries and garden centers but that doesn’t mean they can weather a night outside yet. If you are eager to get some pops of color outside, plant your annuals in baskets and make sure to bring them in when temps dip below 55-60F. Same goes if you fear your favorites will be picked over at the stores if you wait until they can actually spend the nights outside.
There are a few things you can do to start a little earlier in the garden:
- Use bottles with bottoms cut off and caps removed to shelter new transplants for a week or two. Make sure to remove them if it does get hot outside or you could risk cooking the baby plant.
- Mulch heavily
- On an especially cool night, cover your tender plants or ones that have just set buds with cloth, overturned buckets, plastic bags or blankets.
- Cover the ground around plants with plastic to make it heat up quicker – cut ‘Xs’ where you want to put your transplants