With spring flowers emerging from winter hibernation, more people are getting out and into gardens.
Krista Harding, Southwind Extension District Horticulture Agent, said there is definitely an increased interest in gardening.
Sandie Warren, owner of In Jesus Name Grow greenhouse, said more people are planting while they self-isolate as a precaution against the coronavirus (COVID-19). Gardening, like agriculture and food production, is considered an essential activity, provided people stay six feet apart.
Warren said her greenhouse limits people to five at one time, but she can set up appointments for their protection and she has plants outside under pergolas.
People are worried about food security during the pandemic, Harding said, and most of the calls she has received are about vegetables.
“People have been interested in growing everything,” she said.
Harding said as soon as the weather starts to warm up, people get the itch to garden. But she warned newcomers that it is still early to plant tomatoes and peppers.
“I’m a little concerned,” she said. “We’re not warm enough yet.”
She cautioned them not to get ahead of Mother Nature and to first plant potatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, cabbage or spinach as cool-season crops.
Tulips are nearly done blooming, Warren said, and it is about time for creeping phlox and irises to bloom. She said a good goal for flower gardening is to have a variety of perennials, which bloom each year, so they will blossom at different times and provide color from spring to fall.
She said people can work the ground now to prepare for planting and put in fertilizer. Some cold evenings could still come up and annuals, which die in the winter, may get frostbitten if they are in the open and not covered. But she said annuals that are covered in pots will survive since this area is not supposed to have more hard freezes.
“That’s what the groundhog said, anyway,” Warren joked.
Harding said flower gardens are still limited to cool-tolerant plants like pansies, and annuals need to wait for the warm season.
“That’s when they flourish,” Harding said.
Tomatoes seem to have done all right in last week’s cooler temperatures, Warren said.
“A lot of people already put them in the ground,” she said.
For container plants or those started in pots to transplant in the ground, Warren advises dumping the old dirt and filling the pots with fresh. She also advises putting mulch in the bottom of the pots to save water but still allow drainage.
Container gardening is popular, Warren said, such as growing peppers and tomatoes. She said some people set out wash tubs with three to four pepper plants in them.
Herbs seem to have come back despite the winter, she said.
Harding said containers are easier to manage than large garden plots. She said people use buckets, plastic storage containers or the plastic containers left when cattlemen feed a protein supplement lick to cattle.
For people who need to buy a container for gardening, Harding said many retailers are offering curbside pickup or delivery.
Spring is time to keep grass cut, and Warren advised having a fertilizer and weed spray professionally applied in the spring and fall.
Harding said crabgrass preventer can be applied when redbud trees are in full bloom.
“They’re a good rule of thumb to go by,” she said, noting that it can still be applied for about another week.
Harding said fall is the time to control purpled-flowered henbit, chickweed or dandelions, which are winter annuals.
Warren said gardens are wet enough that weeds can be pulled, although she usually does it when the plants are bigger.
Warren mainly advises people to get out with the flowers, trees and birds.
“Just enjoy the weather,” she said. “It can bring you so much joy and so much peace.”