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Has Spring Sprung? Gardening Advice for Green Thumbs

by and on April 16, 2014 3:45 PM

The sunshine and milder temperatures have been powerful teasers of what is surely coming after this long winter.

The calendar says it is spring. I hear conversations about what plants are emerging, what plants are timidly blooming and what plants appear to have succumbed. Gardeners are longing to dig in the dirt and plant something. There are balled trees and shrubs outside the nurseries and bag after bag of mulch, topsoil, and fertilizer stacked and waiting for eager gardeners.

What can be safely planted in April?

Steve Dubois, a co-owner at College Gardens, says business is busy already with appointments to cut back bushes and clear leaves and debris away from trees and shrubs. If the roses were not cut back in the fall, they can be trimmed now, before they leaf out, advises Dubois. He says the fruit trees can be planted now if they are not leafing out and if the ground is thawed.

“This is the time for edging and mulching and we are busy with that. We are busy about three weeks ahead,” says Dubois.

He says it is best to call in March for appointments in April, because of the way things suddenly take off when the weather becomes milder.

By now it is appropriate to fertilize and treat crab grass, but it is better to wait at least two more weeks to fertilize shrubs and plants. The College Garden advice for lilacs is to use a fertilizer with the higher number (phosphate) in the middle.

The calls are coming in about the design and construction side of the business also.

Dubois and his partner Tim Young bought the business from Dubois’ father eight years ago. The elder Dubois had owned it since 1972. The partners have two crews that work there as well and Dubois says they will all be busy now that spring is truly a reality. College Gardens can construct paver patios, walkways, retaining walls and driveways. Their landscaping includes designing, mulching, weed control, edging, maintenance, fertilizing, and spring and fall clean up.

Tait Farms is also in the spring mood and the grounds there show it. There are blooming flowers in an enclosure out front and stacks of mulch ready for purchase. Inside, there is a multitude of spring-time gifts, like birds nest ornaments and lettuce and other fresh greens for sale. Metal colanders filled with lettuce are ornamental as well as edible.

Manager Deb McManus is eager to explain that some of the flowers they carry are hardy enough to be outside now, if in containers and off the ground. The obvious choices were the pansies that are planted in the store’s window boxes. Although they are annuals, pansies are fairly tough and some may come up again if in a protected area.

“Primroses are another flower that can be out now and they need light to bud,” she says.

If a frost is called for, cover them with a sheet or a trash bag to protect them.

“We really should wait in Centre County until May for most planting for the plants to be more resilient.” McManus says.

She stresses that Tait Farm wants the public to grow things that will be successful. The people at Tait Farm stand ready to advise you on the plants you choose. They make a point to either grow seedlings themselves or, in the case of some of the herbs, work with local providers and growers. 

Tait Farm will present several programs such as “Sampling Saturdays.” The Tait Farm planters have started organic seedlings and other plants to tempt your green thumb. Be patient gardeners for your season is just over that slightly green hill.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Connie Cousins covers Centre County for the Gazette.
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