A few days of warm weather and most of us forget how quickly Mother Nature can turn on us.

But in our little corner of the world, two days of warm spring weather are usually followed by four or five days of wind and rain. It’s positively menopausal at times. Perhaps that’s why we refer to the forces of nature in female terms.

But if you are ready to convert from being a fair weather gardener, you will find gardening can be rewarding even if the sun is not shining. Cool temperatures and a little rain are great conditions for planting early annuals, perennials and trees. It might be messy for you, but it is less stressful for many plants.

Don’t be delusional and try to plant impatiens in April. But you don’t have to wait to do all your planting until Memorial Day, either.

Moderation is often difficult. Most gardeners know that pansies are safe to plant early, but you can also plant snapdragons, alyssum and dianthus when the danger of hard frost has passed. For the Magic Valley, this will usually be sometime in April. This is also an excellent time to plant perennials and trees.

Here is the disclaimer: The plants must be conditioned to go outside. Plants may have been grown in a warm greenhouse or have “softened” while on display in the store. You may be able to tell by touching them; conditioned plants will feel stronger and will usually have darker, even purple-y, leaves.

If you question whether plants are ready to go directly outside and can wait for about one week to plant, you can harden them off at home. Just put them in a sheltered area outside were they will get sunlight. Place them near the house, protected from wind — or, if you are Martha Stewart, place them in the cold frames at your summer home. If the night temperatures are going to drop below freezing, put a blanket over them until morning.

Although this is somewhat of a bother, it will go a long way to helping plants survive after you put them in the ground.

If this seems too risky for you, at least consider a container of pansies near your front door. Just promise me: no plastic flowers. I would rather see your frozen, delusional impatiens than a polyester rose.

After working for years in commercial greenhouses in Idaho and Utah, Susan Harris of Shoshone is a garden designer and garden coach. Reach her at colormygarden@cableone.net.

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