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It’s time to start your spring garden

The pollen is in the air. As I write this, I recall being in line at Giddy-up this week waiting for my scrumptious Dodge Buck and watching cloud after cloud of pine pollen waft through the air with the breeze. Soil temperatures are rising. I have seen crabgrass germination all over the place and grass is beginning to come green-up. One of the other indicators that I usually look for are the dogwoods beginning to bloom. The past few years, our dogwoods have bloomed much earlier, here we are looking at the first weekend in April and they are just finally beginning to peek out at us. 

Well, it looks like it is finally time to begin your spring garden, too. In Beaufort County, our average last frost date is March 27 but I don’t recommend planting much earlier than April 15 unless you are prepared to cover those tender warm season veggies with row covers. This is easy enough but if you miss it, you have to start all over again. Good Friday was supposed to be 28 to 30 Fahrenheit. This will kill most of our tender warm season plants, especially early on in the season. 

Warm season veggies are plants that are not hardy to a frost. These are typical garden plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash. These plants do well from transplants in the garden. The best way to prepare the garden is to get a soil sample in the fall, when the report comes back make sure to add the recommended amount of lime to adjust the pH. If you are like me and running a bit behind, you can add a few pounds of an all-around fertilizer such as 10-10-10 when you plant and then keep an eye on your plants. If they look a little yellow or just aren’t growing, it may be time to add some more nitrogen only fertilizer. The best way to go about this is using a fertilizer that has both quick release and slow release fertilizer. These can be purchased online or at almost any hardware or garden store. 

One of the questions I always get next is where to get my plants? Many of the stores around here sell transplants for your garden. There are a few nurseries that will have plants for sale that they propagate from seed in-house. The big key to buying your plants is to make sure to look them over really well before you buy them. It doesn’t necessarily matter where they come from but that they are healthy and strong as seedlings. If they begin well, they have the best chance at finishing well.

With that being said, I want to make sure to mention that the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are going to be having a plant sale over the course of the next two weeks. They will have tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers for sale that were propagated right here at the Extension Center. The sale will be on Wednesday, April 7 and Saturday, April 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. They will have another sale the following week when the peppers are ready on Wednesday, April 14 and Saturday, April 17 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. both days or until supplies last. The plants always go really fast so my advice would be not to wait.

Our second Lunch & Learn was this past Thursday on how to water and how much sunlight. On Thursday, April 8, we will be talking about pest and disease issues in cool-season crops. You can register for this series by visiting go.ncsu.edu/saladinabucket. There are only four sessions left, each on the subsequent Thursday at noon. Over the course of our thirty minutes together on zoom, we will go through the how to’s of growing your own salad in a series of five-gallon buckets. The program should take 15-20 minutes leaving 10-15 minutes for questions. 

If you are having an issue in your home garden or landscape, send your questions to Gene Fox, Consumer Horticulture Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, please email at Gene at gene_fox@ncsu.edu or call at (252)946-0111. Learn more on Facebook at the Blacklands Area Horticulture page or visit the Extension Office located at 155 Airport Road in Washington, NC!