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Early Spring Planting Tips

For Northern Gardeners

Written by: Dottie Baltz

Early Spring Planting TipsWhen you've been cooped up all winter, it can be really hard to wait to get out into the garden. If performing all your early spring tasks, like I wrote about here, is not fulfilling your gardening itch, there is hope. Following are some of my early spring planting tips:

If the soil is still really wet, hold off planting. Digging while the soil is wet can break down the structure of the soil and cause it to become hard and compacted, especially if it's clay soil.

If the soil has had a chance to dry out, then go ahead and plant perennials, trees and shrubs that are still DORMANT. Yes, you read that right; plant dormant plants only this early in the season. If you are in the south, you've got a whole new set of rules, but up here in the north, zone 5, we must stick to planting dormant plants at this time of year.

It's actually a great time to plant for us because it's cool and rain is usually plentiful, so the roots have a chance to grow well, which will help support the top growth later on.

You may have trouble finding dormant plants at the garden centers this time of year, so look for local, small nurseries, that grow their own plants outdoors. We have several in this area; many of which are open all winter, so they may be your best bet.

Your second best bet to get plants this time of year that are still dormant is mail order. If you've never gotten plants through the mail order before, it's a great way to get plants that are not normally available in your area, or new plants that may not be available to the general public. Before I order from a new online company, I always check their rating on Garden Watchdog. People will rate each company listed and write a review on their products or experiences with each company listed.

If you just have to get some color in your yard or on your porch, plant cold hardy annuals like pansies, violas, nemesia, dusty miller, snapdragons, or diacia. All are hardy and can withstand a frost or two.

If you are into edible plants and have a cold frame to protect them on extra chilly nights, try sowing seeds for cabbage, carrots, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and radishes. Actually, lettuce can be seeded right on top of the frozen soil or snow and it will sprout when it's ready. You will have the sweetest lettuce you've ever tasted this way.

If you received any blooming lilies or tulips in pots for Easter or Passover, allow them to bloom and continue to grow them in their pots until fall, allowing the foliage to die back naturally. Then plant them in the ground along with your other bulbs in September or October. As long as they are cold hardy bulbs, they should sprout and bloom next spring.

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