Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
April, 2005
Regional Report

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This early-blooming deciduous magnolia blossom escaped frost damage.


This is my favorite time of year, with the flowering trees in full swing, spring daffodils and tulips, emerging perennials, and bright green lawns. It seems like every turn reveals a breathtaking new panorama of color and growth. It's a bit of a challenge to garden between the rain showers, but the rewards are definitely worth the effort.

I often get sidetracked at this time of year, stopping to admire breaking buds and tender new growth, or pausing to say "Welcome back!" or "My, haven't you grown!" to old friends I planted many years ago. And sometimes I have to stop and have a word or two with slowpokes like the crape myrtle and summersweet clethra and rose-of-Sharon -- the ones who take their own sweet time about leafing out in the spring. If there is green under the bark, I know they are working on it and I just have to be more patient.

Some plants jump the gun and then get frosted, their new growth damaged by the cold. Hydrangeas are often set back by oscillating spring temperatures and cold frosty nights. Sometimes the damage is bad enough to prevent them from blooming altogether, although the foliage will be healthy. Hostas that are only lightly frosted will sometimes look fine now but show symptoms of tissue damage much later when the weather turns hot. Tender impatiens or caladiums or tomatoes and peppers purchased straight from the greenhouse and set out into cold soil often suffer from transplant shock and can be a bit stunted as a result.

Easing the Transition
It is so hard to be patient about planting, but it pays to be a little bit cautious and keep the frost blankets handy in case we have one more frost or, heaven forbid, a freeze. If your purchased transplants look very tender, you can condition them for a week or so at home prior to planting. You should do this for your own seedlings, too. Keep them in an unheated cold frame or in a sheltered spot with early morning sun, gradually increasing the amount of sun and wind exposure they receive each day. Allow the soil to dry just a bit between waterings, and cover them or bring them into a porch or sheltered place only on frosty nights or if a hail storm threatens. This gradual acclimation to the elements and the vagaries of spring weather will toughen them up and prepare them for the garden. This minimizes transplant shock and helps them establish more quickly once planted.

Happy Spring!

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