Middleton Garden Center Hours: OPEN MONDAY THRU SATURDAY 9AM TO 6PM AND SUNDAY 10AM TO 5PM Closed on Easter Sunday

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As winter recedes, each sign of spring seems more symbolic than the last. And this year’s teasing tone has made all of us more than a little crazy. Personally, I’m longing for thunderstorms instead of snow showers. The sandhill crane’s raspy call or the melodious song of a redwing blackbird makes me grin. Even the bright yellow bloom of the first dandelion can be a cause for celebration. So what can you do to scratch the gardening itch? Well here goes!

It is time to sow cool weather veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family. Peas and salad greens could go right into the garden if you’re lucky enough to find workable soil. Early sowing is one big benefit of gardening in raised beds.

You can certainly start those very hot peppers and eggplants even though they are warm season veggies and shouldn’t go into the ground until mid to late May. Wait for mid-April to start tomatoes and sweet peppers though. They’ll get leggy long before it’s safe to move them outdoors. Unless you go to extreme protective measures around tender vegetables, you won’t get much of a head start if some cold weather nips your transplants. Warm weather vegetables and annuals will be stunted if exposed to cold temperatures.

The Vernal Equinox is on the 19th this year, but the average frost-free date for Dane County occurs somewhere between April 26th through May 9th. That’s a lot of days to leave to chance! Many varieties of annuals are fine outside unless temperatures below freezing are in the forecast. We have started to bring in pansies, but other annuals that laugh the chilly temperatures of early spring aren’t ready yet. Be assured though that we are watching the weather closely, and will be sure to keep you posted. Whatever you decide to put out now, remember temps below freezing may not damage your plants significantly, but can stunt new growth and flowers. So keep some covering material handy for chillier nights. Floating row covers are perfect for this and we have several sizes available in the Garden Center.

Are you especially anxious to start growing veg? Some raised beds may be ready to plant and you can sow some radish or spinach seed. Or try them in containers that you can pull in and out of the garage if necessary. Remember though, to thin the seedlings once they have two sets of leaves. Use small clippers to remove weaker plants. Pulling them from the ground can disturb the tender roots of the plants you are leaving behind. This may seem cruel to novice seed-growers, but thinning will result in larger and healthier plants with bigger yields. Again, keep those floating row covers handy for chilly nights.

It is a bit soon to look for half-hardy annuals like marigolds and celosia. Once nights are reliably in the 40’s, they’ll be safe without any frost protection. But really tender plants like impatiens, coleus and sweet potato vine will most likely need protection until late May. Any temps below 50 degrees are cause for concern for these cold-sensitive plants. Watch out for chilly spring breezes, too.

And if you’re starting some summer blooming bulbs like dahlias and begonias indoors, remember to mix some slow-release fertilizer into the soil that is filled in around the roots. This will help them get off to a great start. You can supplement later with water-soluble feedings.

Spring is a crazy time of year for our phones and Plant Information Desk. If we don’t answer the phone, please leave us a message on our voicemail line. I promise that we return the calls of everyone who leaves a message, usually within a few hours. And as plants begin to flood the benches and beds, we post lots of pictures. So like us on Facebook and you can see what the delivery trucks are bringing!


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