Spring ain’t here yet, but it’s not too far off


Spring always arrives early in The Woodlands…at least earlier than it does in most of the rest of the country. And when spring arrives, gardeners begin to get itchy fingers.

Worldwide, spring officially begins on March 20, the date of the spring equinox. The spring equinox is the date when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal.

But to gardeners, farmers, and horticulturalists, spring arrives the day after the last frost.

When we lived in Santa Fe, NM, the last frost generally didn’t arrive until mid-April. The same is true for Chicago and New York. Milwaukee and most of the Upper Midwest and the West don’t see the last frost until May.

But, here in The Woodlands, spring usually arrives in mid- to late-February … a surprise for newly arrived Midwesterners and East Coasters. To complicate matters, this information is based on the AVERAGES of last frost dates from 1980.  In actuality, predicting exactly when that last frost is going to occur is an inexact science. Who knows when that last norther will zip down from the Arctic and freeze everything.

That happened to me three years ago. February 27 came along. The temperature had been in the high 60’s for a week. According to weather reports, no more cold fronts were expected. We put in tender baby tomato plants on that day. That night, from out of nowhere, a freeze freight-trained down through the Plains, devastating the tomatoes.

For me, it was disappointing, but not the end of the world. But it did make me understand how the vicissitudes of weather affect farmers who rely on crops for their livelihood.

Regardless of that, it’s important to get your spring garden in as quickly as you can. Spring comes early here, but so does summer.

For instance, tomatoes are a warm-season annual that grow best when the soil temperature is at least 55°F and the air temperature ranges between 65° and 90°F. Over 90°F, production decreases rapidly. At 95°F, production generally ceases. There are, of course, ways to extend the growing season for tomatoes and other warm weather crops, but I’ll save that for another time.

Early spring is also a great time to put in fall blooming plants like Barbados Cherry, Turk’s Cap, Carolina Jessamine, Rock Rose, Plumbago, Passionflowers, and a list of other plants. Getting them in the ground in early spring allows them to create root systems before the dog days of summer arrive. For a list of fall plants that do well in The Woodlands, search the Texas A&M Earthkind Plant Selector here.

February comes fast, so it’s probably a good idea to start planning your spring garden now, with seed catalogues (great for rainy winter days) and great gardening websites.

Here are some sites that you might be interested in:

 

Wildseed Farms

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Burpee’s Seeds

Gurney’s Seeds

Park Seeds

Mother Earth’s List of Best Seed Catalogues

Rodale’s Organic Life Seed Catalogue List

You can order seed catalogues from the above. If you’d prefer to save a tree, you can search their websites.

These two sites below are great sites for local information or more specific information about plants. The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Buest Smith is a local (and knowledgeable) gardening blogger who gives invaluable advice on growing locally. Dave’s Garden has tons of information on plants, has reqional chat rooms for gardeners to exchange information, and also has a seed exchange operation.

The Lazy Gardener

Dave’s Garden

Plant early, but be careful of the weather. Landscape perennials tend to be more forgiving than tender vegetables. And enjoy all those wonderful color photos of bountiful vegetables and gorgeous plants.

 

 

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Published by

Bob Dailey

Bob Dailey is a garden writer, lecturer and gardener living in southeast Texas.

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