It has been exceptionally warm so far this year. We haven’t had a lot of snow events yet and the weather has already hit the 70’s on multiple occasions. However, it is still too early to go out and do too much to your gardens, we could still face rather cold temperatures and possibly even snowy conditions yet this spring. So, I wanted to take the time to go over when the best time for garden preparations should begin.
Vegetable gardens are always a favorite of mine in the spring and summer for delicious homegrown crops. Potatoes and Peas can be planted in late March to early April. Other cool season crops should be planted in early to mid-April. We can start seeds for transplants for summer crops at this time. Begin seedlings 10 weeks prior to transplanting for slow growing plants such as broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. Allow for 6-7 weeks of growth for new seedlings prior to transplanting for plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. And you only need to plant those fast growing species such as cucumbers, squash, and the melons 2-3 weeks in advance of transplanting. Remember, transplanting should occur no sooner than mother’s day, which is May 8th this year.
Turf can be overseeded or reseeded from the end of March through the beginning of April. We still need to wait until then to overseed, because with this early warm weather it may cause some to germinate and cold night temperatures could kill those young plants. Be sure that you are buying certified weed free seed. The best grass choices for eastern Nebraska are either 100% tall fescue, 90% tall fescue with 10% Kentucky bluegrass, 100% Kentucky bluegrass, or 100% buffalograss as a warm season grass choice. Mixes are fine to use in Nebraska, but you want to make sure it is a good mix. If you purchase a mix, avoid any that contain annual bluegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky bluegrass. Crabgrass preventer should not be applied until later April when the soil temperatures have warmed up. Don’t use crabgrass preventer on newly seeded lawns until you have mowed 3 times on the newly seeded grass.
Wait to uncover your perennials this spring. The mulch applied around the perennials in the winter is not meant to keep the plants warm, it is meant to keep the plants at a uniform temperature throughout the growing season. If you leave the mulch on in these warm days, this will help to keep your plants cold, and therefore, help them maintain their dormancy. The same goes with roses that were placed under rose cones in the fall. Leave those cones on as long as you can.
We may have plants that break dormancy early with all of these warm temperatures. This may cause some dieback on the branches or stems and most likely these plants will survive. The bigger problem will be with plants that fruit such as strawberries or fruit trees. If these plants break dormancy and start to bud their buds may be damaged by a freeze event and then the plants will not produce fruit. Fruit trees cannot be discouraged from this occurrence, which is why we often have problems with low or no fruit on peaches and apricots with a late freeze event.