I spotted my first robin last week. My crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are blooming. The weather has been amazingly mild– bordering on hot! And the calendar says that today is the vernal equinox.
Any way you look at it, spring has arrived in Buffalo, and we gardeners are raring to go.
Here are six great gardening tips you can use right now:
Spring gardening tip #1
Try new Cool Wave pansies, a frost tolerant plant that trails and spreads. It will look lovely in hanging pots as well as planted in the landscape. They need sun.
They’re available right now at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses, 118 South Forest Road, Williamsville.
You can put them outside now, said Mark Yadon, vice president at Mischler’s. If there’s a mild frost, there’s no problem.
They’re not freeze proof, though, and if the temperature gets down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you might want to bring them in, he suggested. (However, it got down to 10 degrees one day in the greenhouse, and the plants weren’t bothered, Yadon said.)
According to the Cool Wave site, this plant will overwinter through USDA Zone 5, so this should overwinter in your garden. In cold climates the company suggests mulching to provide added protection. Check out this interactive map to see what zone you’re in.
For other cold hardy annuals such as Osteospermum daisy or Diascia, it’s better to wait until the first week of April.
“It depends on the weather, of course,” Yadon said. “If the temperature doesn’t go below 28 degrees, they’d be fine, but we don’t know that (it will stay this warm).”
Spring gardening tip #2
Yes, the idea of planting any kind of flower right now is exciting, but don’t get carried away. Just because spring has arrived, that doesn’t mean it’s time to plant in Western New York yet.
“We’re still going to get some frosts,” said Ron Heimiller, president and head grower at Heimiller Greenhouses, 3038 Ewings Road, Newfane. “We’re not out of the woods yet. It’s only the middle of March.”
To avoid having frost do damage to tomatoes and other plants, gardeners in Western New York generally wait until Memorial Day weekend to plant their gardens– That’s still two and one-half months away!
We’ve got all the warnings out of the way, but we know that this weather is still making you itchy to plant something.
Try starting seeds in mini-greenhouses made of milk jugs, which we talked about in February. I have started a few different kinds of seeds, and my bachelor’s buttons are sprouting. I’ll keep you posted on how the milk jugs work out.
Spring gardening tip #3
Take advantage of this mild weather to tidy up your garden, said Lisa Heimiller, garden manager at Heimiller Greenhouses in Newfane.
Start by picking up sticks and debris from the yard.
If you left perennials and grasses in your garden to add winter interest and supply food for birds, now is the time to cut them back. You can cut them down to the ground.
However, leave the mulch on your beds a bit longer. If there are any perennials that aren’t poking their heads out yet, and we get a hard frost, the frost could nip those plants, said Ron Heimiller.
If you have unwanted young trees that are in hedgerows or crowded places, get them out, Lisa Heimiller said. If a forsythia has suckered, get those pulled up now too, while you still have access. Cleaning these areas out is much easier before everything leafs out.
Get weeding done now to save yourself multiple times the amount of work in the future!
Spring gardening tip #4
Prune your bushes and trees.
Spring, not fall, is the time to prune most bushes and trees. However, don’t prune any spring-blooming bushes, such as lilac, now or you’ll cut off the flowers. Get more tips on pruning.
Spring is also the time to prune roses.
Spring gardening tip #5
Get ready for hummingbirds.
Penny Durnin of Tonawanda, moderator of the Hummingbird Forum, said the hummingbird spring migration is under way. They are now about halfway between their starting point in the Gulf of Mexico and Western New York.
To keep track of their progress, Durnin recommends following a migration map that is maintained by Lanny Chambers every year. He updates it nightly as reports come in.
” I generally watch the map to see how close they are getting to the New York state line, and when they get close to Pittsburgh I usually hang my first feeder,” she said.
Spring gardening tip #6
If you took your rain barrels inside for the winter, it’s time to bring them back out.
Using rain barrels gives you a ready source of water for your gardens. It’s also an important way for residents to save water and reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering our streams, creeks, rivers, and Lake Erie.
If you don’t have a rain barrel, you can buy one through Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.