Finally, it’s the season for plant sales and nursery openings and gardeners are eager to get going – plant list in one hand, trowel in the other! It’s difficult not to fill up your wagon with all the goodies that are offered this time of year — and if you don’t buy them now, they might not be there later in the season. So what’s the best strategy for hitting early plant sales?
Make a List and Stick to It
Oh, how this is so much easier said than done! It easy to fall in love (and purchase) a spectacular plant, until you get it home and discover you don’t have any space to plant it.
Do some homework, literally, before striking out to the sale. Take a careful look at your available planting space. A little preplanning and list-making can go a long way to ensure you purchase the plants you really want, and more importantly, have space for. Shop for what’s on your list first and then turn an eye to those stunning “impulse” plants to see what might work. Of course my motto is: “there’s always room for one more tomato plant!”
Plan to “Hold” Tender Plants for a Few Weeks.
Plant sales often occur early in the season — usually not at the optimum planting time. Just because I’m offering my well-loved and cared for tomatoes for sale on May 4th, does not justify you planting them on May 5th. That’s plant abuse!
Our region’s last average day of frost is May 15th. Note the word “average.” That means frost can happen anytime up to May 15th or after. If you are purchasing warm season crops (such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, cucumbers, or squash), before May 15th, plan to keep them protected from the elements until planting time later in the month. Early May IS NOT the time to plant warm season crops in northern Idaho.
Reputable plant vendors will have hardened their stock (acclimated the plants to the outdoor climate) before selling, but it’s always a good idea to ask.
You can hold plants outside during the day in a well-protected area out of direct sunlight and wind. Direct sun can scald young leaves and wind can quickly tear leaves and wither young plants. In the evening, move plants inside a garage or other protected area out of the danger of frost. Keep the soil in the plant’s pot moist during this transitional period.
Have Frost Protection at the Ready
Warm season crops and flowers need warm temperatures – daytime and nighttime. I don’t plant until the nighttime temperatures are consistently 55 degrees or more. That usually occurs about the 3rd week of May. Even then, you’d be wise to keep frost protection handy.
Items like row covers, cloches, or plastic gallon milk jugs placed over young plants will protect them from cool spring temperatures or a late frost. If you grow in raised beds you can easily make a low tunnel hoop house with PVC pipe and plastic sheeting. This works wonders for early and late season gardening.
Don’t Miss the Sodbuster Plant Sale!
With these early spring plant sale survival tips in mind, I invite you to the Kootenai County Idaho Master Gardener’s Sodbuster Plant Sale, Saturday, May 4th, from 9 am to 1 pm. The sale is located in the parking lot of the UI Extension office, 1808 N. 3rd St. in Coeur d’Alene.
We will be selling our heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes, peppers, and herbs (see our selection here), along with other Master Gardeners selling a variety of plants, native bee houses, and more! Plus Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions.
Looking forward to seeing you at the sale next week. Happy Gardening! — Candace