12 March 2010

New Beginnings

It's no doubt all this warmer weather has got us gardeners itching to get out and play in the dirt!  At the farm, we start in January sowing seeds for spring crops in the greenhouse, but the color starts around Easter time with the bulb crops. 

Easter brings visions of Spring...a new beginning for us all.  Lilies are bursting with blooms in the stores and Tulips spring to life even though it is still a bit chilly outside.  Bulb crops are cold tolerant for the most part, but if you are thinking of planting those Lilies or other Easter plants outside in hopes of them growing back next year, think again as most of the varieties sold at Easter are not hardy in our area. 

Bulb crops are very short lived as far as flowering is concerned as they quickly go into a phase known as senescense, where the leaves and stems yellow, or biologically age.  The longer they are kept at cooler temperatures, the longer they will last.  It is important to allow this process to continue without interference in the garden, even though the leaves are sickly looking.  Without this maturation, the bulbs will not have the nutrition they need for the following season.

In the case of plants such as Garden Mums, Cineraria and the like, which are best kept as houseplants, they will put their energy into vegetative growth (leaves and stems) once the short flowering period is over and likely not flower again until next year.

If you are looking for garden plants that tolerate the cool temperatures in our area toward the end of April and early May, look for Pansies, Violas, Stocks, Dianthus, Primrose, Ranunculus and Osteospermum (Cape Daisies).   The latter is my favorite, as it will be loaded with blooms until the real heat kicks in, then they go out of flower but grow like crazy until the cooler fall weather, when they come back into flower with even more blooms and last until frost!

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