JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As warm temperatures continue into the week, local gardening experts are warning it is not time to go all out on your landscaping.
That’s because it is likely cold weather and plant-killing frosts are not over.
Travis Watson, the campus arborist at East Tennessee State University, said it is far from unusual to have frosts up through April and May.
Watson said plants native to the region tend to do well with frost, but the plants commonly used as decoration around houses do not.
“The ornamental stuff, the stuff that’s from other regions or even other countries may not be as well adapted to it,” Watson said. “It’s kind of a risky time for them. A hard freeze will definitely do some damage on those plants.”
As tempting as it may be to spend a day working the garden in the nice weather, Watson said you could end up paying for it later with a headache and a bill for new plants.
Right now, gardeners should only be putting cold-resistant plants in the ground.
“It is a good time of year to plant things like trees and hardy shrubs,” Watson said. “Let’s get that stuff in the ground, but wait on your flowers.”
At Evergreen of Johnson City, co-owner Tony Valk is not selling sprouts of plants that prefer warmer temperatures. You can only get those in seed form.
“A lot of the geraniums, petunias, marigolds, scarlet sage, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, we all know it’s way to early for that,” Valk said.
Valk said you do have plenty of options for cold-weather plants to spruce up the garden or even grow some food. Vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, onions, potatoes and many forms of perennial flowers like lenten rose, candytuft and creeping phlox are not as affected in the colder temperatures.
But the season for planting those is coming to a close soon.
“Probably about the next four weeks would be best on those, four to six weeks,” Valk said. “Much later than that, you’re getting into a window they don’t really prefer.”
Watson said the best time to plant your warm weather-loving flowers and vegetables is Mother’s Day in May.
“All of those vegetables will have plenty of time to mature,” Watson said. “You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your flowers.”
One option to get a head start on that date is to start the germination process indoors.
Valk said it can be done with grow lights or if there’s enough natural light near a window, although there can be challenges.
“You just got to read the seed packet, know when it’s safe to plant that item, work backwards to know when it’s safe to plant,” Valk said.
In the meantime, Valk recommended getting your soil prepared for the late spring growing season.
“Loosen it, add some nice organic nutrients in there,” Valk said. “After you prepare the soil, you can apply some weed and grass preventer.”
Valk said gardening is often a learning process that can involve failure.
He recommended researching the plants you want in your garden and learning their best growing practices.