Your Hometown Gardener: Don’t Let April Fool You

Your Hometown Gardener
Tender annuals need to be covered on frosty nights.
Photo by Peggy Browning

By Paul Dowlearn, Wichita Valley Landscaping

Sunday April 1, 2018… Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day on the same day? A guy related to me that this has not happened since the 1880’s. Interesting, but my thinking is that Easter, being the more celebrated holiday, will take precedent over April Fool’s. However, be heads up just in case. There are fun loving pranksters among us who will likely try to sneak one in. In the spirit of April Fool’s… mind you.

The dreaded Easter freeze could occur in the next few days so be keeping a close eye on forecasts. A cold front has moved in and temps are falling today. Cloudy and much cooler instead of the sunny spring-like Easter Sundays we normally enjoy. 32 degrees will not hurt us nor any of the native and well adapted vegetation we see around town. “Killing frost” is anything around 28 or below (Fahrenheit). Still you may want to cover some tropicals or bring them in.

On a related subject I was shocked at a Facebook comment the other day. My friend John Yates had posted a picture of his blooming four nerve daisies (tetraneuris scaposa). One of the gardening site’s members actually asked if John had covered them during winter. Four nerve daisy is a local native plant. Evergreen, long life span, and capable of bringing bright yellow daisy flowers in any season including winter (if we have a nice warm spell). Yikes!!… Apparently this person was so narrowly focused on growing tropicals and other warm season plants that the idea of just leaving the plant to fend for itself had not occurred.

This brought home the message that people assume that all gardening is about TLC care and growing plants that need our help to survive outdoors in this climate. Mind you, this FB page is for avid gardeners and folks who want to learn more about the subject. For too long this myth that a “green thumb” gardener is one who can grow plants that obviously don’t belong here. These people have duped themselves into following the prevailing myth rather than using this public forum to foster intelligent plantings and knowledge of what to expect if they purchase plants solely on the basis of how pretty it is in the nursery, in a greenhouse, under strictly controlled conditions.

Of course, John set this person straight with his comments (as did yours truly). One of the reasons I write this column and have always been active in public education is that your average homeowner really does want low maintenance landscaping. My choice is to provide that for those who are willing and help them get the right stuff instead of being tempted to grow plants that would rather be in Brazil.

My bluebonnets are lush and full of flowers right now. This cost me nothing more than a handful of seed. No water, no fertilizer, no bug sprays, etc. I stomped in some seeds in an area that once was full of rather large agaves that were growing out too near the traffic on Southwest Parkway. I did this last summer. Now is the time to enjoy our state flowers. Not the time to plant them. I gave away the last of our transplant seedlings two weeks ago yet I still had customers wanting them this past Saturday. Let them go to the Megamarts… or a florist?

We are selling some warm season veggies and even a few warm season flowering plants. We are not selling okra or Bermuda grass seed just yet. Our focus has always been on selling the right plants and having them in stock during the right season(s). We do have a reputation to uphold and try to educate as we make a living at gardening and landscaping. It is not so easy as one might think when the prevailing attitudes are set by those who let sales dictate or who have been led to believe that everything needs to get planted in April.

Yes, we all feel the tug of spring. As I drive around the neighborhoods I notice folks out in the yard. It is a great time to be alive and enjoy the season. Start a garden. Get some color in your life or bring some new life into that tired old lawn. Don’t fret or get frantic about April. We professionals do landscaping in all seasons. But, I do agree that it is really helpful to get things in right before a beneficial rain. Nothing grows plants better than Nature. Let us hope She is kind this spring. So far, so good.

Meanwhile if growing tropicals makes you happy then build a greenhouse where it is easier to give them what they need. My old buddy and colleague Tim Hunter always says, “You can grow anything you want, anywhere you want, IF you have the time, money, and resources to do so.”

If you want a low maintenance landscape… Go native!! Ya’ll come see us.

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