This is the time of year that people are sticking their toes into the yard. It is a little early to pull up the pansies and the other fall annuals. Snapdragons, foxglove, hollyhocks and many other plants that were planted in the fall have not even put on their spring show yet.
Luckily, I planted my foxgloves and hollyhocks in raised beds this year, because with the amount of rainfall we have had so far, I shudder to think what they would look like now if I had not planted them in raised beds. I planted a lot of snapdragons in pots and have been pinching them back every chance I get to promote more branching. The more branching you create from pinching results in more growth points for flower stalks...the more flower stalks, the more tips... the more tips, the more blooms. I go around our yard pinching and pruning most plants after they’ve bloomed or leafed out. I prune the tips on trees, bushes and bedding plants. Pruning frequently promotes a healthier, better shaped plant with more blooms.
Deadheading a plant is different, but has a similar outcome. Deadheading is pinching or cutting a flower that has completely finished blooming. The petals will have begun falling off, and the seeds are ready to mature on the plant. If you allow the seeds to mature on some plants, this leads to the beginning of the end, often resulting in a dead mother plant or messy looking flower garden. If the seed heads are removed at the proper time, a new flush of blooms will return soon. The mother plant knows it must bloom again, creating more seeds so it can survive.
If you want to collect some seeds for next year's garden you should let all the seed heads mature on the plant. You should allow the seed heads to stay on the plant until they're very dry and brittle. You'll know the seeds are ready to be harvested when the seed head falls apart in your hand and the seeds seem to have no more moisture left in them. When you have gathered your mature seeds, make sure to put them in a ziploc or paper bag adding a few notes, such as the date harvested, color, and the name of the plant. Store your seeds in a cool, dry place like your garage storage room or the refrigerator crisper.
Green thumbs aren’t born, they're made. Gardeners put excessive wear and tear on their thumbs and fingers. As they pinch petunias or pull unwanted pigweed, the green sap stains your skin and nails and, eventually, becomes ingrained in your fingerprint for most of the gardening season. But, you need not ruin your hands with cuts and scrapes and ant bites that come along with gardening. There are plenty of sensible glove-wearing gardeners who still deserve the ‘green thumb’ title. Gardening gloves have come a long way since the days of the old stiff leather white mules. Garden centers now are offering great-looking, comfortable, washable gloves that offer some dexterity. I've seen some that offer the flip over finger top for quick phone answering or sending a great photo from your garden.
I like to work in our yard wearing my Airpods so I can listen to my music with the ability to have a phone conversation without stopping what I'm doing. But...it has to be a pretty important phone call for me to take while I'm enjoying time in my yard.
Speaking of gardening attire and accessories, I have become a fan of the kneepads or kneelers. At the end of the day, I have found that it's much better on my back if I’ll kneel where I'm working. Bending over to get to those plants that need pinching or weeds that need pulling puts lots of strain on my lower back, giving me a sore reminder the next day.
I usually carry a five gallon bucket with me around the yard to hold all little things that I need, such as hand pruners, gloves, knee pads, a notebook and a pen, and most importantly, a can of double shot espresso. I keep my phone in a waist belt so I'm never far from my music or the chance for a great photo.
A smart way to kick off the spring season is to begin by replanting your pots. If you are finding yourself in need of purchasing new pots, I have a few suggestions for you. The type of container you choose can directly affect the health of the plants that you will plant in your containers. A small pot that is highly porous will be thirsty all the time leaving the plants in a stressful situation. However, that works great if you're doing succulent pots. Choosing the widest mouth pot your space will allow is recommended. The wider mouth allows room for more plants and makes it easier on you at watering time, as plants will stay healthier through the dry months. A pot with a glazed finish on it is less likely to absorb water and crystallize in freezing temps, which can cause a crack as it expands and contracts. Make sure the pot you’re buying for outdoor use has a hole in it, otherwise, the water cannot drain out and will cause root rot and unhealthy plants.
If you have existing pots that need replanting I would replace as much of the old soil as possible. The old soil can be reused by tilling it into some flower beds elsewhere. Adding new, fresh soil will give your plants a fresh start. At Garden Works, we sell the same soil to customers that we grow all our bedding plants in. When you plant into that soil the plants are right at home and take off fast.
Starting your spring off by planting into pots is a good way to get the gardening momentum going. Planting containers gives us the chance to get a design flow going with our colors and style that we might use throughout the yard. My style seems to change from time to time. It goes from a loose, busy cottage garden look to a solid mass planting of the same plant to create a big swath of color. I never really know which color and style will shout out to me until I get started. I do know that this spring, the giant flower bed in front of Garden Works is going to be planted with solid pink petunias as soon as my mixed tulips are finished blooming. There are a couple thousand tulip bulbs beginning to pop their heads up now, and when they begin blooming in a couple weeks, I'm afraid we might cause an accident as cars drive by on Highway 51.
Our son, Max, is hosting our first upcoming Martinson’s Craft Market on Saturday, March 21. If we’re lucky, the tulips will be in full bloom that weekend to welcome all our new visitors. The vendor market will continue to be held on the third Saturday of each month through November. He has lots of great vendors lined up to show their hand crafted items. Blues Man, Mr. McKinney Williams, will be here to play some music and there will be food trucks, as well. I hope you will come by and check it out. It should be something new and fun for our community.
Allen, along with his wife Mimi, own Martinson’s Garden Works in Ridgeland.