Feeling impatient? Here are some cold-hardy crops to plant now
Plus, plants for pollinators
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Are you itching to get your hands dirty? It’s too early for most gardening here in zone 7, although I did plant sugar snap peas last week.
Unless you live in a frost-free region, it’s still too soon to get tomatoes (my favorites!), peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, etc., into the ground, but there are crops you can plant outdoors in spring, weeks before the year’s last frost.
My favorite spring crops are lettuces (and most other greens), peas, Swiss chard, radishes, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and kale.
Pansies, which love cool weather, can be planted soon, too. They behave contrary to most of the annuals and tender perennials we typically grow. Flowers like impatiens, geraniums and petunias are planted in spring, last through fall and then peter out when frost hits. But pansies are on an opposite schedule: If planted in fall, they survive winter quite nicely. then bounce back in spring. It’s the heat of summer that does them in. If you didn’t plant them in fall, you can still plant pansies in spring, but they won’t likely make it through summer.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: With the seriousness of the decline in the honey bee population, what flowers and plants can local gardeners plant to help the bee population continue to thrive? —Walter Paluch
DEAR WALTER: I’m glad you asked. Research shows that the honey bee population is declining, and they are indeed among our pollinators. But you might be surprised to learn there are other bees and insects that do a much better job pollinating our plants. Of course, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t provide for honey bees; rather, we should be planting with all pollinators in mind. This includes all bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and even bats.
It’s important to know that our native insects (including our pollinators) evolved alongside our native plants, so they don’t recognize our pretty, exotic Asian, South American or European imports as food. This is a problem because by planting non-native species, we’re creating food deserts for our insects.
And native means more than just native to the U.S.; it’s best to stick to plants that are native to your region. A couple of good online resources are BONAP (The Biota of North America Program), which will allow you to filter plants native to your state and even county; and The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which lets you search not only by state but also by your garden’s conditions.
To answer your question, honeybees (which actually are native to Africa and Europe) will appreciate aster, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, sunflower, goldenrod, purple coneflower, Joe Pye weed, blazing star, berry plants and fruit trees, among others.
It’s best to plant a variety of pollinator-friendly species to attract an array of different bee and insect species.
Avoid hybridized plants or “cultivars” — even native ones — whose breeding might have diminished their benefits to pollinators.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Got bare spots in the lawn? Seed once a week and water (lightly!) twice a day until new growth is 3 inches tall.
For more great gardening tips — 365 of them! — get a jump on the growing season with my Day-by-Day Gardening Calendar AND SAVE 20% (sale ends tonight at midnight!)
It’s like a complete gardening course in a wall calendar! By the end of the year, I promise, you’ll have earned a green thumb! Plus, your wall will be adorned with award-winning photography provided by The Weekly Dirt readers. Take a look:
👏 Sunday shoutout
Last year, Bob Maines of Miller Place, NY, grew black-eyed Susan vine, pictured here climbing along with purple clematis, plus more than 40 rose bushes, petunias and a host of other plants.
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next!
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I started writing a bi-weekly gardening column for the AP in January, so you might be seeing my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you are. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Growing veggies in small spaces: Smaller new varieties can yield great results for vegetables grown in containers.
Plants to plant in spring for a beautiful garden next winter: When you’re planning and planting your spring garden, think ahead to next winter too, and include plants that will create interest in your landscape in the so-called “off season.”
Black innovators who reshaped American gardening and farming: The achievements of 19th-century scientist George Washington Carver have landed him in U.S. history textbooks, but many other agricultural practices and innovations that traveled with enslaved people from West Africa or were developed by their descendants remain unsung. Here’s a look at five.
Tips for indoor seed-starting: When to start planting seeds indoors? First, check your frost date.
Holey leaves and vines! A look at houseplant trends for 2022: A look at trends in houseplants for 2022. Popular varieties include fenestrated plants, that is, those with leaves that are split or contain holes. Vines are another hot category.
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📧 How’m I doing?
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