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Hilltop's Gardening Wisdom & Tips

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Time Table

When should I start planting? When can I plant this (fill in the blank)? Is winter over? When is the frost free date? Will we have frosts after that?

We get such questions on a daily basis. Each year spring comes when it wants! It can vary by 4-6 weeks. Some springs seem "late". But in 2007 the spring was "early", just to have a devastating "second winter" at Easter. In 2013, we had 4" of snow on May 3rd!!!! The box stores have various plants on display early leading people to believe it's time to plant, when it really isn't. Sometimes people just don't remember when they planted last year unless they kept wonderful records. Below is a general calendar for planting times for southwest Missouri. Keep in mind, this is Missouri and the weather is unpredictable!

Early April
The following should be safe to put out (can withstand a light frost):

  • Pansies
  • Violas
  • Snapdragons
  • Dianthus
  • Cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Clematis
  • Perennials such as dianthus, columbine, lupines, creeping phlox, sedums, hens and chicks, and most others
  • Petunias (protect below 27 degrees)
  • Calibrachoa (protect below 27 degrees)
  • Nemesia (protect below 27 degrees)
  • Diascia (protect below 27 degrees)

Mid to Late April
The following should be safe to put out (will be harmed by a frost, but can take cold nights night temps above 35 degrees):

  • The above +
  • Geraniums
  • Salvias
  • Verbena
  • Fuchsia
  • Scaevola (Blue Fan Flower)
  • Lobelia
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Hostas
  • Roses

Early May
The following should be safe to put out (will not take cold nights, but can tolerate cool nights night temps above 45 degrees):

  • The above +
  • Wandering Jew
  • Florida Heather
  • Asparagus fern
  • Torenia
  • Coleus
  • Heliotrope
  • Marigolds
  • Begoinas (maybe)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Liatris
  • Echinacea (Coneflowers)
  • Liatris
  • Perennial grasses
  • Hardy ferns

Late May (After Mother's Day)
The following should be safe to put out (like warm temps nights above 60 degrees):

  • The above +
  • Cukes, squash, melons
  • Impatiens (all sorts)
  • Tuberous begonias
  • Pentas
  • Lantana
  • Elephant Ears
  • Bananas
  • Blue Daze
  • Angelonia
  • Mandevilla
  • Dipladenia
  • Boston Ferns
  • Tropical Hibiscus
  • Caladiums
  • Bougainvillea
  • Brugmansia
  • Sweet Potato
  • Purselane
  • Hardy Hibiscus
  • Hardy Begonia
  • Hardy Orchids
  • Asclepias

This is by no means a complete list, just something to give you an idea. For us, first to go out are violas, pansies and clematis (rarely needing extra protection). Last to go out are vinca, caladiums, purselane, and bougainvilleas (very sensitive to cold). Nothing is written in stone, so use the above as a guide.

  • Hanging baskets or plants planted in pots can usually go out a little earlier than plants bedded out because the pots can be brought indoors if needed.

  • Plants in a protected area, such as on a covered patio, can usually go out a little earlier than listed as well.

  • Keep a watch on the weather and remember that the weatherman lies. (Sorry NWS guys, but it is the truth.) If the forecast says that the night low is going to be 40 degrees and clear, expect a frost and cover plants with a sheet or move pots into a garage.

  • A plant's cold tolerance has a lot to do with the environment it has been growing in for the past week or so. The Easter freeze of 2007 did such damage not because of the 18 degrees we got, but because of the 2 weeks of 70 degree weather before the freeze. Plants can build up cold tolerance up to a point, but plants grown warm will have less than normal cold tolerance. (Example: A geranium grown in a chilly outside location for a week may survive a light frost, but a cabbage plant grown in a warm (green)house may be killed by a light frost if not hardened off.)

  • "Frost Free Date" is April 15th, but that doesn't guarantee that there will be no frosts after that date!

  • May frosts are not uncommon, but usually are light.

  • If you are actually reading this, let us know and we will give you a special something.

  • Old timers say that the time to plant is when you can sit comfortably on the ground with a bare bottom. Think about it and don't rush the season; you rarely get "ahead" planting early.

Gardening Wisdom #5, 2/8/2014 © Hilltop Farm

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