Growing Home Ep. 10- How and When to Plant - Terry Therrien and Len Giddix
It’s mid spring, and things are warming up. Is it time to plant? Join Terry and Len as they talk about when to plant, how to plant, whether to buy plants versus seeds, and a few tips on growing organically.
Hosts Len & Terry
The last frost of the year usually occurs around May 15th.
Plants that prefer warmer weather, such as tomatoes, might not be available until early May. Local growers and stores risk losing plants if they go on sale too early. They also prefer to sell their plants close to their peak. Another advantage to buying local plants is that they have lived through the winter, and are more resilient to extreme temperatures.
You can try growing from seeds early, but the plants need to start indoors.
Warm weather plants like a soil temperature of at least 55F.
Due to the temperature differences, there’s usually a two-week delay between plant releases in the Mid-Atlantic vs New England.
Where to Plant
Many factors need to be taken into account for when you plant, including how wet the soil is, how much sun there is, and how large the plant itself will be.
- 6 hours or more direct sunlight= Sunny
- 4-6 hours direct sunlight = Partial Sun
- Less than 4 hours direct sunlight = Shady
Experienced garden center staff, like those at Mackey’s, can make suggestions on what to plant based on where you’d like to plant.
When unpacking plants from a seed starting tray, Len says to use “five fingers and a thumb”. He holds the plants by the stem in-between his fingers, and turns the planter upside-down, against his palm. Then, pinch off any roots that are growing through the container. Finally, squeeze each section to release the plant. Also, take the time tear off some of the congregated roots so they’ll grow better once planted.
When unpacking from a larger container, still use “five fingers and thumb”. Hold the stem in-between your fingers with the container upside down. This time, tap the container to release the plant. Break up any root balls before planting.
When planting a tree or shrub, the hole should be twice as wide as the pot, and as deep as the pot is long, to allow for more space for the roots. Also, the soil should be level with the bottom of the stem. The plant may rot if the soil is mounded up the stem.
Most perennials like to be planted half an inch deeper than they are in the store-bought pot, as they need support. However, irises like to have their rhizomes exposed, so plant it so the rhizomes are peeking out.
Don’t plant summer and fall bulbs early. Due to their cost, Len thinks it’s not worth the risk to plant them outside of the May 15th- Labor Day time frame. When you plant bulbs, give them some bone meal. This will help the plant produce more bulbs, and make those bulbs stronger.
If you are growing vegetables from seeds, place each seed 6-8 inches apart. If you want to plant seeds now, Len recommends getting seeds for plants that can be harvested within 50 days. Otherwise, it may be better to get a plant that’s already been growing, so you can maximize the harvest time. However, if you’d like to grow squashes and pumpkins from seed, plant in June or early July, as they’re harvested toward the fall, and benefit from the warmer weather.
When planting, form a dike around your plant, a few inches wider than the planting hole. This is to prevent run-off.
Use compost when you can. It contains nutrients plants need, plus it also stimulates bacteria and fungi, including ones that’ll help your garden.
When mulching, make a donut shape around your plant. You still get the benefits of mulching, while avoiding potential rot on the stem. This also discourages voles from getting to your plants
Don’t fertilize immediately after planting, as the roots need time to get established. Wait a week, then top dress with fertilizer, or water with a fish emulsion.
On most bags of fertilizers, you’ll see a series of three numbers, representing the nutrient content. Nitrogen is the left digit, phosphorus is the middle, and potassium is the right. Nitrogen helps with greening and top growth, phosphorus helps with root development, and potassium prevents disease.
*Clarification: We say in the podcast that zoysia grass is illegal to buy in Connecticut. In reality, it’s not on Connecticut’s invasive species list, but it isn’t commonly sold in stores. We still don’t recommend planting zoysia in your lawn.
When buying grass seed, the overseeding coverage applies to planting on an area with existing grass. If you need apply a new lawn, then apply twice as much seed, which leads to only half as much coverage.
Generally, use the springtime to treat weeds, and plant grasses in the late summer or early fall. You want the grass to have established roots before the warm weather hits, but the soil will still have warmth to help it grow. In our area, you should be planting cold weather grasses.
A few weeks before planting grass seed, apply a fast acting lime to your lawn. The lime will break down and help grasses absorb fertilizer.
Walk over new grass seed. This helps it make contact with the soil.
When you plant grass seed, be sure to apply a starter fertilizer to jump-start root development. Also, you can cover the area with shredded straw. It keeps moisture in the soil, protects the new seeds, and gives nutrients when it decomposes.
Len recommends using Johnathan Green’s Black Beauty grass seeds. To learn more, you can listen to our conversation with Barry Green, the owner of Johnathan Green.
If you need to fill in or cover up a lawn quickly, you can use an annual ryegrass mix early in the season. However, this grass won’t return for next year, and you’ll need to seed with a perennial grass toward the end of the season.
You can also consider adding clover to your lawn. It’s good at filling in your lawn, and produces nitrogen for your grasses.
If you have an area of the lawn that you don’t have grass on, you can plant wildflower seeds. It’s a low effort method to prevent weeds from growing.
You don’t need to irrigate your lawn if you have “living soil”, meaning that there are plenty of nutrients and microbes.