Gardening with Allen: It’s still too cold for tender plants

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I have noticed geraniums and marigolds in the garden stores. Is it okay to plant those now? What about tomatoes?

Geraniums, marigolds and tomatoes are very sensitive to frost. We could get frost for two or three more weeks, especially in the higher elevations. Geraniums, marigolds and tomatoes are all warm weather plants, which means they will not make much growth until the weather warms into the high 60s. In fact they often become stunted if planted too early. You would be much better to wait until May to plant these warm weather plants.

Although it is too early to plant frost tender flowers and vegetables, there are many plants (including flowers and vegetables) which can take temperatures well below freezing without damage. All permanent plants such as lawns, trees, shrubs, berries, vines, ground covers and perennial flowers can be planted now.

Hardy vegetables which can be planted now include root crops such as carrot, onion, beet, turnip, radish, and potatoes. Leaf crops including spinach, lettuce and cabbage, and flower bud vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are also frost hardy down to the mid-twenties. The only hardy fruiting vegetables are peas and fava beans. Perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb are best planted early.

Hardy annual flowers include pansy, primrose, calendula, petunia, snapdragon, alyssum, carnation, dianthus, cosmos, most daisies, gaillardia, nasturtium, poppy, blue salvia, sweet pea and verbena.

This is the best time to plant roses and fruit trees. Virtually all fruits including strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, kiwi, currant, gooseberry and grape can be planted now.

Are You Ready to Plant?

You may want to do some preparation before planting. If you have heavy clay soil, you may want to till or spade in some organic matter such as bark dust, grass clippings or peat moss before planting. Almost all plants will grow better in soil which has had organic matter added. It is better to add the organic matter and mix it into the soil rather than only in the planting holes. Roots spread better into surrounding soil better if it is the same consistency as the planting hole. Scatter the organic matter over the area you want to plant 2 to 3 inches deep and till or spade it in.

Except for acid loving plants such as rhododendron or blueberries, adding lime will also be helpful.


Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist who blogs at http://blogs.columbian.com/gardening-with-allen/. Email Allen Wilson at allenw98663@yahoo.com.