Spring can be unpredictable in Ohio. We never know if we’ll have warm sunshine on St. Patrick’s Day or snow on April Fool’s Day. Regardless, we are all looking forward to the green season to come.
An herb garden for the kitchen, an indoor incubator for the garden, or a showy container garden for the patio are all ways to spring into gardening while the snow lingers. Lisa Graf of Graf Garden Center on White Pond Drive weighed in on some garden staples you can plant indoors and either keep in the kitchen or move to the garden after the threat of freezing has passed. She also suggests some plants that are cold-tolerant and can be planted directly outdoors once temps reach the low 40s, even if freezing temps might return.
Fresh herbs are good to have in the kitchen year-round. If you don’t already have a windowsill box of basil, thyme and oregano, early spring is a great time to start one. While you can keep these indoors indefinitely, they can also be moved to the outdoor garden sometime in April. Graf reminds us, though, that different herbs have different growing habits. Chives and oregano are perennials, so including them in the garden once can become a long-term relationship. Basil, on the other hand, is an annual, so once it goes in the ground, you’ll only get one season out of it. But don’t take that basil outdoors too soon, Graf cautions. It is not cold-tolerant, so it’ll have to stay indoors until the threat of frost has passed.
Other plants that Graf recommends you start from seeds indoors and move to the garden later are tomatoes, peppers and some squash.
Early Outdoor Starts
Whether you’re interested in using containers or going right into the ground, Graf says that mid-April is not too early to get that garden growing. Most perennials, shrubs and trees can go into the ground as soon as it thaws. There are exceptions, of course, so ask the experts at your local garden center for details on the specific plants you’re interested in.
For some early color to brighten up your yard, Graf suggests pansies or violas, which are both cold-tolerant. That means they’ll hold up fine if a cold snap surprises us after a week or two of warmth. Snapdragons add drama to any plot, but you need to be judicious about timing with this unique flower. Graf says snapdragons are a little less cold-tolerant than other early-spring plants, so hold off on these until you’re sure the frost won’t return.
Containing Your Enthusiasm
Container gardens are a great way to show off your green thumb in strategic small doses. You can start a container indoors then move it to the patio once the weather warms up, or you can keep it in a three-season room or screened porch for an indoor/outdoor feel. You can also easily move them around your patio or yard, creating a new look whenever you like.
When crafting your container garden, you can choose from hundreds of plants to group together. Graf says the main deciding factor is whether you are going for a “flavor-cohesive or visual-cohesive” theme. For instance, nasturtiums look pretty with berries, but their tastes conflict: nasturtiums are peppery, whereas berries are sweet.
Graf recommends the BrazelBarries® varieties available at the Garden Center to create gorgeous, edible container displays. These showy blueberries and raspberries were developed specifically to grow in pots and produce fruit all summer. Pair them with other edibles, like strawberries, beets or Swiss chard for a delectable arrangement.
And don’t think you’re limited to just plastic or terra cotta planters for your moveable garden. Get creative and use an old dresser drawer, a children’s wagon or even a shoe—so long as there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Remember to water and fertilize your container regularly, then sit back and enjoy the show.
/ Editorial Associate Sharon Cebula lives in West Akron with her very patient husband, two obnoxious cats, and an enormous collection of owl paraphernalia.