Originally published in April 2015.
‘Spring’, for your local DFW independent garden center (IGC) is typically defined as mid-February through mid-May. North Texans know how temperature and weather swings can affect that, though: ‘spring’ may begin with an unseasonably warm late January or it might wait to begin until mid-April. Sometimes, as it did this year, it faked us all out with a balmy first three weeks in February followed by ice and snow the last week of February through the first week of March.
For you, the gardener, this was probably frustrating. We’re all eager for spring: fresh color, bright green shoots, leaves on the trees again, and happy birds chirping. We’re ready to get out of the house, ditch the winter doldrums and get our hands in the soil again. We shifted into spring mode at the garden center by grabbing all the color and veggies we could find, and we were full and happy by the third week of February, pleased that the season was upon us.
Growers ramped up production on spring favorites like Genovese Basil and we ramped up quantities.
Then, it stopped.
Everything froze, the ice and snow came, and all of those lovely tender spring plants had to be packed away into greenhouses to try to get them through. Three weeks worth of plant material packed away tightly for three weeks of bad weather resulted in losses and shortages on both the IGC and grower sides, and created an availability bubble that reached into the second week of March. Thankfully, we’re through it.
Now, though, we begin the ‘dance’ of seasonality vs. availability. In this first part, I’ll briefly explain how this affects fruits and vegetable plants.
Seasonality is two-fold. With edibles, it’s based on your best chances of success. NHG is focused on your success as a gardener (if you start your garden project with plants from NHG and you have little or no success, you’re not very likely to return). Your success is our success, and we grow together. Right? Right. Back to fruit trees:
Fruit trees are best planted when they’re dormant (bare) and have a better chance of establishing their root systems before summer heat sets in. That means that NHG brings in our best selection in fall, just as trees are entering dormancy, and again in late winter, while they’re still dormant and we’re well ahead of summer heat. New gardeners often aren’t inspired to plant them until they can see them leafed out and blooming, which is usually in late March into April (depending on yearly weather patterns). What’s the result? The selection is shopped down by those who planted during dormancy, and customers can be disappointed to learn that no more will arrive until fall–even though it’s really in their best interests for success.
The same goes for vegetable transplants, especially tomatoes. Tomatoes in our area are best planted early–especially smaller 4″ transplants. NHG brings in the first shipments in mid-February (recall that this is when we generally consider the earliest start of spring planting) and peaks by the first week of March. Each year, we repeat our mantra that tomatoes should be planted by mid-March for best success–again, because they need to establish a vigorous root system ahead of our summer heat for best production.
Spring can be busy for everyone–maybe you were late due to other commitments, hadn’t prepped your beds yet, possibly worried about another freeze, or maybe, all of the above. If you waited until April, you found the selection picked over, especially 4″ transplants. As we get later (and warmer) we’ll gradually change over to larger quart and gallon-size transplants, as these have a larger root system and hence a head start in the garden (again: it’s all about your success). The bad part? Those who are late in planting and arrive in April are disappointed–sometimes angry–to find that there are fewer tomatoes to choose from and little to none in 4″ size.
For blooming annuals and perennials, it’s a bit different. In our next blog post, we’ll explain how our long growing season creates ‘transitional’ periods for color and the bedding plants that arrive to fill that need. We’ll also touch on perennial availability and how it’s affected by dormancy and bloom.
If you have further questions in the meantime, email us at email@example.com or come in and speak with a Garden Advisor.