Spring is in the air! You can’t help wanting to join the birds outside and start planting your garden. It is possible to start planting well before the last frost date, even in Colorado! There are a number of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you can plant outside…some of which even prefer the cooler temps of early spring. The two key points to remember when planting early in the season are to make sure your beds are amended before planting and to be prepared to act in case bad weather comes!
Usually gardens in Colorado have soil that’s tricky for many garden plants. Most often, it’s too rocky and clay-filled to suit the plants you want to grow. While changing a soil’s basic texture is difficult, you can improve its structure by adding amendments. Loosening the soil with compost or soil pep forces the tightly packed clay particles apart. This improves water drainage, oxygen levels, and the soil is easier for plant roots to penetrate.
Early spring plantings are vulnerable to hard frost, which can set in overnight. Depending on how hardy your plant is, frost damage can burn tender leaves, buds, flowers, or worse! If we do have a cold snap there are steps that you can take to keep your tender plants warm.
Cover seedlings overnight with frost blankets or with anything else lightweight you have on hand… an overturned bucket or even a cardboard box (with a rock on top) will do! You also may want to use the popular walls of water in which you can successfully plant your tomatoes and other long season crops early. Cool season annuals include pansies, violas, petunia, dianthus, ranunculus, primrose, and sweet alyssum. While not perennial, these flowers can handle the colder nights and have even survived outside at the greenhouse after a snowstorm. Be prepared to cover them if the temperatures are forecasted to drop below 20 °F.
There are also quite a few vegetables that prefer the cooler nights of early spring. Common early crops (called cold crops) are peas, spinach, lettuces and leeks. Follow these crops with broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, new potatoes and onions. Some seeds can also be started outside during the early spring.
If you want to get a head start on your tomato and pepper crop this year, or wish to have the biggest, juiciest watermelon of them all, consider starting your tender crops inside a wall of water. This will create a miniature greenhouse effect and will help to insulate your tender plants and keep them warm.
Gulley grown perennials are special. We make sure that our perennials are ready to be planted outside when you are ready to plant them! We initially grow our perennials at a warmer temperature to bulk up their size, and then lower the temperatures so that they are hardened off and ready to go straight into your garden. We do recommend that you cover your newly planted perennials if temperatures drop lower than 20°F. This is to prevent frost burn on buds, blooms and new growth.
Trees and shrubs can also be planted in the early spring. In fact, they prefer the cooler temperatures to the hot and dry weather that we can receive during a Colorado summer. Make sure to use Root Stimulator when planting your trees and shrubs to give their roots an extra boost!