Don’t let an early Easter fool you warns Phil Bucking, owner of the Sag Harbor Garden Center, which opened its doors for the season earlier this month. Though this spring holiday often marks the time when people begin planting, this year it is a bit early for certain types of plants, especially those imported from warmer climates. Rather than giving into temptation and getting spring flowers in the ground, Bucking shares that now is the time to start planning your gardens and preparing your lawns for warmer weather.
When asked if this winter will have an effect on the growing season, Bucking says unless the snow keeps coming, it won’t be too different than last year. “Winter started off mild and then March got very cold,” he says. “You need to be careful when you purchase. You should ask where the plant is grown. Plants grown in southern and western climates that are brought here when it’s cold, and then planted, shock the plant.”
Bucking says at this point many people are prepping and repairing soil for their gardens, and it is an ideal time to add compost and begin fertilizing trees and shrubs. The first of April also marks a good time to begin lawn care, including fertilizing and adding weed and crab grass prevention. Bucking recommends bumper crop, an organic planting mix that serves as an all-in-one to help repair poor soil. For those ready to add a little color to their landscape, he says there are some things you can plant now while it’s still chilly.
“In the vegetable arena, you have peas, lettuce, kale, and spinach,” Bucking shares. “Most cold weather vegetables can be planted now to get them going. A lot of people are also putting pansies in window boxes. All bulb plants like daffodils and hyacinth are cold hardy. The Helleborus plant are shade perennials that bloom pink, beige, and white. This time of year, these are the first things people buy.”
Trees and shrubs like forsythia recently arrived at Sag Harbor Garden Center and should be planted early before they bloom. Another popular plant for gardens are the ranunculus, a rose-like buttercup flower that blossom in soft to bright color shades. Bucking suggests waiting to plant these until evening temperatures begin climbing above 30 degrees.
As spring progresses and the weather warms, popular plants and flowers can be added to gardens and outdoor planters. Fruit trees like plum, peach, cherry, apple, and pear can be planted before they blossom. Plant herbs and an East End summer favorite, tomatoes. For novice gardeners, Bucking has some tips to get your green thumb started.
“A beginning gardener should have a good hand trowel for digging,” Bucking says. “Ones with serrated edges can cut and dig at the same time. A hand pruner is also essential to start. Easy to plant on the vegetable end are peas and later on, tomatoes. For flowers, I would stick with pansies early. A very important thing around here [new gardeners] have to understand is that deer are a big problem.”
Gardeners have often found deer favor their flowering plants as food, and without fencing it is difficult to keep them away. Bucking says deer are hungry and nearly everywhere now, and suggests that as bulbs begin to pop up it may be ideal to spray a deer repellent. Environmentally friendly brands are available at Sag Harbor Garden Center, including Deer Scram and Bobbex. In recent years Bucking has also noticed an increase in rodents that have caused concern for yards and gardens. To combat this, his shop offers an organic mole and vole repellent as well.
As Bucking looks forward to another spring season, he shares that Sag Harbor Garden Center will extend their offerings to include custom made plant boxes, giftware such as outdoor clocks, thermometer, and a line of gardening tools for kids. Trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants are always revolving in stock, and now is the time to plan.
Sag Harbor Garden Center is located at 11 Spring Street and is open daily. For more information, call (631) 725-3345 or visit sagharborgarden.com.