Do you suddenly have more time to garden? That’s the good news! This is a busy—and often a favorite—time of year to garden as everything springs to life with fresh new growth! It is also a time when gardening chores begin in earnest: plants need planting, weeds need weeding, lawns need mowing, mulch needs to be spread. In this time of pandemic, let’s focus on how gardening can be a fun activity that provides time outdoors to de-stress and get some exercise! Even if you don’t have any land to garden, if you have any space to plant containers outdoors—even on a balcony, or by your door, go for it: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/18-plants-grown-in-containers
If you’ve never grown your own food, this is a good year to start! If you are a seasoned gardener, this is a chance to have a more ambitious garden or try some new crops or methods.
There is a wealth of information on how to choose a site, what to grow when to plant, how to troubleshoot pests and diseases, when to harvest in the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/16-vegetable-gardening
The time for planting cool season crops is waning, so focus on warm season crops to plant in May. You may need to do some calling around to find out who is selling seeds and plants; another chance to explore new things—different sources, new varieties!
If vegetable gardening doesn’t appeal, you can brighten your landscape by planting flowers.
Annuals. Again, there may be limited outlets and varieties available, but for a small investment, many warm season annuals will quickly give you a long season of bloom: even the commonly available begonias, marigolds, and petunias come in many colors and sizes. Or try something a little different like upright Angelonia, trailing Calibrachoa, filmy Cosmos, or Pentas. This is instant gratification—although these plants will not come back, it could be the beginning of a new tradition of flower gardening.
Perennials. Planting these may not produce flowers as quickly, but the plants will come back yearly with a little care, and some may even spread. You can start a specialty garden of a favorite type of flower, such as daylilies, which can bloom over much of the summer if you choose early, mid- and late season varieties. Or you might like to start a wildflower garden of native plants. These might include groundcovers such as green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) or Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) that bloom in spring, as well as some showy summer bloomers beloved by pollinators, such as butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba), and garden phlox, and for fall, asters.
Plant a tree. If you see a spring-blooming tree you love, consider planting a young one in your own landscape. Do your homework to be sure your choice is the right size for your yard and that you have the right growing conditions. The Forest Service provides a lot of useful information about choosing, planting, and caring for trees in this “Owner’s Manual”: https://www.fs.usda.gov/naspf/sites/default/files/tree_owners_manual_print_res.pdf
Article by Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers
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