Cary, NC — This past weekend, Spring finally sprang in Cary. Temps hit the 70’s and leaf buds burst on plum and pear trees. This weekend, Spring is officially here and, to the gardener, this means one thing–time to prep the beds for planting.
Last Frost Date Before Spring
Here in the Piedmont, we live in Zone 7. The country is divided into Growing Zones ranging from the coldest, Zone 1 (Maine), to the hottest, Zone 11 (think Texas and Florida).
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Zone 7 is safe from frost anytime after April 10 in Cary.
That date means that:
The possibility of frost occurring after the spring dates and before the fall dates is 50 percent. The classification of freeze temperatures is usually based on their effect on plants. Light freeze: 29° to 32°—tender plants killed. Moderate freeze: 25° to 28°—widely destructive to most vegetation. Severe freeze: 24° and colder—heavy damage to most plants.
Of course, a shady area will remain colder, just like a full sun patch will heat up more quickly. We have a protected area near our house that I swear is Zone 8. It has full sun all day and is protected from the wind by being close to the house. There, we grow a beautiful bay tree where, anywhere else in the garden, it would have died during this past harsh winter.
Clean Up Your Yard…
If you can’t start planting yet, what can you do? Prep your garden now!
Speaking of our harsh winter, the last icy storm we had made a mess of my yard. That means my first chore this week was to pick up all the debris. Sticks, branches, pine cones, sweet gum balls and pine straw all need to be raked up from your lawn and out of raised beds.
Otherwise, your mower will be hitting them, your bare feet will get pricked and your grass will have a problem getting enough sun to “green up” properly.
After you get all the big stuff, and leave it to the curb for our awesome Public Works department to pick up and turn into valuable mulch, you have a few other chores to do.
And Your Beds
I use a small hand tool that looks like a metal rake to comb up all of the random pine straw and old leaf mulch off of my flower beds. Why do I remove this? Because, although this is good, organic plant matter, after sitting on my bed for the better part of 4-5 months, there may be mold, mildew and critter larva growing that can be harmful to anything I plant.
Additionally, the removal of this heavy amount of material helps to warm up the soil hidden underneath. This weekend, when I started raking, I found long forgotten bulbs that were already beginning to sprout. Now they will get some much-needed sunlight and start to green up.
Amend Your Soil
Did you get the free compost from the Town of Cary recently? No? Did you make your own this winter? No to that too? Then head to your local garden center and pick up some amendments to your soil. Our heavy clay soil lacks many nutrients and does not drain well.
If you add some Black Cow or some good quality dirt, you can mix that into your beds to add back some missing nutrients and ensure that whatever you plant will have a good foundation.
Once everything has had a week or so to get cleaned up and warmed up, head to your garden store and look for new annuals to plant. You may also plant herbs, succulents and some hardy perennials. Avoid plants that will require a lot of water to get established because, in the Piedmont, we can have some dry summers and that can come as early as June.
That leaves little time for the plants to get established before you have to be watering them everyday lest they croak!
Story by Lindsey Chester. Photo by Michael Randall.
The Garden Column is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.