MOLINE, Ill. — Trees are blooming, wildflowers are starting to peek from the ground, and the grass is turning greener everyday. Spring is definitely in the air!
Many of us are eager to get outside and make our own yards a work of art. Even though the weather is becoming more favorable, we should hold off just a little longer to get those plants in the ground.
Our plants and garden expert, Craig Hignight, always suggests we wait until Mother's Day for many plants. This day is easy to remember, but more importantly it puts us in a safer zone from the potential loss of planting prematurely to frost and freezing temperatures.
April is the month of all seasons and 2021 is no exception!
Our average last frost date in the Quad Cities is April 21. Many years we have seen the last low of 32° push into May. This is why Craig says Mother's Day is good day to begin thinking about your plants. Remember, though, it's still possible to see freezing temperatures beyond this date! It just becomes less likely.
We also need to think about soil temperature. The ground takes much longer to heat up than the air around it. Right now our average soil temperature for our hometowns is about 50°. Craig says the ideal soil temperature should be around 60° for your plants to be happy.
If you're itching to get some planting done, there are some plants that will be able to manage through the cold nights ahead. For blooming plants, Craig says that Pansys and Snapdragons will do okay. If you want to get some vegetables in the ground, anything apart of the cabbage family are fine (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts).
Unfortunately for tomatoes and peppers, you really need to wait. These plants love the warmth and the ground is just not ready for these yet.
There are things you can do to help prep your ground for these plants and other plants too. Craig suggest you solarize your soil. All you need is to cover the area you plan to use with some clear plastic and weigh it down. You will basically create a greenhouse effect! It will help use the sun during the day to warm up the soil more rapidly and trap that heat during the cold nights.
We have the potential for some frosty nights next week. If you have some plants that are vulnerable to frost or fruit trees that are smaller, you can take some precautions to help protect these plants.
Craig says you should cover these plants with a solid material like a sheet, blanket, or a towel, but do not use plastic. Although plastic is good to prep the ground, it will not help you during these chilly overnight lows and you do not want to keep plastic on growing plants during the day as it will get way too warm for them.
Another tip Craig shares for older trees, fruit trees, and other vulnerable plants is to break the frost.
Just before the sun rises you will want to spray the plants down with water. It sounds counterproductive but this will help protect the plant from freezing internally during the chilly hours of the morning.
They use this strategy with citrus plants in the south and grapes out in California.