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It’s almost time to prepare your spring gardens

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 3/30/23

As soon as the last pile of snow melts and the sunshine begins to show itself a bit more regularly, it will be time to make preparations for vegetable and flower gardening.

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It’s almost time to prepare your spring gardens


As soon as the last pile of snow melts and the sunshine begins to show itself a bit more regularly, it will be time to make preparations for vegetable and flower gardening, as well as annual landscaping projects.

Michael Joseph of North Star Orchards, 4741 Route 233, Westmoreland, said at the beginning of April, the orchard will start its vegetable plant seedlings. But he cautioned not to get a jump start on certain projects too quickly, as nighttime temperatures can still drop low enough to damage shrubs and crops.

“Now is pretty early to start vegetable plants from seed, but this is the time when people are starting to get their seeds ready,” Joseph said. “I like to at least get into April before I start them — that’s when we’ll be starting to get some sunshine, which definitely helps.”

Once gardeners and landscapers get into April, Joseph advised they start with flowering annuals that are known to be hearty.

“We always recommend that if people want flowers on their porch, they start with pansies and snapdragons — they’re hearty and they’ll be ready in the greenhouse,” he said. “Even through April, we can have some snow, and the nighttime temperatures really drop. So you want to have something that can stand up to the temperature shifts.”

As for those tough pansies, “We had some left over in the fall and planted them in October — they had little yellow flowers growing already when we had no snow” recently, “but we’ve had a pretty mild winter,” said Joseph.

North Star already has some well-known spring varieties started in containers, such as daffodils and tulips, which are also known to be hearty against the early spring elements. Once again this year, weather permitting, North Star will offer the opportunity for pickers to visit the orchard around Mother’s Day — which is Sunday, May 14 this year — to pick their own tulip bouquet.

Having a mild winter does have its benefits for gardening, including strong blooms and little winter injury to plants, Joseph said. Tulips at the orchard have already just started to poke from the ground, he said.

“It definitely helps spring flowering, especially for magnolia trees and crab apples,” said Joseph. “I think you’ll see a good, strong bloom on those. But at the same time, spring is tricky, and we can make it all the way through winter, but in 2–3 weeks, it can drop back to full-on winter again. It only takes one really cold night to snap flower buds. With the exception of this snowstorm (March 13-14 Nor’easter), we may just have a few chilly nights ahead.”

What are associated with “Mother’s Day spring flowers” have already been going and growing since February at the greenhouse. Some of the more tropical varieties of flowers were actually started back in January, Joseph said, so that North Star has plenty of flowers to sell to moms and families come May.

“As for our vegetable plants, we have some that are starting, but it’s not safe to move the tomatoes and peppers yet,” said the plant expert. “You don’t want to put those into the ground until at least around Memorial Day.”

Joseph also offered advice for gardeners and landscapers on how to prepare their soil for spring plantings.

“As soon as the snow melts, people can add compost and get some rototilling done once it dries out a little more,” he explained. “It’s also a good time for getting out and cleaning up some of the plants people didn’t get to or left behind in the fall. Fruit tree trimming should also be done in the spring. It’s your last chance to prune because once the flowers open in May, it’s too late to trim. We’ve been working all winter pruning all our apple trees here at the orchard.”

North Star Orchards plans to open on April 18. By then, Joseph said, the orchard will have a variety of trees and shrubs to choose from for any landscaping projects.

“You should try to avoid planting something from the South that’s not on our planting schedule,” Joseph advised. “We’ll have a big selection of shade trees, ornamental trees, and fruit trees when we first open, and they’ve been growing here for the winter, so they’re coming in on the proper schedule. We tend to hide the more tender stuff at the back because we want to see people succeed, not have them do all the work and spend the money to do it all over again.”

Also coming this year, North Star Orchards plans to host more classes for amateur growers to help them succeed in their gardening hobbies.

“We’re hoping to offer more classes and activities in the greenhouse and help people with different gardening questions,” said Joseph. “We’ll start with a fruit tree pruning class, and we’ll announce that on social media once we set a date.”


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