Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Early days

Staff Writer | March 10, 2023 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Spring is finally here, or so we all hope, although last week’s weather may have shattered many people’s faith in the season. And spring means the garden is calling.

But don’t be too eager to answer that call, experts say.

“Things are still really dormant, you know, and so people need to be a little patient,” said Lisa Villegas, owner of Seed Cupboard Nursery in Royal City.

“One thing that you need to remember is it's still way too early in our area for most types of plants to be out. We're in Zone 6B here in Moses Lake, and our last frost date is approximately May 2. I don't ever put my plants out, my seedlings and annual flowers, until around Mother's Day,” said Valerie Parrott, president of the Moses Lake Garden Club and owner of Seed Cupboard’s satellite nursery in Moses Lake.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t things folks can do to get a jump on planting season.

“Get out and get things cleaned up,” Villegas said. “Now's a good time, if you left stuff for the birds or whatever, to get things clean and get them out of the way, so things can start coming up.”

“(People should) plan out their garden,” said Parrott. “They need to get their garden maps going, where they're going to grow things, so they don't overbuy on their seeds.”

One thing gardeners don’t necessarily think of is sanitizing their tools.

“Your shovels, your rakes, your garden spades, you should sanitize them throughout the season, but especially do it in the spring,” Parrott said. “I just would take a five-gallon bucket, fill it up with water, put a little bleach in there and scrub your tools, make sure you don't have any soil matter compost on there from the previous year.”

This makes it less likely that a disease on one plant will spread to the whole garden, Parrott said, and helps keep PH levels consistent.

There are some things that gardeners should stock up on before the rush hits.

“Now is the perfect time to go buy your fertilizers,” Parrott said. “Because once it comes down to mid-April, May, everyone's going to be trying to get their starter fertilizers and things, and a lot of times the stores are going to be sold out. So now is the optimal time to buy your fertilizer.”

Parrott said it’s also a good idea to pick up seeding supplies early. This can include seed starting trays and other equipment for getting plants started. Those items may sell out quickly, she said, so a head start is a good idea.

For those gardeners who just can’t hold off, Parrott said there are ways to keep plants warm until the frost passes.

“You can put them out if you give them some protection,” she said. “Say, in mid-April you can plant a garden bed, but you're going to need to put like a little hoop house or something over it just in case.”

A hoop house, she explained, is a small makeshift greenhouse about three feet tall made of metal or plastic semi-circles covered in clear plastic.

“Some people will take milk jugs that they fill with water and they'll put those in the hoop house so to just to kind of regulate the temperature a little bit better in the hoop house, keep it a little warmer,” she said. “If you do a hoop house, you need to really make sure that you put some cylinder blocks or something around the pieces of plastic so they don't blow away.”

Finally, if you’ve started your plants indoors, Parrott said, put them out gradually when it’s time to plant outside.

“Don't just take your seedlings directly from your kitchen or your dining room and plant them outside,” she said. “You need to give them about a week of hardening off in the sunshine, meaning take them out for a couple of hours each day and start getting them used to the wind and the sun. Start with like two hours a day, then go to four hours, six hours to get them acclimated. Don’t just throw them out and tell them to hope for the best.”

The Moses Lake Garden Club’s Facebook page can be found at bit.ly/MLGardenClub.

Joel Martin can be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.



Five-year-old William Parrott helps his mom Valerie with garden cleanup in the spring at their flower farm. Planting season may be a ways off, but there’s still plenty to do to get ready.



If you’re going to need supplies like these seed-starting trays, it’s a good idea to buy them early before the rush hits later in the spring.



A hoop house, made with plastic draped over a frame like this, is a good way to keep early garden starts warm outside until the first frost has passed.

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