This week will bring the first day of May!
Normally we would be just ending with our early spring-blooming flowers and shrubs and beginning to see our mid-spring bloomers, but with very warm early temperatures, many of these flowers are long gone. Forsythia, some dogwoods, lilacs, tulips, many daffodils and narcissus, pansies, and other spring beauties are either at the end of their cycle of bloom or have already dropped their petals, since many bloomed approximately three weeks earlier than normal.
The recent freezing night temperatures and cooler than normal day temperatures also have been a cause for concern when thinking of spring and also early summer flower buds.
What is a gardener to do? Many of you are concerned about your landscape and garden plants by the calls, conversations and emails I receive.
The best answer I can give at this point is just to wait and see. Mother Nature is patient and plants take her cue to do things in their own time in accordance to temperature, daylight, moisture levels and soil temperatures.
Plants are mostly resilient to changes in temperatures and moisture as long as we let them do their own thing and don’t interfere. And as long as we maintain them well according to good horticultural management practices like not too much water, not too much fertilizer, not too much pruning and always mulch.
There are secondary and tertiary leaf and flower buds that the plant has as a backup system for just such negative occurrences. Other plants, such as many of our perennial plants, will slow down their growth with weather changes, and delay leaf out or flowering till conditions are right.
Plants that bloomed very early and very quickly should be on cycle to bloom again next year at a normal time, depending on the weather, of course. You may have seen or still might see a late flower or two on some of the shrubs, particularly with the cool temps of late.
They may be fooled into thinking they have seen winter again, and now it is spring again and pop open a few more of those latent flower buds. These same plants also leaved out earlier than normal and may have been bitten back by the recent frosts and freezing temperatures.
You might see browning and curled leaves on the tips of branches, or even entire plants with freeze or frost damage. If you get in a rush and prune or trim these browned tips, you could be removing the waiting flower or leaf buds and can reduce production of flowers, leaves and potentially fruit as well.
For those that planted annual flowers, some vegetables, or other tender plants ahead of central Kentucky’s frost free date, those plants may be lost. The best recommendation is in the future to wait until the frost free date, which is around the week of Derby to Mother’s Day (May 2-10 or so by the calendar), to plant tender, warm weather plants.
Covering those tender plants can sometimes be beneficial in case of frost, but as Phil Case has reminded us in his past columns, the ground temperatures are often not warm enough. Those types of plants will just sit and wait till the ground is at the right temperature for them to begin growing.
So are you ready for gardening season to officially begin? Then get those shovels and plants ready, May is just around the corner! Let’s get growing!
For additional information on home gardening and landscaping, log on to the UK Home Horticulture web page- http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/homehort2.html. Or contact the Franklin County Extension Office by phone, 695-9035 or email DL_CES_Franklin@Email.Edu.UKy.