Gardening season is upon us and as the days warm and become sunnier many outdoor enthusiasts will soon be plotting their own green space.
With more people working from home and an increased desire to grow their own food, folks have turned to gardening during the pandemic. Seed companies saw impressive levels of demand this year from home gardeners and commercial growers alike. Nurseries are also reporting high levels of demand, according to NPR, and suppliers are having a difficult time keeping up.
“The word on the street is some seeds are very hard to find, some of these supply stores are sold out of particular seeds, and they are hard to get,” said Lorrie Rugg, Master Gardener program coordinator of Rice and Steele counties.
Rugg has also noticed an increase in gardening’s popularity over the last year, after the pandemic pushed people into the hobby. She reports elevated interest in the organization’s community garden, in fact about six new gardeners have reached out to her this year with a desire to get involved. All Owatonna community garden plots have already been reserved and there’s even a waiting list for next year, Rugg said.
Gardening can be a great way to pass the time, connect with nature, reduce stress and promote happiness, while growing your own fresh food. Now is a good time to plan how to approach gardening this year, if residents haven’t already begun to do so.
Considerations many gardeners may be making right now include what to plant, when to plant and what kind of conditions are needed for the plant to thrive. Those with a green thumb can find their local garden center by searching the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Nursery Stock Dealer Certificate holders on the department website. A gardening calendar helps guide growers on what to do in their garden and when. The guide can be found on the University of Minnesota Extension website under the Planting and growing guides tab.
The last frost date for the area is around mid-May, according to Rugg. While there are some cool season crops that can be planted, for example lettuce, broccoli, kale and spinach, the majority of plants enjoy warmer weather.
“Most bedding plants don’t like that cold weather,” Rugg said. “Pansies are one of the few that you can get and plant outside right now, because they can handle the cold, but other bedding plants really don’t like to be cold.”
While it’s a little early to be planting, there are still tasks to prepare for this year’s greenery.
Rugg describes herself as a big perennial gardener. She leaves the dead vegetation up through the winter and waits until the spring to cut her beds because the dead vegetation can provide winter shelter for beneficial insects. This weekend’s warm weather will have Rugg out in her garden to work on that pruning process.
“My perennials are all peeking through the mulch because I mulch my beds in the fall for winter protection,” Rugg said. “They are all peeking through so I need to get out there and work in my bed and now is the perfect time to do that.”
For those who don’t have a green thumb, Rugg suggests starting out by planting annual plants because they are generally easier to take care of. Vegetables are also a good option, like tomatoes, green peppers and squash. New gardeners should consider how much light their garden bed will receive and how much space they need for the type of plant, because some plants require more than others.