It is not too early to plant trees, shrubs and perennials, but you’ll need to do a few things to prevent them from heaving out of the ground. Annuals and annual seeds, seedlings started inside and tender vegetables should not be planted until the soil is warm and all chance of frost has passed. Last frost dates depend on your growing zone.
As long as soil is not frozen or too soggy, it is safe to plant trees, shrubs and dormant perennials. If perennials are in pots smaller than 4”, you’ll want to wait until all chance of deep freezing is over. Freeze - thaw cycles can heave small plants out of the ground. Here’s one way to check if the soil is dry enough to plant: form a small handful of soil into a ball. Press a finger on the ball and if it breaks apart, then the soil is ready to plant. If the soil sticks together, it needs to dry out more before planting.
Squeeze Test can determine moisture level as well as type of soil.
Purchase plants locally that are in a similar stage of growth as established plants in your region. These plants can be bought locally or through reputable online nurseries. Plants from greenhouses or those started indoors at home, and from warmer regions will be damaged by cold outdoor temperatures. It is fine to install dormant and bare root plants, including perennials. As a reminder, when a plant is dormant, it is in its’ natural state of rest. It’s part of a plant’s life cycle, when a plant stores energy and nutrients for its next cycle of growth.
Prep and care
Keep pots in a protected, cool place where they will not freeze. Soak roots and prune only broken roots and branches. Do not let the roots completely dry out. Soak the roots until they look hydrated and are somewhat pliable. For plants in soil, moisten soil in pot until fully saturated. Apply about an inch of mulch for perennials and two inches for trees and shrubs.
extension.sdstate.edu/cool-season-flowering-annuals-gardenCool season annuals are safe to plant in early spring. Pansies, primulas and ornamental cabbage can tolerate light frosts and temps into the low 30s. Temps in the 20s can damage cold season annuals.
With Spring only weeks away, the excitement we gardeners feel is almost “primal.” Do you agree? As the days grow ever-so-slowly longer and warmer, we seek out subtle signs that Earth will awaken from it’s dark Winter. We’ve had many months to evaluate our garden spaces, establish goals, make lists of desired plants and seeds, clean and sharpen garden tools, and read any and every article/book on growing plants that we love. If your plans include the addition of trees, shrubs, or perennials, you can follow our guidelines for early Spring planting. Be mindful to install plants in a similar stage of growth as the plants in your region. That will ensure your new purchases will do well with the seasonal temperature swings.
If you need assistance in selecting plants or design, we'd be happy to help!
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