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Jim Stiles, owner of Jim’s Superfresh, is helping customers on the upcoming growing season.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Jim Stiles, owner of Jim’s Superfresh, is helping customers on the upcoming growing season.
Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Cool weather keeping gardeners indoors longer

Published 10:41am Friday, March 29, 2013

A common saying states gardeners should plant potatoes by Good Friday.

“This year, it ain’t going to happen,” admits Jim Stiles, owner of Super Fresh Bakery & Garden Center.

With spring finally making a showing people can start thinking to their gardens and what they will plant. Strawberries were among the different plants available at Jim's Superfresh.
With spring finally making a showing people can start thinking to their gardens and what they will plant. Strawberries were among the different plants available at Jim’s Superfresh.

A year ago, people were tending their gardens in March, but the weather hasn’t been so kind this year. It’s nearly April, and the ground is still frozen.

“Last year the people were really into gardening early,” Stiles said. “Last year the weather was so nice, and this year it’s just nothing.”

While winter may seem to be dragging later than normal, last year’s spring was early, which may add to people’s cabin fever for warm weather.

“You average the two out, and you’re probably right on schedule,” he said.

But the lingering snow and ice doesn’t mean people can’t begin their gardening season in some way.

Stiles suggested people start planning what to plant and stock up, so they are ready once the weather improves.

“It’s just a good time for people to plan and think about what they want to have,” he said.

Stiles welcomed people to stop by and talk shop about gardening, noting he’s always willing to offer advice or learn a thing or two from his customers.

“I love to know what went good for you last year,” he said.

If people want to be a bit more proactive, Stiles suggested eager gardeners plant some items indoors in a basement or spare room.

“We encourage people to start,” he said.

With all gardens, Stiles warned there’d be some successes and failures when it comes to getting an early start indoors. But if something doesn’t turnout, he urged people to just try again.

Stiles described gardening as something that’s simply good for people. Not only does it get people outside for light exercise, but it’s also positive to grow your own produce.

“It’s so good to grow your own produce and so healthy,” he said.

For many, gardening has sentimental roots, as people picked the hobby from family members.

“It’s tradition, too,” he said. “They remember their grandparents starting seeds or maybe their moms and dad in the garden.”

Despite the late start to the year, Stiles expects people to be out and planting by early to mid-April.

“We aren’t too far off,” he said.

What to plant early in the season

Once the weather warms up and the snow melts, gardeners may not be eager to plant right away. Solid, overnight freezes can be expected well into May, and some plants aren’t adept at handling the conditions.

Stiles said things like spinach, kale and pansies can survive cool spring temperatures.

“They can really take it cold,” he said.

He also said carrots, peas, swiss chard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and onions are good for planting early.

Other plants like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes need warmer ground soil and overnight temperatures in the mid-40s and 50s.

Dry conditions from the ongoing drought haven’t been a huge problem for local gardeners. But when in doubt, Stiles suggested going native.

Native flowers, vegetables, trees and bushes are often better at surviving the weather, as they’re naturally occurring.

“Natives to me are always good,” he said. “They’re here for a reason.”

Smaller plots easier to handle in the garden

Go big or go home may no longer be to go-to for many gardeners.

Stiles said more people are scrapping the large 20-by-30 foot garden plots for multiple smaller 4-by-8 foot plots.

The smaller plots are a bit more manageable than larger plots and don’t require as much compost. Since walkways can be left between plots, the smaller gardens are a bit easier to weed.

“It’s just a lot smaller and a lot more doable, and it’s not so overwhelming,” he said

Stiles suggest people find what works for their lawn garden, since all properties produce different shading, lighting and temperatures.

A good garden is all about finding the right balance of enough water and light, according to Stiles.

“Plants, they’re just so simple,” Stiles said. “They’re just like people: They need food, they need water, they need sun and they need the right conditions.”


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