With Indiana and Illinois under stay-at-home orders, a good way to pass the time is to get the lawn and garden in tip-top shape.
Maggie Vega, director of Marketing and Design at Alsip Home & Nursery in St. John, says though lives have changed considerably in the last month, it may free some time to tend to outdoor matters.
“The one thing thankfully that hasn’t been super affected by all of this is people’s ability to get out into their gardens,” Vega said. “If anything people have more time to put toward that.”
A good place to start is a basic cleanup of the debris of the fall and winter season, Roger Ladd of R.A.L. Landscaping & Garden Center, Crown Point, suggests.
“A clean cultural practice is important for anything you are growing,” Ladd said. Clearing up old leaves, dead grass and even trimming some overgrown bushes are important before the growing season.
For gardeners that prefer to grow in containers, he suggests cleaning out pots before planting.
“If you’re using pots, make sure they’re clean,” Ladd said. “If there’s weeds or grass spray it with a weed killer.” This goes for in-ground spaces too.
Early spring is a good time to fertilize a lawn with a product that includes crab grass preventer.
“It doesn’t take many warm days for crab grass to start to germinate,” Ladd said.
“A lot of families are getting back to basics as gardens go,” Vega said. “They are working toward a garden that is very self-sufficient as far as feeding your family.”
But early spring is too soon to plant many vegetables that shrivel with frost. So Vega recommends planting cold crop varieties and starting more sensitive plants indoors.
Cold crop plants can go into the ground four to six weeks before the last frost of the year.
“Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale you could plant now, since we’re pretty close to getting out of the frost time,” she said. “Cold crop vegetables do start sooner, and they are harvested around the time tomatoes and peppers are growing.”
When it comes to frost, Ladd says be prepared.
“If you’re going to plant anything in the garden, generally the old rule of thumb is if you plant around Mother’s Day you would be safe from frost,” he said. “But it’s a good idea to have a frost blanket to protect your garden if we do have cold nights.”
“We have a lot of frosty mornings coming up,” he added, “but it’s been a warm winter, so the risk is lower.”
Ladd suggests planting radishes, which are resistant to cold weather.
“Potatoes are under a mound so they can do OK with a couple of cold nights,” he adds.
A fun project to do with kids is to start growing vegetables from seeds, starting them inside. Seed trays take 30 to 45 days to mature enough to plant outdoors, so tomatoes and peppers and more sensitive plants would be good candidates for this method.
Those more interested in flowers may want to consider blooms that promote pollinators such as honeybees and hummingbirds.
“Right now is a great time to plant summer blooming or spring blooming bulbs,” Vega said. “We suggest making ‘lasagna’ planters. You plant bulbs in the bottom of a container, and do regular spring flowers on top.
“That way, when the flowers are done blooming, the bulbs will come up and you will have beautiful flowers in the same container for a long time.”