The beautiful weather has given area gardeners a good taste of spring “fever”. It appears spring is trying to arrive a bit early this year, but spring is a flirt and cannot be relied upon. In 35 years of tracking the weather January is fairly warm, followed by lingering cool temperatures in February that yield to very unpredictable weather in late February/early March, exactly when you do not want it in gardening!

It is time to begin prep for gardening season 2020, and this will be a year of big changes in the world of gardening, from the local to a national level. It is exciting and daunting. On the local level, this gardener will be moving shop, due to imminent domain, to a new facility at 2715 Lake Road in Huntsville and refurbishing expensive recycling) an iconic, historic property at Top o’ the Hill and building new “vintage” facilities to house the garden center, amazing grounds, and the feel of a park within the city, for all to come and enjoy.

On the national level, gardening is exploding as the number one hobby to release stress, promote good health and wellness, and produce a food source. A few of us old timers are chuckling, but yes, the younger folks are beginning to realize the satisfaction, the joy in learning, and peace that comes from growing you own, whether it be, one fruit tree or a tomato plant on a balcony, the sleeping dragon is waking and grandpa would be proud. All kidding aside, it is up to us, the older gardening generation to nurture, educate and work alongside these fledgling newbies to help them along the path, just as our grandparents introduced us. Well, maybe not, who remembers bailing hay on a beautiful spring weekend and/or helping grandma pick muscadines until your skin turned purple from head to toe. You did not get to quit, when you were hot and sweaty and God forbid, you drug out a phone, because grandpa would have thrown it under the tractor. Good life lessons.

Many new varieties of plants will be hitting the market this spring. The proven winner selections and the southern living collections are southern favorites. Remember, these new varieties are patented, so be prepared for sticker shock. 

Just like any new invention with a patent, a 20%-40% royalty will placed on each plant for seven years, until the patent expires by the originator, regardless of grower and retailer. After viewing some of these selections that were produced for heat tolerance, abundant blooms, and drought tolerance, I would say, they are worth it. Like all commodities, the price raises each year and this year is no exception. Growers have traditionally held a line on pricing, but due to the rising cost in labor, freight, fertilizer, water, many are raising prices, not to increase profits but to just stay in business. The gardening industry has never had the lore of a quick dollar, but those of us who stick have a passion for what we do or we are just too stupid to know when to quit, probably a bit of both.

The biggest draw to gardening today, is the desire to know where your food is coming from, in what environment was it grown and how. When you are the producer, you control these variables and you get bragging rights to what you grow. No one post Facebook pics of their tomato’s they just got from H-E-B, but they will, from their own garden ... and you should!

The second biggest tug to the gardening world and this is two fold, is exercise and wellness. Forget about the savings of growing your own, that is no longer a factor to the under 30 group, but the exercise and mental wellness that comes from gardening is. The sedentary lifestyle that iPhones and computers has brought us is challenged by the “fun” that comes from growing. 

New homeowners are flocking to garden centers to learn how to and what to buy. If I may inject a bit of advice, buy your gardening plants and merchandise from professional certified nurserymen who make their living by bringing the healthiest plants to the market, best fertilizers, soils, etc ... teaching and advising. When you get it right the first time, your cost is substantiated, and you are ready to progress, and attempt more. Poor results, rarely give you enthusiasm to continue and your gardening venture ends there.

On one last note, it is time to till your garden, turn your beds, and start your winter cleanups. Pruning begins now, apply preemergent herbicide everywhere you will not be planting seeds, and refrain from fertilizing for another 30 days. Hi-yield makes an excellent preemergent for use beds, lawns and gardens, provided not seeds will be planted. A preemergent will kill seeds before they germinate, and must be applied every 60 days during the growing season. With temperatures hitting 70, on and off, and earlier application should be considered. It is too early for weed n feed, but there is plenty of prunning to do until then. 

Happy Gardening!

im Bius is a certified nursery professional and President of Kim’s Home and garden center, since 1985. Kim brings 35 years of working experience, a BS from SHSU, and a bit of humour as we go through the seasons. Please direct questions or comments to kim@kimshomeandgardencenter.com