Publications (Paul's Blog)

June 23, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 8:47 pm

   Something happens in spring. It begins with a few warm days, the first thunderstorms, and the appearance of the first early spring bulbs and wildflowers. Then the flowering trees bloom, birds migrate, fish start biting, and all manner of creatures begin to pair off to mate. One day you’ll step out into the warm sun, catch a whiff of fresh air after a rain; heavy with the scent of blossoms, and it will hit you. Suddenly you realize that life is good. People smile at you; you smile back or exchange a pleasant greeting. You experience a glimmer of hope that somehow everything is going to work out. The world is a better place just because you are alive and well.

  You will be compelled to visit your local nursery even if you aren’t much on gardening. You will buy seeds, flowers, a tree, ……………anything………..everything!! You must commune with Nature. You must share in this renewal of life by expanding your small piece of the universe. You will attempt to grow something. Maybe start a new garden. You can’t help yourself. We all do it. It is a human condition; a perfectly normal reaction to Mother Nature’s miracle. ……..Spring!

  The day you decide to show up at the nursery will naturally be the very same day that everyone else does. You may get the mistaken impression that nursery owners must be fabulously wealthy and particularly endowed with the ability to multi-task. You finally find a wagon and proceed to buy all sorts of plants (mostly because they look pretty today; not because you intended to), a bench, some yard art (you couldn’t resist that either), some soil amendments or fertilizers (both) then wait patiently to check out. At the check out counter you become convinced that nursery owners are making a killing because you have to resort to pulling a credit card since you already know that your checking account won’t cover the bill.

  After several hours of power shopping and high blood pressure traffic you arrive back home only to find that someone forgot to load your jug of aerated compost tea (that has to be used today to be effective), plus you forgot just how big the nursery guy said the “butterfly bush” was going to get. Oh well…………At least you scored on a lot of really neat stuff!! Now the problem becomes………Where are you going to put it all?………Right??

  This all too familiar scenario can be avoided or at least downsized somewhat if you have a plan and the fortitude to realize you are in the grip of spring impulse buying. It is really helpful if you have an idea of what your ultimate goals are before you turn the key on your automobile. Consider the size of the area you have to work with. Make a crude sketch with measurements. Think about exposure to sun or shade, drainage, soil conditions, plus relationships to other objects like doorways, windows, roof overhang, sidewalks, and so forth. I think we all have committed the sin of putting that nice tidy little spring transplant into an area where it fits nicely only to discover the thing wants to be 16 feet tall and equally as wide.

  Do some research on plants that you intend to buy. Don’t expect that nice young person down at the nursery to know everything. Remember that there really is no such thing as an expert; just older, more experienced gardeners. The new help at the nursery always have good intentions. They really do want to impress you (and the boss) with their knowledge and ability. There are plenty of exceptionally bright young people, however most of the time we hire them to help with loading and not to hand out advice. If you want to talk to the owner(s) in spring you will have to be willing to wait or pick a bad weather day.

  Speaking of which, it is a dead cinch that the nursery will be crowded on a nice spring day. Nursery owners generally aren’t gazillionaires simply because spring only happens once a year. Most nursery owners lament the fact that the better part of their income will happen during the spring. There are many days when it’s just too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, and we find ourselves sitting alone hoping that the phone will ring or that someone will decide to drop by to shoot the breeze. Of course this doesn’t really have to be this way either. It’s not like we don’t take every opportunity to educate the general public. Gardening truly is a year round business.

 The following is some general information regarding the seasons and optimum planting times in North Texas.

    Winter- Plant trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennial flowers.

     Late winter, Early Spring- Plant cool season vegetables. Continue planting trees, shrubs, and perennials.

     Spring- Plant warm season vegetables and annual flowers.

     Late spring, Early Summer- Plant warm season grasses and heat loving annuals.

     Summer- Continue planting warm season grasses. Begin second round of warm season vegetables for fall harvest.

     Early Fall- Plant cool season vegetables, wildflowers, cool season grasses, cool season annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs.

     Fall- Continue planting cool season vegetables and annuals. Plant trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials.

  You’ll notice right off that the fall season has more items listed than does the spring season. Fall is in fact the best time to plant most longer living plants as research has shown that maximum root growth occurs during Fall, Winter, and into early Spring. After bud break in spring, plants expend most of their energy making leaves, flowers, fruit, and seed. Everyone in the nursery and landscape business wishes that more Texans would realize this. In reality, any landscape professional will quickly relate the fact that we do install landscapes in every month of the year. We generally see our highest losses during summer as opposed to winter. So there really isn’t the urgency that most people perceive.

………It’ just a spring thing…….that should be a fall thing. Sadly, our numbers continue to reflect that our most lucrative month is May instead of October.

  One of the main reasons for this is that the big box stores who have the benefit of huge advertising budgets will launch a big campaign in April and May. This reinforces our natural spring urge and has no doubt been studied extensively by the advertising and marketing people who work for those companies. By the time our fall season rolls around these same Megamarts are done with landscaping and are now reminding us of the approaching holidays. While this strategy may work well for them it really doesn’t do us Texas gardeners much good. In response to this I tell folks that when the spring ads begin running hot and heavy, those of us who live in the south should already be done with most of our planting.

  One of my mentors in the business once told me that; “Anyone can sell plants in the spring.” Very true. I know that you will have to satisfy the rites of spring (as will I). There are plenty of things that are best planted after Jack Frost has gone away. A little impulse buying is also good for the soul. We nursery owners are primed and ready. We so look forward to seeing all our gardening friends. We also are looking forward to making new friends and especially helping newcomers get acquainted with gardening successfully in our great state. But do try and temper your urges with common sense. It just isn’t necessary for everyone to plant everything on the 15th of April. Don’t forget that we’d also like to see you in summer, and certainly in the fall. And we especially appreciate those who stop by on those cold winter days………even if it’s just to talk. Nursery owners get lonesome too, Y’know??

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