Warmer weather inspires gardening plans – Springfield News-Leader

Sunny skies and warm temperatures lured Diana Shanks to a greenhouse Saturday to look for flowers to plant.

“I think flowers are what make a place,” she said while browsing at Wickman’s Garden Village. “I have 2.5 acres and I like to fill it with flowers.”

Begonias, impatiens and geraniums are among her flower varieties. “I try to have a little of everything.”

She also started a raised-bed vegetable garden last year.

Garden lovers like Shanks have been bit by the spring bug and are eager to get their plants in the ground.

But Shanks said she will wait to plant her flowers and vegetables outside until overnight temperatures are in the 40s, at least. If she plants too early and it gets cold, she throws a sheet over the plants to protect them from frost.

“There’s an old wives’ tale that says the best time to plant is after Mother’s Day,” she said.

Farmer Kevin Sharp of Ava’s Gardens sold kale, basil and cilantro starter plants at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks on Saturday afternoon.

He had the same advice as Shanks for planting warm season crops: “green beans, tomatoes, green onions, corn, zucchini — all the good stuff.”

For people who want to plant vegetables now, Sharp recommended several cold weather vegetables like broccoli, kale, potatoes and cabbage. He said if the vegetables are planted in a container they can easily be brought inside near a south-facing window if the weather gets too cold.

Sharp said homegrown vegetables, like the kind he sells, taste “100 percent better” than store-bought veggies.

“That’s what people are starting to realize,” he said.

Erin Hudson, new to Springfield, bought kale and onions starters Saturday from Heirloom Gardens that she planned to plant when she got home.

“We’ve done it for years,” she said. “I just find it stress relieving. It’s fun to be able to decide what you want to eat for dinner and go out and pick what you want with it, and it’s a money saver.”

Saturday was also a big day for community gardens.

Volunteers from Springfield Community Gardens gathered early in the day for the groundbreaking of the Fairbanks Neighborhood Garden in north Springfield, an expansion of the Grant Beach Community Garden.

“Grab a shovel, rake or other implement of destruction,” organizer Richard Napieralski said to volunteers. “Let’s all move a little dirt people.”

The group tilled the soil and removed rocks from the lot which come May will have 56 plots for community members to rent for $24 per year, along with a large sweet potato plot.

“We identified a need for more community garden plots,” said Napieralski. “The typical backyard (in this neighborhood) is surrounded by trees and is relatively narrow, so there’s not a great deal of light. This is a well-lit area and the soil is really good.”

He said he plans to start planting crops on May 1 if the weather is good.

Volunteer Maile Auterson of the Grant Beach Association said they want to start planting as soon as possible. “We have an urgency to feed people in this neighborhood.”

Auterson expects about 5,000 pounds of food to be grown in the Fairbanks Neighborhood Garden this year.

She said getting the soil ready for the plants is crucial. “You’re getting that bed ready for the vegetables to grow.”

Auterson said, “There’s a deep satisfaction when you know where your food comes from. You know when you watered it or pruned it and that the neighbors helped grow it. Our goal is to get people out gardening together.”

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