April 5, 1999 | By: Mark Eclov

The early part of Kentucky springs can be a very frustrating time for gardeners. It is not unusual to see day time temperatures that mimic summertime conditions, but are followed by evenings containing hard frosts.

"Early April is not tomato or squash season in any part of Kentucky," said Terry Jones, Extension horticulture specialist at the UK Robinson Substation in Jackson, KY.

Unfortunately, some warm season transplants are already available at larger retail outlets and rarely will you see a warning sign advising you to wait for the right growing condtions.

"Unless these warm season vegetables and flowers are placed in greenhouses or protected at night under special coverings they will probably end up stunted or dead from an unexpected cold snap" said Jones.

And you don't need a hard frost to kill some warm season crops like cucumbers, cantaloupes, and watermelon. "They often can't survive temperatures that sink into the low forties," said Jones.

Kentucky has three primary growing zones. Warm season flowers and vegetables should not be planted in the state until after April 21 in western Kentucky, after April 25 in the central Kentucky, and after May 5 in Eastern Kentucky.

For vegetable gardens, early spring planting should be focused on peas, radishes, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, onions, spinach, kale, collards and mustard. These are hardy plants and actually thrive under cool conditions.

"Flowers lovers should be planting varieties such as pansies and snap dragons and ornamental cabbage and kale" said Sharon Bale, Extension floriculture specialist in the UK College of Agriculture. "These plants will withstand temperatures below 20 degrees."

Pansies can be planted in early spring, but they overwinter well and many gardeners plant them in the fall to get the earliest and biggest flowers.

Other cool season flowers such as carnations, dianthus and pot marigolds are also available at garden stores in the spring. These plants are often sold as summer flowers, but they perform better in the spring.

"All these plants should be grown where they can receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day. But, they require cool night temperatures for best growth and color display," said Bale.

Cool season flowers need to be planted before May 1. These flowers can be replaced by warm season flowers in early July and planted again around September 1 for a fall flower garden.

Contact: 

Writer: Mark Eclov
(606) 257-7223

Source: Terry Jones
(606) 666-2438