Attention Hudson Valley! Cure winter gloom with spring blooms

Laura Ann Farms expert gives some easy tips

Cure Winter Gloom with Spring Blooms

Nurseries like Laura Ann Farms in Monroe offer plenty of colorful proof that spring has finally sprung.

The seeds of success

But it’s still too early in the season for knee pads and gloves. What you can do, according to our experts, is get ready for outdoor planting by starting seeds now — six weeks before the last frost — and by May the seedlings can be transplanted outdoors. Anthony Cuomo, president of Laura Ann Farms says, “If you need a point of reference, the last frost typically happens around the same time as the full moon in May.”

Cuomo says growing seeds is simple. Decide first whether you want to use a seed starter kit or an indoor greenhouse. Next, you want to choose your flowers. Cuomo said the more popular summer plants are impatiens, begonias, geraniums, petunia, verbena, zinnia, and salvia. Next, follow the directions on the back of the seed packet. They’ll tell you everything from how to seed, how deep, germination time, spacing, sun exposure, and transplanting information.

“Once the danger of frost has passed, those seeds can then be planted outside,” Cuomo says. “Then, you decide whether you want to pursue container gardening or ground gardening.”

READ MORE: 7 Garden Crafts to Make Ahead for Spring

If you opt against indoor seeding, but still want to plant outside in April, Cuomo suggests pansies, violas, dianthus, and tulips. The downside is they will only last until about June or July because they thrive in colder weather and can’t endure the summer heat. Protect flowers like tulips which the deer love to munch by planting on decks, or cover with garden screens. 

Or you can also buy the ready-made, ready-grown plants to get that instant gratification. “People buy plants in April because they want to see color. They’re tired of all this white,” Cuomo says. “It’s an impulse to have something growing outside. It gets people outside early.”

To do and what not to do

Cuomo says overwatering is one of the biggest blunders people commit after potting a plant. Too much water will drown the plant and could lead to root rot, which can kill it. But not watering them enough is also detrimental.
“You’ll see discoloration on the flowers,” Cuomo said. “If you plant in the ground, you can leave the watering up to Mother Nature, unless you’re in drought conditions.”

If you opt to plant in the ground, make sure you don’t overcrowd them. Cuomo says this happens when people don’t pay attention to planting instructions and plant a lot in the same spot for a fuller look. “It drowns out and chokes some of the plants,” Cuomo said. “They’re fighting each other for nutrients and need room for their roots to grow.”

He recommends planting in areas that get half shade and half sun because “It’s the best sun in the world,” with the morning sun preferable. The plant doesn’t get too burned in the heat, and it gets cooled off later. But if you have spots that are either full shade or full sun, ask an expert before you choose. Trim your plant according to instructions, and don’t be afraid to cut it back. “Pinching off dead blooms and cutting it back prevents it from getting leggy and sparse,” he says.

Spring is a crazy time for planting, and Cuomo has actually been nicknamed “Crazy” because he runs around like, well, crazy. “I do so much around here,” he laughs. “I’m on the forklift one minute and the next minute I’m helping a customer. Another reason he’s crazy is because after years of being a vegetable farmer, he opened a nursery. “I thought it was easier,” he laughs. “But honestly, for me, there’s more satisfaction in this.” And he likes the challenges. “If you have a problem,” he says, “Ask me.”

Sandy Tomcho is a professional writer who lives in Orange County. Her work can formerly be seen in Rhythm and News Magazine and the Times Herald-Record.