There is nothing like the fresh smell of wet soil, onion and potato starts, and green things growing to put Sharon Boese and many other gardening enthusiasts in the mood for spring.
Boese, owner of The Garden Center in Hillsboro, got a head start on most gardeners, planting seeds in mid-January at her rural Hillsboro home. Next week she will be transplanting those seedlings into containers at her garden center in town, getting ready for customers and a grand opening during the first week of March.
“I have to be ready before most other people are,” Boese said. “It’s all part of getting ready for spring.”
Part of spring preparation for Boese is taking deliveries at her shop of early supplies such as weed block mats, coco fibers for lining planting boxes, potting soil, and plenty of seed varieties in packets and in bulk. Another part is arranging displays, seed selections, and miscellaneous items. The biggest part however, is planning and dreaming what might grow best in the year ahead.
“It’s early. I don’t think we can tell about the weather yet,” Boese said. “But I think people will be cautious this year, remembering the lack of water we had last year.”
Boese said Kansas planting zones underwent a small change in classification by the Kansas State Extension service this year, going from a common zone 6, to a cold zone split. Marion County now ranks a 6B zone with different plant recommendations for hardiness than for gardens further south, even as close as Wichita.
“Wichita is a little bit warmer than we are here, with more asphalt, and more protection from buildings,” Boese explained. “Here we have more cold wind and are less sheltered, so we need hardier plants, or later planting recommendations.”
Boese recommended other ideas for local gardeners to ensure getting their plants off to a good start this year.
“High-tunnel gardening is a good idea for those wanting to extend their gardening season and start a little early,” she said.
A high-tunnel garden is a low bowed framework covered by plastic that acts as a miniature greenhouse to plants actually planted outside in the dirt.
Hot caps — small plastic tents, milk jug containers, and other coverings — also work to protect early plants, Boese said.
“It is better just to wait and not put out those tomatoes and peppers too early,” she said. “They take off so much better when the soil is warmer and they don’t have to keep readjusting to temperature changes.”
Boese said some cold-weather plants could be planted outside in March, however, like pansies, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, and potatoes.
“It all depends on the weather,” she said.
For those wanting long-lasting color in their gardens but worried about high heat conditions again this year, Boese recommended two types of flowering plants.
“If you want color through summer and all the way into fall, Gomphrena and Lantana are good varieties,” she said. “They don’t need any extra water. I had some out in front of the shop here last year and got more compliments about them. I don’t think I ever came in and watered them.”
As far as Boese’s personal gardening dreams go, she hopes to plant many varieties of tomatoes this year, and even more different types of flowers.
“Last year I put out over 50 varieties of tomatoes at home with plans to keep them all separate and have tasting tests to see which performed the best,” she said. “I had them all labeled in the garden, but when they started producing, they were picked and got all mixed up inside. This year I would like to have pail-fulls available for people to try at like, the farmer’s market in Hillsboro. That would be fun.”
The fun of gardening keeps Boese in the industry after 30 plus years of growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers.
“It’s just amazing to see how things grow and change once I bring them from my special room at home here to the shop,” she said. “There’s always something new to try each year.”