Home and Garden Special Section: Get your garden growing with these early-season planting tips

Published on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 by Carissa Wright

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The sunny days are starting to outnumber the gray ones in Whatcom County, which means spring really is just around the corner! Around here that means drifts of pink cherry blossoms, maybe a ham on Easter Sunday, budding maple trees ... and dirt under your fingernails from working in the garden.

Though temperatures at night are still chilly, there’s plenty to do around your garden plot. Sue Simpson has been working at Van Wingerden Garden Center for 20 years, so she knows a thing or two about gardening in Northwest Washington. She offers a few tips on how to keep busy in your garden now.


Bulbs. Though showy tulips and daffodils are planted in the fall for springtime color, many bulbs can go in the ground now to bloom in the summer. Dahlias, lilies and gladiolus will all offer summer beauty if you plant bulbs soon.

Potatoes and onions. “I do my potatoes as close to Good Friday as I can,” Sue says, though she rarely lets them get past that delicious new potato stage. If your soil is dry enough, you can also start onions.

Some annuals. Be careful, a lot of annuals won’t thrive if you plant before the danger of first frost has passed. Ranunculus, pansies and primroses are fairly safe bets, but geraniums, for example, will turn a nasty red color if they encounter a cold snap, Sue advises.

All kinds of perennials. Heather, lavender, clematis and primroses are all local favorites. “So much grows here,” Sue says, adding that blueberries are an especially popular crop. One of her very favorite perennials is the black lace sambucus, an elderberry varietal with deep purple (almost black) leaves and huge, lacy pink blooms.


Weed. You have to get all the weeds out of your garden beds if you’re planning on putting a vulnerable young plant in the ground any time soon. You’ll also want to make sure your soil is well turned and drained, especially if you’re planting seeds directly outside.

Prune roses. “If you haven’t pruned your roses, now is the time,” Sue advises. However, you don’t want to be too hard on them. Only take about a third of the plant’s height so there’s plenty of room for it to die back in case there’s a cold snap or hard frost.

Soil amendments

If you’re container gardening, get your soil ready for planting. Depending on what you’re planting and the soil you’re using, you might want to add amendments like peat, vermiculite, compost or gravel. Work with a garden pro to figure out what’s best for your particular planting and soil situation.