Getting back into the garden this spring

Apr3rd 201419 comments

As winter’s last grip of snow and ice slowly melts away, there’s eagerness in us all to get out in the garden and get “something” started. There may be a few cold night distractions or light snow discouragements in our way but spring always happens. Winters like this always welcome the spring in and make it oh so much more worth it. It’s like a kid waiting for cake and ice cream on their birthday, well you’ve got to eat supper first but that cake and ice cream is worth the wait, right? Well we can all get spring started around us. Whether it’s getting a jump on spring projects or maybe just bringing a little of that spring into our homes to warm us up, here are a few things we have been doing around the garden centers to get us all ready and into that spring mode.

Bring spring into your home early this year

Bring spring into your home early this year with these flowering perennials and annuals

Talk about getting a jump on spring itself, if you look in our greenhouses now you can see just that. I mean, we’re loading up with spring flowering bulbs like crocuses, tulips and daffodils. Now these are the bulbs that you usually plant outside in the fall that come up and flower in the spring, not the bulbs we have for sale right now that bloom in the summer. You may see some of these just starting to poke their heads up out of the ground outside right now, but in the greenhouses there just cracking color. What a great way to cheer up those winter blues. Just drop some crocuses on the kitchen windowsill or some tulips on a table as a little reminder that those warmer days of spring are on the way. We’ll often have some early flowering perennials as well, things like Primrose (Primula), English Daisy (Bellis), Bell Flowers (Campanula) and many others will be coloring up the greenhouses now. What a lot of people don’t realize and what I love about these little windows into springs color is that they have such a long shelf life. I mean you can enjoy them indoors now and then many of these guys can be planted outside later in spring and will come back for years in the garden. What a great way to enjoy a little spring color and fill in a few areas around the yard that are lacking color. If you’re looking for something a little simpler, try what I did last week. I saw some bunches of daffodils at our florist for just a couple bucks so I grabbed them and brought them home. Over the last week we watched them slowly crack open into a vase full of beautiful color.

Have a plan for the occasion

While it’s too early for most of us to be working outside, it’s always a good time to start planning for those projects later this spring. Our landscape design services in Winchester and Falmouth actually get quite busy this time of year with people planning their landscape projects for later in the season. By the time they get into May, they’re usually taking appointments for June or July so it’s a good idea to get a jump on this early in the season. Whether it’s a landscape design or just a list of plants you need for your window boxes, it’s never too early to start planning for things you want to accomplish this year. In fact a good list will actually get you in and out of the store quickly so you can get back to doing those things you want to do in the garden.

Just ask the trees

One sure sign of spring coming, for me anyway, is when we start to receive in our trees and shrubs

One sure sign of spring coming, for me anyway, is when we start to receive in our trees and shrubs. You see, we try to receive our nursery stock before it starts to break spring growth that way it won’t get damaged by our cold nights. This means it can be planted now or anytime later as well. So early spring is a good time to see our best selections of certain things like Japanese maples, large field grown trees (or balled and burlap trees) and fruit trees. I always tell people this is our best selection of fruit trees right now and availability only goes down throughout the spring and summer. Certain varieties like Asian Pears, Apples, and espaliered trees are always hard to find late in the season. To get the ones we have now, they’re usually ordered 9- 12 months ahead of time. You don’t need to plant these right away, you can simply do what we do, just leave them outside and water them when needed until you’re ready to plant. Anyway, all the trees and shrubs have started rolling in now so were filling up with all kinds of good stuff. Like I said, here comes spring.

Let’s get some veggies going

Cucumber seedlings

And let’s not forget all the foodies out there. I know it’s too early to get in the garden and start planting now but if you’re looking for the veggie seeds you can’t find anywhere else, we probably have them. Our seeds and seed starting products are in full swing right now. While most stores buy this stuff to sell out quickly and move on, Mahoney’s does multiple reorders on our seeds and seed starting products to ensure our customers can find what they’re looking for. Keep that in mind when you pass by those displays in other stores that have nothing left to offer. If you’ve never tried bare root veggies or bulbs veggies, you’ve got to try them. What I mean is things like onions, garlic, shallots, rhubarb, potatoes, and asparagus. They can go out super early and things like onions can be tucked into little crevices that you normally wouldn’t plant anything in. Definitely a must try. This weekend I’m going to sow some spinach in pots and get them going outside. And because they’re in pots I can bring them in if I think it’s too cold. I think I’m also going to get some onion sets, I usually plant these in crevices along a wall I have in my garden where you can’t really plant much else, other than some herbs. It usually works out pretty well for me. Anyway, in the next 2-3 weeks we will start receiving some cold crops in 4-inch pots or 6-packs, just in time to start planting.

Watch for what’s going on under the snow

Here are a few things we’re seeing in the lawn and garden maintenance area at this time of year, which are pretty typical given the winter we’ve had. Whenever we have a lot of snow that stays around on the ground during the winter like this year, we see a lot of mole and vole damage the following spring. Moles and Voles love snow. They can get up above ground and dig through the snow instead of the frozen ground and they won’t be seen by predators. So they move around a lot more in search of insects or perennials. We don’t notice this until the snow melts and we see their tunnels. We’ve seen a lot of this happening this year so we came up with a great coupon at It’s also a good time to get going on the lawn, but don’t be too quick to put down those crabgrass preventers. Remember the crabgrass won’t start growing until May so you have plenty of time to do some over-seeding if you have some bare spots, which apparently a lot of us have because of the snow. Or you could even just feed to strengthen your lawn and put down a crabgrass preventer by itself later. Lots of people tell me in the summer that the crabgrass preventer they used didn’t work but I’m finding a lot of people are putting them down way too early so they wear off by the time the crabgrass starts to grow. Go to and check out the new American lawn. It has great info for both organic and synthetic lawns.

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'Uncle' Mike Mahoney - Mahoney’s Garden Centers

Have you’ve seen our herb and vegetable plants and wondered, “Who is Uncle Mike?” Uncle Mike is Michael Mahoney, one of the six second-generation Mahoneys. With a face full of beard and too-well-worn hat, Uncle Mike is a genuine down-to-earth guy. With a passion for...


Grammar, Grammar!

..."You may see some of these just starting to poke their heads up out of the ground outside right now, but in the greenhouses there just cracking color. "
You should have said, "they are (or they're) just cracking color."
See, some of us hang on your every word. LOL

Congratulations! You can spot

Congratulations! You can spot the difference between there and they're. Give me a break. If that's what you got out of this post then you should probably find another blog to go troll.

Grammar, Grammar!

You are so correct. I'm Uncle Mike's mother and I certainly taught him better. I pick up those little words as well. Thank you.

grammer, grammer

Thanks ma, like I didn’t hear enough of that in high school…… well at least someone’s reading right, thank you Sue Riley I’ll do better next time… lol

Great Read!

So informative! Love that you are giving us hints on the timing of plants/shrubs, what's coming soon, what not to do now and what to start now. Extremely helpful to people that love gardening but need to be educated and reminded. Thank you!

Crabgrass preventer

How long must I wait before using a crabgrass preventer on newly seeded bare spots ?

new seeding

The rule of thumb is to wait until you mow two times. At this time the new seed will have developed enough of a root to handle the crabgrass preventer. But if your using the organic corn gluten meal as a weed preventer it can go down a lot earlier, I would wait until the grass is about one inch tall and apply. My point here is that don't be to quick to apply those synthetic crabgrass preventers because they will wear off with rain and sun and just time. So do what the lawn companies do, apply in late April or early May. Remember the Forsythia, you want to apply before it drops flowers not when it flowers and the Forsythia does flower for a long time.
Hope this helps.

Too Early To Garden

Mike, you stated --

"I know it’s too early to get in the garden and start planting now . . . ."

So, I live on Cape Cod, a few miles from your Osterville store.

I started cold-weather crop seedlings back in late January and early February.

Under grow-lights, over 220 Kale, Lettuce, Broccoli, Collards, Chard, and Escarole plants were growing.

They thrived and flourished in the potting soil cell-packs, with a nudge from water infused with liquid seaweed/fish fertilizer. In mid-March, the trays were put outdoors to harden off. Then, last week, late March and early April, they were all transplanted to the raised beds in my garden. They are doing extremely well and look beautiful.

So, I'm not sure where your observation of . . . "I know it’s too early to get in the garden and start planting now . . . ." comes from, but some of us are out here into it very much already.

Incidentally, for those of you who are worried about starting Tomatoes and Peppers too early . . . I have over 100 of these growing under grow-lights indoors now . . . the tomatoes are all very stocky (no spindly, leggy sprouts here!), thick-stemmed with lush foliage and 6" - 8" tall. They are very much out-growing their 4" pots and now need to be transplanted into gallon containers. The peppers are not far behind.

So, I know there are many people out there who are uncomfortable with starting their seedlings too early, but believe me, from someone who has started veggies from seed for decades now, and walked into garden centers to see the tiny offerings that greet you in May, please start your own as early as possible.

You will be rewarded immensely.

By the way, Mike, your comment page does NOT allow for paragraphing, which is why this all looks like one long run-on sentence. Please ask your webmaster to repair! :>)

Wonderful Tips!

I came for the gardening tips, and stayed for the Word Police. As a writer/editor word geek, I found this discourse very gratifying.

lawns with holes

We have lots of small dug up spots all over the yard. Years ago I was told it's due to skunks digging for grubs. Does that sound right to you? These are not mole/vole tunnels, they are about 3x3 spots of turned over dirt.

lawns with holes

Ya, skunks, raccoons, opossum, and even birds like crow have been known to dig for grubs or even earthworms.  Best thing is to take shovel to the lawn and cut out about a square ft. of soil about 6- 10 in. deep but wait till the end of this month when the grubs will start to move into the root zone and begin to feed. If you see a few don’t worry about it in fact I wouldn’t even treat until you see about 10-12 per square ft.

If you’re looking to control them organically you can use beneficial nematodes, it’s a microscopic insect that seeks out grubs and kills them. This is very affective but different, it doesn’t come in a bag, in fact it in comes in a little refrigerated packet you mix with water and spray down. It is perishable so it needs to be used in a timely manner and it can be applied whenever grubs are feeding in the soil. This is what we use in our safe lawns organic lawn care division.

 As far as synthetic control you  can only use something with dylox in it at this time of year, this is the largest the grub will be before pupating into the many different beetles they will become and season long grub controls will not work on them at this time.

The point here is don’t worry about a little hole in your lawn and don’t worry about a few grubs either, if it’s a treatable problem then deal with it.

Autumn clematis--when to cut it back?

Hi Mike, 

I have an Autumn Clematis growing onto a fence about 5 feet high. When is the best time to cut back old growth on this plant: early or late spring? Early or late fall? Are there any tips you could share about how to do this without harming the plant?

Please help!


prunning autumn clematis

Fall blooming clematis are very forgiving.  They bloom on new growth so you can prune them almost anywhere. Best thing is take off some of that dead looking top growth and make your cuts right above the buds that you will see in the branching. You can prune anytime fall through early spring though I like spring best. The only thing to watch for is the crown of the plant or where it comes out of the ground. You don’t want to damage this too much. But besides from that just wack away, you will still get blooms unless you prune late into the season.

Ps. Oh ya if you prune back hard to say 2 ft. or so, when new growth starts in the spring, try to train for more horizontal branching. They will go for the sun so this is your chance to encourage that sideways growth on the fence.

prunning autumn clematis

Thank you! I'll be cautious, and  if in doubt, I'll make a note to prune it in the fall when it is done flowering.

Beverly the Newbie Gardener

Plans for Perennials

Like you said: now is the time for planning.
I have one sunny spot and one shady spot, and I would like to plant something for my pollinators.
I would like it to be native and local and pretty.
I was thinking Beebalm and Bleeding Hearts … but I am not sure whether

  •     They are native to our area
  •     A good source of nectar

home for the pollinators

~~Well bee balm or monarda didyma are native and the dicentra Formosa are native to North West America but both are good low maintenance plants. In that sunny spot consider agastache, this is a long bloomer that is a magnet for bees and other pollinators and the key here is it’s a very long bloomer so it’s attracting pollinators for a much longer time. As far as the shade there’s not many long bloomer but the dicentra Formosa are, I like that choice.

Climbing vine w/3 season interest

Hi Mike-

I am a new gardener and want to grow a  native perennial vine along a stockade fence that gets some afternoon sun but not much. Is there an evergreen vine with some combination of flowers,  berries or a fall show of color that I can plant?  



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