With warming temperatures and the threat of frost quickly fading away, gardeners across the Triad region have one simple question in mind: Is it safe to plant? WFDD's David Ford turned to Winston-Salem gardener Matt Mayers for answers.

Interview Highlights

On when to plant:

When you read seed packets a lot of times they'll say plant as soon as the ground can be worked. And I find that a little bit misleading, to be honest, because I always do a thing where I plant things, or I seed things into the ground a little sooner than I probably should for, you know, the average frost date. Just in case we skip that frost — you know that last April frost — you can have a little jump on stuff. But for instance, I seeded my beets a little too early this year — a couple of weeks ago. And then some of them got fried in this past freeze we just got. So, right about now, early April, it's pretty safe now. If you look at the long-range forecast, we don't have any freezing temperatures all the way to the middle of the month. And that's typically our last frost date.

On what to plant:

You could definitely do lettuce and spinach right now. Radishes grow super-fast. So, even if we have a short spring, which we usually do here, and stuff starts, you know, starts getting too hot for some of the things you think of as cool weather, radishes will almost certainly get in in time. People are putting in peas. Beets are ready to go now. And I like to get in my things like kale and collards earlier than this because they'll withstand a little bit of cold. But this might be a good time to put broccoli in the ground if you can do it in the next week or so, cauliflower. Those are also good, cold-hardy things, but sometimes they get a little stunted, like you get not much of a head of broccoli if you get it too cold, too early in the plant's life.

On the importance of mulch:  

My favorite tip for garden beds is use mulch, use some kind of organic material mulch. In my pathways I like to use wood chips that you can usually get from tree services for free. And on top of the beds, I like to use the leaf mulch that the city gives away for free. They started giving it away last weekend, Friday and Saturday, and they'll be giving away on Saturdays now for a couple of weeks while supplies last at their yard waste facility in Rural Hall. It's great stuff. It's what they collected during the fall, grounded all up and let it compost for several months. And now it's pretty hot. You don't want to really mix it into the soil where it'll touch roots, but it's good for on top of the soil. As long as it's not touching your plants, it really keeps in moisture. It keeps down weeds. And gradually as it decomposes, it adds organic material and nitrogen to your soil.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

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