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Local garden centers gear up for springtime

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Garlic and shallot bulbs and bags of onions and potatoes, as well as bulbs of dahlias, cannas and lilies, are some things available now in stores.

While it’s too early in the season to begin planting seeds and bulbs, it’s not too early to start planning.

In the coming weeks, the ground will be soft and dry enough to begin the process of cleaning up yards, testing the soil for nutrients, then tilling the land or whatever else is needed to prep for planting.

“We’re here to answer questions — talk to us about losses (from the tornado). I know the damage varies from one end of town to the other,” Isle of Green co-owner Bob Hessenius said.

This spring growing and planting season is likely to be different from last year’s.

David Calkins, assistant manager at Earl May, 3001 S. Center St., said tree damage and loss caused by the July 2019 tornado will likely impact how well your garden will grow.

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Rebounding from tornado damage, Isle of Green’s greenhouses, 1906 E. Church St., are chock full of product being processed for its shop and the other stores it supplies in the state. Pictured is employee Caryn Paul transferring plants.

“People need to be aware that with trees in their yards removed, you’ve gone from a canopy where there was shade, to not having shade, so you need to know which plants need shade or can stand full sun,” he said.

In some cases, people may need to relocate their garden space to a different section of their yards.

“Re-grass the area where the garden was, then till up the other side of the yard to put in a garden, based on changes with trees,” Calkins said. “Morning sun is more intense, but not as long, and afternoon sun lasts longer, but isn’t as intense. You need to take into account changes in the dynamic of the yard. If you don’t have as many trees anymore, your yard is going to get a lot more direct sun.”

Hessenius said early spring is an ideal time to dig up and relocate some types of bulbs.

Earl May does not yet have all its trees and flowers in stock, but shipments are due later in the week. What is in stock includes garlic and shallot bulbs and bags of onions and potatoes, as well as bulbs of dahlias, cannas and lilies.

“People that have vegetable gardens should already be getting the plants started inside. We don’t have tomatoes and peppers in stock yet, but we have the onions and potatoes,” Calkins said.

The ground should be ready to begin planting by late April, but it depends on if temperatures stay above freezing.

“Spring might come the first week of April or the first week of May. It’s hard to say,” Hessenius said.

While Isle of Green’s retail shop, 609 S. 9th St., doesn’t have all its plants in stock yet, its greenhouses, 1906 E. Church St., are chock full of product being processed for its shop and the other stores it supplies in the state.

The July 19 tornado leveled one of its greenhouses and badly damaged the other. Since that time, staff have worked to get caught up on growing and repotting plants.

“The greenhouse we rebuilt is a totally different building now, so we have to rethink how everything grows because it’s a new environment,” Hessenius said. “We’re running behind, but spring is running behind too.”

Keeping a houseplant is an ideal way to enjoy some greenery, regardless of outdoor temperatures. A variety of decorative plants are not only trendy additions to the home, but some have positive health benefits. Aloe vera cleans more air in the house per square foot than any other type of plant. Asparagus ferns can be put in hanging pots for some additional greenery.

“People are feeling the itch to get out there. The snow melted off quick, but spring is not here yet,” Calkins said.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or

sjordan@timesrepublican.com