Outdoor Spaces

3 Ways to Dig Into Spring Planting Season

As we near the estimated last spring frost for southwest MO, gardeners can now start laying the groundwork for a successful spring planting season.

By Katie Pollock Estes

Mar 2019

Spring gardening season in Springfield MO
Photo courtesy ShutterstockAs we near the last frost of the season, gardeners can start preparing for bountiful gardens.

Experienced and aspiring home gardeners, listen up. It’s almost time for you to start getting your hands dirty in the soil and working on your vegetable garden. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the estimated date for the last spring frost in southwest Missouri is April 20. That means you should be able to safely plant seeds and starts in the ground without having to worry that a late-season frost will wipe them out prematurely. (Of course, this is an estimate. Mother Nature does what she wants.) Here are three ways to dig into the gardening life.

Test Your Soil

Ideally by now you’ve already tended to your soil. If not, don’t worry. The University of Missouri’s Greene County extension office is super helpful when it comes to soil prep. You can bring a sample in, and they’ll report back with your soil’s level of pH, phosphorous, organic matter and more with treatment recommendations for how to improve your soil for your growing goals. Adding fertilizer or other materials to prep your soil for growing could make all the difference in how productive your plants are. With local pros who can guide you along the way, digging into soil health is a no-brainer.

Start with Seeds

At Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, 417-924-8917), you can find a huge variety of vegetable and flower seeds, many of them rare heirloom varieties that can add some funky colors and interesting flavors to your garden. The Springfield company’s website is super-handy, with descriptions of the flavor and hardiness of the plants and helpful reviews from customers. But we recommend visiting the seed store in person, so you can flip through seed packets and peek at the farm. The spot hosts numerous events too. The first Monday of each month, from now through October, you can attend Baker Creek’s Heritage Days Festival.

Start with Plants

If you would rather grow from starter plants instead of seeds, there are lots of places that can get you started. Most local nurseries, like Schaffitzel’s Flowers & Greenhouses, Wheeler Gardens and also Wickman’s Garden Village have tons of flowers and plants—both annuals and perennials—that you can transplant into your home flower beds and pots. And they can help you determine what will work in your space if you let them know how much sun or shade the plants will get. This is the season for plant-filled events and flower sales too. At Garden Adventures in Nixa, the annual Azalea Festival celebrates that gorgeously bright flowering bush and offers many of them for sale. On April 27, you can attend the Master Gardener and Garden Society Plant Sale at Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park (2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield), where you can find plenty of plants.

Sure Bets

If you’re new to vegetable gardening, you might be intimidated by the sheer number of plant varieties out there. Have no fear; we’re here to help. The veggies on this list tend to grow super-well in southwest Missouri's climate—so you can start your garden out on the right foot.

Growing Salad Greens

You can purchase seed blends that grow into numerous varieties of tender greens, all in one patch. You don’t have to start the seeds indoors; just sprinkle them over the soil in spring, and watch the salad mix sprout up early in the growing season. When they’re big enough to harvest (which doesn’t take long) just cut them down with scissors. They’ll grow back again several times! It’s a plant that’s as easy to grow as the grass and weeds on your lawn—but much tastier.

Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Garden

Tomatoes can be a tough crop if the conditions aren’t right. Not enough water in a dry season. Not enough sunlight. Tomato-stealing squirrels. But small varieties like cherry or grape tomatoes are also a pretty simple plant for a beginner. They tend to be a bit more productive and less sensitive. Bonus: You can even grow them in a container on your porch if you don’t have a big enough yard for a garden bed.

These flavorful herbs make great container plants, and they are so hardy! (We’ve planted oregano and mint from seeds that came back year after year with almost no work on our part.) Plus, they make your garden smell great and add freshness to your cooking. You can try lots of other herbs that fare well in Missouri too, even if they aren’t quite as hardy as oregano and mint—and you can even plant them all together in one super-large pot. Give basil, rosemary and dill a try, too.