When should you start your garden this year? Local York County grower weighs in

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Dustyn Miller, Miller Plant Farm head grower of specialty and vegetative annuals, poses with some hanging baskets at the nursery Thursday, April 22, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Gardening stores in York County are preparing for an influx of gardeners both amateur and professional, as they gear up for another season of cultivating and planting.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, new gardeners itching for a fun hobby picked up gloves, hoes and watering cans for the first time — including new clientele for York Township-based Miller Plant Farm.

One year later, staff members of Miller Plant Farm are already seeing returning gardeners ready for their second year. 

"Whether folks had a background in gardening or not, they found (the pandemic) a great time to get started," said Dustyn Miller, the head grower of specialty and vegetative annuals for Miller Plant Farm. "I expect a lot of those folks to continue with their hobby in gardening."

Miller Plant Farm, located at 430 Indian Rock Dam Road, prides itself on growing vegetable plants from seeds in-house. Miller, a fifth-generation farmer, said he enjoys taking the time to pass along knowledge to those eager for gardening tips.

For instance, this  season, he recommends gardeners start planting around Mother's Day — which falls on May 9 this year. 

"April is very volatile," Miller said last week.

Despite April's unpredictable temperatures, all hope isn't lost for gardeners who chose to start earlier than May.

Frost covers to keep outdoor plants safe can be useful when April's temperatures drop unexpectedly, Miller said. 

Additionally, gardeners can begin growing small plants in an open room with a lot of sun and later transfer them outside.

Lettuce can be an easy beginner crop to grow for new gardeners. Not requiring a lot of sunlight or space to grow, lettuce is a hardy plant that can withstand cold snaps in April and last for months to come, Miller said.

Nadine Hubner of North Hopewell Township shops for plants at Miller Plant Farm at the nursery Thursday, April 22, 2021. She planning a to use her selection in a planter at her home. Bill Kalina photo

He also recommends tomatoes for beginner gardeners. 

"When you grow tomatoes, you're going to expand your knowledge," Miller said. "Tomatoes are a definite."

Miller Plant Farm also sells a variety of ornamentals. Impatiens are an easy and low-maintenance flower Miller recommends for new gardeners.

A good perennial — which will come back every year and doesn't require new planting each year — is the pollinator-friendly cone flower. 

Other flowers to attract pollinators, especially hummingbirds, would be the black and blue variety of salvia, Miller said.

"It seems like a lot of people have already gotten started," he added. "People are doing it, and I think they're being successful."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.