Gardening: Finally, planting time in southeast Michigan

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

The 10-day weather forecast in my area says the nighttime temperatures will be above 50 degrees, so Mother Nature is right on schedule this year. Monday is Memorial Day, the traditional frost-free planting date for southeast Michigan and here are some tips to help you get your plants off to a great start.

If you’re planting in the ground, water the area the night before so the soil is moist, but not sodden. I also water my transplants well before planting. These steps help reduce transplant shock that can set the plants back a week or more.

To premoisten potting mix, add 1 part water to 3 parts soil. This is also best done the day before planting.

Refurbish potting soil by mixing in compost at a rate of 1 part compost to 3 parts container mix. Do the same with backfill when planting in the garden.

We used the biologically enhanced fertilizer Assure Transplant Success in all our plantings at the Rochester OPC display gardens last season and the results were outstanding. To find Assure Transplant Success in your area, call (248) 760-9342.

When using a transplant starter amendment that contains mycorrhizae, it’s key to get these beneficial fungi directly to the root zone, so mix it with the backfill according to package directions. In the case of fine powders, I sprinkle it directly on to the root ball and the bottom of the planting hole.

If it’s hot and sunny, the best time to plant is in the morning or late afternoon. Wind is really hard on plants that have not been hardened off, so if possible, cover new transplants. Floating row covers, also called frost blankets, are perfect for this job and they can be left in place for a couple of days if necessary. These lightweight covers are also good to have on hand to protect plants from the threat of a late season frost or covering grass seed to help keep it from drying out. They are also sold under the names Grass Fast or Harvest Guard.

Sun is the big key to successful plant growth, so be sure to site plants where they will get what they need. Full sun lovers require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun daily.

When planting in landscapes or gardens, proper spacing is also important. Read and follow the directions on the plant tag.

Appearances: Join me at 1 p.m. June 4 at American Tree’s Perennial Party, 3903 Van Dyke, Almont, (810) 798-2525, for more gardening tips.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at