Walk into any supermarket, and the Easter decor will give you a pretty romantic image of April: budding flowers, rain showers and 65-degree days. Gardening time, in other words.
But it’s three weeks into the month, and Casper’s still chilly and bare. According to the National Weather Service, it might snow again Saturday.
The long winter is unusual for Casper, but not unheard of, said Donna Hoffman, a horticulture educator with the University of Wyoming Extension. On average, the last frost of spring is May 22.
“Everybody starts thinking about gardening” when April rolls around, she said. “But in reality, it’s a little early for us.”
Casper gardeners should always plan for temperamental springs, Hoffman said.
Some plants are built to resist the cold weather: leafy greens, broccoli and peas, for instance.
But wait until the cold breaks for good — usually in late May — to go all-in on your garden, Hoffman said.
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As a rule of thumb, many gardeners wait until the snow on Casper Mountain melts, she said.
Even aside from the cold, Casper is abnormally dry right now, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a drought map run by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The rest of Wyoming — aside from a sliver of Albany County — is either in moderate, severe or extreme drought.
One of the most effective ways to make your yard drought resistant is avoiding plants that require a lot of water. Kentucky bluegrass — the most popular turfgrass in Wyoming — is a notorious water guzzler, Hoffman said.
You can also prepare your garden for dry spells by using water retentive soils. Putting down mulch on top of your garden bed is “tremendously helpful” for keeping water in, too, she said.
For those looking for more gardening tips, the Natrona County Master Gardeners on Saturday will host its spring conference from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Agriculture Resource and Learning Center.
Patrick Byers, a horticulturist from Springfield, Missouri, will deliver two presentations: one about raising nut trees in Wyoming, and another about American elderberries.
Don Day, a Cheyenne-based meteorologist, will discuss how gardeners can plan for this year’s weather.
A talk on pruning evergreen trees will be delivered by Kansas City horticulturist Dennis Patton.
Finally, Kathy Shreve, a Cheyenne advanced master gardener, will give pointers on growing flowers and vegetables from seeds.
The conference is $65. To sign up, call the University of Wyoming Extension at 307-235-9400. Attendees can still register day-of, but Hoffman recommends reserving your spot ASAP to make sure the conference has enough food for everyone.