Do those sunny afternoons and warming mornings make your green thumb itch? You're not alone.

Do those sunny afternoons and warming mornings make your green thumb itch? You're not alone.

"The first signs of spring seem to bring out the gardener in all of us," says Kay Faught, owner of Blue Door Garden Store in Jacksonville. "With the first warm days, we want to dig in the dirt and sow our summer seeds ... but be strong and resist!"

Planting seeds during the first warm days often ends in failure.

"Those heat-loving luscious annuals, herbs and veggies we all love need good weather and warm soil for proper germination," Faught says. "To thrive, seeds need nighttime temperatures staying around 50 degrees."

So be patient, counsels Bob Reynolds, Master Gardener coordinator at the Oregon State University Extension offices in Central Point and Grants Pass. "We have frosts up to the end of May. If you have sensitive plants like tomatoes and annual flowers, wait until Mother's Day, and then you're safe."

Plan and prepare
While watching the thermometer rise, ascertain that you've got workable soil.

"Go out there, pick up a handful, squeeze it together," Reynolds advises. "If it's wet and you try to work with it, you'll end up with a bunch of clods. You'll have to wait for it to dry out."

Focus on cleaning up your landscape, spreading some compost and possibly even renovating your lawn.

Flower power
If you didn't get them planted last fall, planting perennial flowers before the heat of the summer helps them get established.

"They will have different blooming periods from now to June, July, August and September," says Dieter Trost, owner of Southern Oregon Nursery Inc. in Medford.

For April blooms, plant Erysimum. Resembling lavender from a distance, it is hardy enough to fight the cold, comes in a variety of colors (Bowles Mauve Wallflower is popular) and will bloom through November.

"It's one of the longest-blooming flowers there is," says Trost, who recommends regular dead-heading. "The only downfall is that it's short-lived at just five to six years."

Buy daylily roots in gallon cans or 4-inch pots for early springtime blooms and a burst of color. For a serene gathering of white blossoms that flower in April and May, plant old-time candy tough. Planting Helianthus L. now will result in June blossoms.

Before planting spring flowers — and to properly prepare for later plantings — the soil may need some attention. Till the soil, adding mulch until it's fluffy. Make sure all the clay clods are broken up, which will allow a better start for the roots.

Look for mulch with added fertilizer to save a step. "A lot of them also have mycorrhiza in with it, which is an awesome product," says Trost. "To boost the growth, you could go back and fertilize on top also."

A variety of veggies
Some vegetables can be started in March.

Onions will be in this month, along with a lot of herbs and cold-loving crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, chives and cabbage, says Trost.

Other cool-season crops that can go into the ground now include peas, collards and lettuce.

"These can take some freezing and some cooler soil," Reynolds says.

Start potatoes toward the end of April.

Preparing soil for vegetables is similar to a flower garden, with a few exceptions.

"Add more nutrient, like an organic fertilizer such as manure or bagged mixes, back into the soil," Trost suggests. "Vegetable gardens need this because over the years, the vegetables eat up all the nutrients."

If problems arise, call or take a sample of your soil to the year-round plant clinic at OSU Extension in either Josephine or Jackson county. Through March, the clinic operates Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; in April through October, the clinic keeps the same hours and is open Monday through Friday.

"We will help them diagnose their problems and come up with a range of options that will work for them," promises Reynolds.