Omahans eager to start gardening as temperatures climb

Gardening fever is starting to burn as hot as the temperatures.

With highs in the 80s expected this weekend, and masses of color popping up at area nurseries and gardening centers, it’s almost more than a plant-loving, vegetable-growing person can resist.

Omahan Tom Haley was already filling a cart with flowers at Cirian’s Farmers Market earlier this week.

“It’s just the freshness and the new beginning,” said Haley, who lives near 90th Street and West Dodge Road. “The excitement and the color and the new creation. It’s all hopeful.”

Scott Evans of Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties said that as a gardener himself, he can understand the temptation presented by those early displays.

But, he said, Mother’s Day, which this year falls on May 12, is still the gold standard for planting in Nebraska as the danger of frost will have passed.

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“We know that our frost-free date keeps creeping earlier each year,” Evans said. “However, this is Nebraska. We know that it can still snow in April. If people want to plant early — they sure can. Just plant what you can afford to replace or invest heavily in 5-gallon buckets.”

Scott Farrington, owner of Indian Creek Nursery, said he recommends to early customers that they keep an eye on the weather and use containers placed where they can easily be covered or slipped inside if colder weather threatens plants.

Air and ground temperatures not the same

Evans said that even though extension staff members in Omaha tell clients that summerlike air temperatures don’t equate to warmth of the soil and optimum plant growth, many just can’t wait to plant.

A spot check of area garden centers shows that people are already eager to buy.

A selection of plants at Dee-sign Landscaping & Garden Shop in Omaha. The bright blooms are hard to resist.

“Spring has sprung here at the garden center,” said Helen Hubbard, customer service manager at Lanoha Nurseries.

Garden centers have no reason to wait to start selling. Spring is their biggest season, said Austin Cirian, co-owner at Cirian’s.

“That’s when we make our money to get us through the summer until fall,” he said.

Although many said they are trying to keep costs down — Urban Trail Gardens owner Ron Harvey said his prices won’t increase this year  — for others they continue to rise.

Indian Creek’s Farrington said some of that is due to increased freight costs. Costs passed on from the greenhouses where the plants are grown also contribute.

Four-inch perennials at Cirian’s will cost $5.25 this year, as will its specialty annuals. Vegetable prices vary.

“We’re going up 25 to 30 cents per item,” Cirian said. “Nothing crazy. We’re going along with the greenhouses as far as they are raising their prices.”

The higher costs apparently don’t deter customers. According to the 2023 National Gardening Survey done by, 80 percent of households participated in lawn and gardening activities in 2022.

The average household spent $616 in 2022, an increase of $74 from 2021.

Gardening flourished during the pandemic

Gardening was at an all-time high during the pandemic, and many of the customers have stuck around.

Jerry Crawford, store manager at the Earl May Garden Center in Omaha, credits vegetable gardening. For many, it’s hard to resist the idea of eating food straight from your own backyard.

“A lot of people that first year of COVID were gung-ho, and everybody continued,” he said. “Every year it continues to grow more, and more people are getting involved.”


Robert Hedlund places hardy hibiscus pots on a table at Dee-sign Landscaping. They are a popular plant there.

Anna Johnson at Dee-Sign Landscaping and Garden Shop said going back to work may have reduced the amount of time some people have to devote to their lawns and gardens.

“But the desire to be outside and have a nice garden to enjoy has not seemed to slow down at all,” she said.

And, by the way, all is not lost if you must plant something this weekend.

Vegetables such as arugula, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, pea, radish, spinach, beets, chard onions and turnips can be planted now with soil temperatures at 40 to 50 degrees. Hold off on beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes until the soil reaches 60.

“We’ve been trying to help educate people on what they can be doing now in hopes that helps ease the urge to plant everything at once,” Evans said.

“Planting in stages is a good option. It allows us to get outside and get cool-season crops in. It is also easier on our backs. Doing things a little bit at a time takes the ‘chore’ factor out of gardening and helps keep it fun.”