As the Spring Progresses….

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During these uncertain, stressful times so many people are looking towards growing their own vegetables and herbs. It’s a natural reaction to restrictions. Wanting to manage your own environment and food supply comes to the forefront.

I’ve been trying to offer practical advice and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. After all, being successful at any new gardening venture you undertake is always so gratifying.

I’m so impressed by how our community is pulling together, sharing information and resources and supporting local businesses that are severely impacted by necessary restrictions. It makes me proud to be a Canadian, a resident of Ontario and most importantly, a Saultite.

The early spring weather that arrived in Algoma had all of us out in the yard, cleaning up fall debris that ended up being covered by the early November snowfall. I managed to get a few gardens cleaned up myself before Mother Nature so brutally reminded us that we do, in fact, live in Northern Ontario.

Hopefully by the time you are reading this article, snow has again melted and spring weather has returned.

As anxious as you are to clean up all your gardens, please consider leaving a few areas untouched until the soil warms up quite a bit. Native pollinating insects over-winter in the leaf debris and old flower stems in your gardens. I have quite a few gardens (actually more than a few) so leave several untouched until later in the spring. I clean up the ones that really need attention first.

Once you do see active growth in perennial gardens and shrubs beds, you need to supply those plants adequate nutrients to get them off to a good start.

Buy a good quality granular fertilizer and broadcast it through the garden at a recommended rate. Please don’t forget about fertilizing the areas of your gardens where bulbs are planted. It’s especially important to fertilize those areas as soon as you see leaves pushing up through the soil.

Bulbs need a good supply of food to help them bloom well this spring and then store energy for next season’s blossoms. When I get asked, “Why do my bulbs only bloom one year well and then fade away to only leaves?”, the most common problem is that fertilizer wasn’t applied often enough.

Another reason for bulbs to lack vigor might be that they are planted in too much shade or that leaves were cut off to soon.

When you plant flower bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils in fall, you have to commit to leaving the foliage undisturbed in the garden even after flowers have faded. The leaves use sunlight to photosynthesize and store energy in the underground bulbs. You must leave the foliage alone until it turns yellow and then brown. At that point, grab the foliage, give a gentle twist and tug. If the bulbs has stored adequate nutrients, the stem will detach from the buried bulb, allowing you to tidy up the garden.

Back to a little more advice on growing your own herbs and vegetables. Be sure you pay close attention to how the seeds you plant should be managed. Read the seed packages for advice from the supplier. Start seeds indoors for those varieties that have the longest season of growth.

Some plants can be planted indoors to begin an advanced crop and then sown directly into the garden for a successive planting. Lettuce is an example of this.

Then once weather warms enough to start setting seedlings outdoors, don’t place them directly into all day sun. You will burn the foliage and seedlings will wither. Gradually acclimate them to direct sunlight by exposing seedlings to 30 minutes of morning sun. Increase the amount of time outdoors by 30-minute increments each day until seedlings are hardened off.

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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