Ready to Plant This Holiday Weekend?
By Susan Richards
As the May long weekend approaches most gardeners prepare to do some planting. Hopefully we are past the worst of the cold spring weather but to be on the safe side, have some frost blanket on hand. I think this will be the spring that we all put it to good use.
It’s definitely too early to be planting annuals into the garden since the delayed spring has left soil still pretty cold. However the majority of trees, shrubs and perennials you find at local garden centres are tough enough to take any cold temperatures that still come our way.
Getting plants established with good strong roots should be your number one priority. All plants need them to thrive. Roots anchor plants securely into the soil and provide the transportation system that delivers water and food to leaves.
Most plants prefer moist but well-drained soil. The growing medium needs to be able to absorb and hold water in the root area, but be porous enough to drain excess moisture away. Few plants tolerate wet feet!
Garden soil is classified as loam if it has a friable texture that holds its shape well when squeezed into a ball in the palm of your hand, but crumbles easily when poked with your finger.
If the soil won’t hold its shape when compressed, it is too sandy. Add a good amount of compost or other organic material such as peat moss, coir fibre or composted manure to help hold moisture.
If your soil fails to crumble after compression, it has too much clay. Once again adding organic material with the addition of sand will improve its texture and allow it to drain properly.
Don’t worry, you can never add too much organic material to any garden soil. Micro-organisms in the soil are constantly breaking it down allowing nutrients to be available to plant roots.
Incorporating organic material into the soil in both spring and fall is very beneficial for all gardens. Just be cautious as you cultivate around existing plants. Try not to disturb roots too much and be careful not to damage plant crowns or stems. This can leave an open wound that allows insects and disease to enter the tissue.
Be sure to have some transplanting fertilizer on hand when you are ready to plant. It has been specially formulated to help plants establish strong new roots. Bonemeal is the most common granular transplanting fertilizer used.
If you prefer a water soluble type, there is both liquid and powdered formulations available. Mix a solution mix in your watering can at the recommended rate stated on the package. Then pour the solution into the ground around the roots of newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials.
If you are ready to plant your containers, using the correct soil is critical. You have a very small environment for the plants to grow in with much less margin for error. I don’t recommend using garden soil in containers. It is too heavy in composition, making for poor root development. You also run the risk of introducing insect and disease problems into the container.
Buy a good quality potting mix suitable for the type of plants you are growing. Annuals grown in sunny, hot areas benefit from a container soil that has coir fibre incorporated into the mix. This by-product of coconut harvesting will help the soil hold moisture during hot, dry weather.
When I plant my containers, I use a mix consisting of two thirds potting soil and one third compost. The compost adds some body to the mix plus provides some nutrient between applications of fertilizer.
When growing herbs, vegetables and fruit in pots, it’s wise to choose a good quality organic potting mix. By using an organic container soil, you know you are starting with a healthy base for your edible plants.