Coping with cold weather when ready to plant

Every year Mother Nature drops snow when it is least expected, late spring or early in fall. The reaction is always the same — surprise and disgust.

Every year Mother Nature drops snow when it is least expected, late spring or early in fall. The reaction is always the same — surprise and disgust.

Stores that bring plants have learned from experience as to how to cope with cold weather. Many of the bedding out plants are brought inside to be sold until the weather improves.

The plants get little sunlight but they survive as opposed to freezing.

At this point watering, which is messy, becomes a problem.

While most plant outlets were busy they were not overwhelmed with customers.

There is still plenty of products on the shelves for those customers who wait for the weather to warm. At this time, head out to make the necessary purchases.

Always leave home with a list of what is needed. It doesn’t have to be a complete list but it should indicate how many plants are needed as well as the size of the mature plant.

This type of list allows plant selection while insuring that all the necessary plants are purchased and not too many extra ones.

Take care when choosing plants as the condition they leave the store ultimately effects how they look in the garden. The season is not long enough for a gangly plant to recover and look wonderful.

Basic bedding out flowers are sold in packages containing four, six or eight plants.

This year the average price is 50 cents a plant. This does not mean that they are all equal.

Ideally the roots of the plant should be developed enough to keep the soil intact but not to the point where the roots are wrapped around the container.

Plants at this stage can be transplanted with very little shock which means the plant will quickly spread into the surrounding soil and grow quickly. Short of taking the rootball out of the container one must take the size of the plant and container into consideration.

A small plant in a fairly large container means that there are few roots. It is what it looks like, a small plant.

A huge plant in a small container will be root bound. The roots will be growing in a circle around the container. To get the roots to expand into the surrounding soil the roots must be cut or torn. Disturbing the roots will initially set the plant back but if it is not done the roots will not spread into the surrounding soil and the plant will not thrive.

Always look at the condition of the plant before making a purchase. Frost damage on bedding plants is seen in the leaves. They may be black, missing or not the proper shape depending on the severity of damage.

Shrubs that have been frozen will have dead leaves and branches. Chances are that the leaves will still be attached.

Plants that are grown in a crowded greenhouse will be tall and have fewer leaves on the bottom of the plant.

The stems will be weaker and more likely to fall over when removed from the other plants. Bottom leaves that are intact could be brown or mouldy.

Watering plants can be a problem in stores that are not equipped to sell plants all year.

Hoses on the ground are a safety hazard as is the excess water of the floor. Without water the plants wilt.

If caught soon enough the plants recover but often without their bottom leaves.

Choose well-rounded plants that are in proportion to the size of the rootball.

Plants that can be planted out with little shock which means they will thrive in the garden.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rock Mountain House. You can contact her at

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