May at last!

On the Prairies, the May long weekend has traditionally marked the beginning of gardening season.

On the Prairies, the May long weekend has traditionally marked the beginning of gardening season.

Warmer weather and an extra day makes this an ideal time to plant.

Changes in society, gardening, technology, and climate have made the mad rush on May long weekend a thing of the past. Instead people are spreading out the planting season by taking advantage of any warm day and planting throughout the month of May. Parks departments that have a multitude of plants and can’t risk loosing a complete crop to frost begin planting in June.

The first step to a successful garden is the soil. Add compost of manure to areas that are being planted. Work the organic matter into the soil to a depth of eight to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm). The organic matter will feed the plants as well as make the soil structure loose and soft. Plants thrive in these conditions as their roots can spread through the soil easily and nutrients are plentiful.

Take the time to remove all weeds. Pulling will remove some weeds. Others will need to be dug and their roots carefully extracted. Roots left behind can and will re-grow into weeds. Over time, consistently removing weeds as they appear will eliminate them from the garden. Never let weeds go to seed. Plants can produce hundreds of seeds per flower. Once the seeds are in the ground they will germinate over a number of years.

Once the ground is worked and weed free it is time to plant. Vegetable seeds are planted in a trench or spread over a mound. They are then covered with a layer of soil that is approximately as thick as the seed. Always read the package to determine the plant spacing.

Soil temperature is important. Seeds of hardy vegetables can be planted early as they are not affected by cold, wet soil. Many of these seeds can be put into the ground in the late fall and they will germinate when the conditions are good the next spring. Other seeds of less hardy plants tend to rot in cold, wet conditions.

Warm crop seeds such as corn, pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers should be planted when the soil is warmer. An alternative is to plant early but cover the seeded area with a polyspun cloth or clear plastic. Both materials will keep the soil warmer and protect the seeds.

Bedding-out plants should not be taken directly from the greenhouse and planted outside. The change in climate from a greenhouse, a warm humid area, to outside where temperature can vary 20 degrees will shock a plant. While most plants do not die of shock they will not grow for a few weeks.

It is best to introduce bedding-out-plants to their new climate slowly. Start by taking them outside for a few hours a day. Increase the amount of time the plants are outside daily until the plants are left out overnight. Once the plants are a customized to their new climate they should be planted in pots or into the ground.

To plant bedding-out plants, start by digging a hole that is about twice as

large as the plant’s root. Fill the hole with water and let it recede. Next carefully take the plant out of its container. If there are more roots than soil visible, break the roots apart. Otherwise just place the rootball in the hole and backfill with soil. Press the soil firmly around the plant and move to the next one.

Once all the plants are in the ground gently water the area. Pressing the soil and watering will ensure that all the large air holes are removed and the roots will not be exposed to an excess amount of air.

A little care early in the spring makes a huge difference in the garden.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com