One thing that all gardeners can agree on is that every growing season is different. It depends on the amount of rain, sunshine and temperature.
This year, rain is spotty within Central Alberta with some gardens growing well and others not. Wet areas are thriving and dry ones are struggling.
For those without adequate rain, it is best to water late at night or very early in the morning to stop evaporation. Soak the plants well and add a temporary mulch such as grass clippings as this will also stop evaporation.
All plants suffer in a drought.
Keep all newly planted items well-watered as they do not have the root structure to reach out into surrounding areas.
Trees live the longest and are the hardest to replace.
They usually have huge root systems to sustain them but that is not always enough. Trees that have not put on new growth by this time of year are stressed. First look to see if there are visible signs of diseases or viruses.
Then water the plants around the drip line. Soak the ground by letting water trickle from a hose for a couple of hours at a time and repeat once a week unless there is a soaking rain.
Regardless of how the garden is growing, the weeds will be doing great. Try to remove weeds before they go to seed. If they are left to seed, there will be more weeds to remove in the upcoming seasons. In mature gardens where the plants grow tightly together, a few weeds will still lurk.
It is up to the individual gardener if it is worth disturbing and maybe trampling flowers to remove the weeds.
For those gardeners who have had rain, stay off the soil when it is wet.
Stepping on the soil when it is wet will compress the soil structure, making it hard to pull weeds. Weeds are easy to pull if the soil structure is loose.
When the soil is hard and packed, add organic matter, which will improve the soil structure, making weeds easy to pull.
Continue to water and fertilize annuals and all plants that are in containers. A continued source of nutrients will encourage the plants to bloom until the first killer frost.
Removing spent flowers improves the look of the garden.
It also insures that the plants’ energy goes into growing as opposed to producing seeds. Seeds that are allowed to mature usually germinate.
While an occasional new seedling is a nice surprise, a multitude of seedlings are considered weedy. Aggressive varieties can escape into the wild, invading natural areas and pastures.
Removing rogue plants immediately saves money and energy.
Once escaped plants are allowed to become established, cleanup becomes expensive and time consuming. Total elimination of weedy species is often impossible.
Flowers are planted for display but also for picking. Taking flowers into the home or office brings a little of the outside inside. Flowers tend to last longer if they are picked in the early morning when the air is still cool.
Choose flowers that are just opening as opposed to ones that have put on a display for a few days. Remember that the longer the flower stem, the easier it is to place in an arrangement.
Once the flowers are in the house, re-cut each stem as it is being placed in the arrangement. If the container is kept full of water, most flowers last about a week.
Gardeners tend to take flowers for granted but not everyone has an abundance of them.
Taking flowers to others is fun and the recipients usually appreciate the flowers and the gesture.
Local fresh vegetables and fruit are now being harvested.
Those without vegetable gardens can find fresh produce at local farmers’ markets and market gardens. Each location will be unique so phone and visit a few to find one that meets your needs.
Markets are weekly events that last for a few hours. It is best to come early as popular items sell out. Go to www.albertamarkets.com for a full list of markets throughout Alberta.
Some market gardens will allow you to pick, others will charge more and have produce ready for pickup.
Market gardens can be found through ads in the local newspaper, word of mouth, road signs or the internet (http://www.travelalberta.com/en/ThingsToSee/CultureHeritage/Agriculture/Pages/default.aspx?MetaHashKey=530F7A88808B5DF1CEC66F1B874CA210&mrkt=Canada).
Take time to enjoy the season. It can be short-lived.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org