Best to buy seeds early, as planting season nears

It is hard to imagine that planting time is about a month away. Between now and then the snow must melt, the ground thaw, warm and the soil become dry. For those planning on planting vegetables, it is best to purchase seed early as popular varieties will disappear from the racks closer to planting time.

It is hard to imagine that planting time is about a month away. Between now and then the snow must melt, the ground thaw, warm and the soil become dry.

For those planning on planting vegetables, it is best to purchase seed early as popular varieties will disappear from the racks closer to planting time.

Vegetable seeds are available locally at garden centers, grocery and department stores, through catalogues and on-line.

If in doubt about which variety to purchase, look at the information stating the number of days between planting and maturity.

Choose the varieties that take less than 90 days to mature as the season is short.

The most import part of the garden is the soil. Productive soil is loose to touch, contains readily available nutrients, and has good drainage and water retention.

Start with the local top soil and amend it. Adding humus, compost or manure will benefit all types of soil increasing the supply of nutrients as well as adding bulk and air pockets between soil particles.

Clay soil is easily compacted and it is often suggested that sand be added to increase drainage.

This only works if the sand is sharp and has rough pointy edges.

Smooth sand tends to fill in the areas between soil particles making a cement like mixture.

When adding new soil to the old, mix the initial layer into the existing soil to ensure moisture, worms and insects will move freely between layers.

There are a number of different styles and combinations of gardens that work well in this region.

The traditional prairie garden is a big flat section of land with wide paths between rows.

The distance between rows insures that all plants receive an adequate amount of sunlight and it is easily maintained as equipment fits between the rows making it quick to cultivate and remove weeds.

The down side of this garden is the amount of space used and moisture needed. Wide areas of exposed soil wick moisture out of the soil and away from the vegetables.

It also takes time to cultivate between rows.

Too much cultivation or working the soil when it is wet will ruin the soil structure causing it to clump.

Raised beds are popular and can be divided into 3 different groups ones with: with permanent, hard edges, large raised areas without permanent edges, or mounded rows.

Regardless of the beds edge, it should not be wider than five feet to allow people to reach the center of the garden from either side without stepping on the soil.

Soil that is not walked on is less likely to become hard and compressed.

Soil within a raised bed is warmer than the traditional bed as the sun warms the sides as well as the top of the bed.

Most seeds react well to warmer soil, maturing faster than in the traditional flat gardens.

Warmer soil also means that the soil can dry out quickly needing to be watered often at the beginning of the season.

Plants within a raised bed are planted close enough together to allow the plant leaves to touch at maturity but far enough apart to ensure that each plant receives the light and nutrients it needs.

As the garden matures the lack of exposed soil usually means fewer weeds germinate and the soil is protected from the drying rays of the sun.

For those who just want a few fresh vegetables, tuck them into the ornamental garden. Vegetables are attractive plants and can be tucked into ornamental gardens.

If a vegetable garden is planned for this season, take time to collect seeds early and to amend the soil to insure it will be successful.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com