Carol Maier and Alice Mills of Innisfail make their way through the isles at Dentoom’s Greenhouse in Red Deer Friday as they purchase perennials for their gardens.

The good, bad of a late spring

A cold, late spring means a delayed start on parks maintenance and mosquito control for the City of Red Deer.

A cold, late spring means a delayed start on parks maintenance and mosquito control for the City of Red Deer.

But on the brighter side, local gardening centres are doing booming business because of pent-up demand.

Trevor Poth, parks superintendent for the city, said cooler weather and late snowfalls have caused setbacks for Red Deer’s parks and recreation workers. “We’re late on street sweeping and cleaning the boulevards and shrub beds. We’re about a week behind on that,” he said.

Also, the city’s biological mosquito control program is about two weeks behind, since it could not be started while local ponds were covered with ice.

Now that water is flowing again, Poth said parks workers started spreading last week the microbial pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) on ponds where mosquito larvae will hatch.

Poth doesn’t expect the delayed start to have any effect on mosquito numbers. “It shouldn’t have an impact,” he said, since mosquitoes also wait for the ice to melt before laying their eggs on ponds.

City workers started playing catch-up on parks maintenance last week. Sports fields have been lined and “playground inspections are in full swing,” said Poth, who expected mowing and mulching in parks to start Monday.

Public washrooms will be open by the May long weekend, after which parks workers will start planting colourful flower beds at City Hall Park and other areas.

While overnight frosts can still happen well after Victoria Day, Poth said the city turns on irrigation systems to moisten the annuals and make them more frost resistant.

The City of Red Deer has hired about 120 park workers and expects to have a peak workforce of about 140. “Now if only we can get some nice days,” said Poth, who believes winter-weary city residents are “desperate” to start walking and cycling along park trails.

Local gardening centres are doing brisk business in anticipation of warmer weather ahead. (Local temperatures are expected to climb to 18C by Wednesday.)

“We’re crazy busy right now,” said Rebecca Bouw, retail manager at Dentoom’s Greenhouses on Sunday. Since winter has essentially stretched to eight months this year, Bouw said eager gardeners are buying anything with blooms — from flower baskets to bedding plants to flowering shrubs.

She still recommends holding off on planting annuals outdoors until after the long weekend.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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