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In the Life of a Garden Centre

Question asked / Questions answered Part 1

We have all waited for it. We know it is just about here. We know it as Victoria Day or more commonly as the "May long weekend". Most think of the long weekend as a time away from work; a mini holiday. For those with a passion for gardening the May long weekend is the beginning of the peak gardening season. Garden centres have been gearing up. Tables are full, baskets are hung and stock of gardening goods is full.

For the garden experts there are a multitude of questions that are heard daily if not weekly. Often the question is preceded by "This may seem like a silly question…." There is no silly question. Garden centres have the expertise to guide home owners, both novice and experienced with their quandaries and questions. Most centres have multiple categories in which they offer: perennials, annuals, landscaping, water gardening as well as information on care and management of trees, shrubs and lawns.

As gardening begins, we share with you some of our common inquiries.

Question: "When can I plant?"

Answer: It is all about the weather. May has been known to be warm as well as fooling us with cool to cold temperatures right up to the end of May. Each year is different and we always inform gardeners about this fact. We live on the prairies and we have to protect tender plants against the chance of frost. As the ground has warmed some plants can be planted. Locally grown and harvested trees and shrubs can be found in your garden centers and can be planted as most would be either just producing leaves at the same time as those in our yards.

Vegetable gardens can be started now. Root seeds like potatoes, onions as well as other vegetable seeds can be planted. Corn though likes to be planted in a warm ground not cold.

Early plantings of annuals which like cooler night temperatures can be planted too: pansies, diascia, snapdragons as well as cineraria. Other plants may be planted but if weather cools they must be protected against the elements. Many gardeners push the limits and try to get their gardens in early. Memories from childhood flash back to helping my own family place bedding sheets over plants to shelter them. Many yards became sheets of color, draping over newly planted seedlings. Yes, the tomatoes went in early in hopes of an early crop…. Ahhh the taste of the first ripened tomato was anticipated. The early times of using bedding is still used by many although nowadays lengths of light weight frost cloth, in most ways the plants were undergoing a transition period. They were being "hardened off" or "acclimatized".

Question: What is the term "hardened off" mean?

Answer: Hardened off or hardening off are terms used for plants being adjusted to a different growing condition. Plants get used to a certain growing environment and may undergo a slight adjustment period when going from its previous environment to another without a transitioning period. I.e.: going from a greenhouse to an open garden. Hardening off plants usually required 2 – 3 days of adjustment period. This is especially important when planting early and when night time temperatures are still cool. Some plants too, require a time to be adjusted to being out in wind and full sun conditions. Even when they say they are plants meant to be in full sun, they have been sheltered the past few months. Like us; if we have not been in the sun yet this spring, we will sunburn if out in the sun all day in the early spring sunny days. Yes, plants too will sometimes get sunscald on their leaves. No worries as these are the early leaves of most growth and the new growth will soon take over.

Question: How do I plant my new plants?

Answer: For trees and shrubs in a new garden it is important that the hole you are digging is twice the size as the root ball of the potted plant you have purchased. So if you have a shrub with a 10" root ball width you would make a planting hole 20" wide with an additional depth of 6". If the area you are putting the new shrub into is heavy, clay based it is best to discard the heavy clay soils and use a new topsoil blend to support the new root ball. The lighter topsoil blend is light enough to allow the fine new rooting system to venture past the root ball and into the new soils and eventually the surrounding area. It is also best to "scour" or loosen the pot-shaped root ball when removed from the planting container before placing it into the new ground. Prior to placing the new soil around the root ball it is recommended to water the newly made hole and allowing this water to dissipate into the ground before the planting is done. Once the plant is snuggly in place you should water again. It is also recommended to use a root enhancer like bone meal or Root Rescue* which is placed into the hole just before you place the shrub, tree or plant in its place. The benefit Root Rescue* is that it can also be applied after planting on new and older shrubs/ trees to encourage root development which leads to a healthy and happy plant.

Gardening comes along with a lot of information; a lot of questions; a lot of scenarios. Just like farmers, we can sit over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and regale a ton of gardening stories. Oh, so many more questions to be answered.

St. Mary’s Nursery & Garden Centre carries a diverse group of annuals, perennials, tree and shrubs. Full of colorful patio pots and hanging baskets, the garden centre is in full display of garden decor. Let the experts of St. Mary’s Nursery assist you in your gardening and landscaping questions.

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