The spring equinox just passed (well, a week or so ago) so gardening season can’t be too far away.I note the days are definitely getting longer and after the warmest winter on Canadian record, I am looking forward to some good plant survival.
Most of my perennials are tucked (safely away I hope) in a friend’s garden for the winter and with this warmish winter, I’m hoping for a good survival rate.
Bulbs Starting To Bloom Too Early
I note the daffodils in my new front garden are not looking very happy. The buds, obviously having been frozen solid with an early January start are looking quite pale and small. Mind you, I’d be pale and small if I had been growing in January and then was forced into a deep freeze.
This is the major reason I decided not to go south this past winter. Who needed to go South in January to get warm?
So if we have had a mild winter and if we want to beat the season even more, what are some of the gardening tricks you can use to get a great jump on growing your garden? Here are a few tricks I’m considering this year.
Here’s How (note this is really rushing the season in Canada in March but…)
To begin with, take out a sheet of clear plastic and spread it over the area where you want to grow your tomatoes and green peppers.
Weight down the edges so no air will get underneath the poly. What you’ve just created is a little mini-greenhouse and it will get very, very warm under there in the next month or so.
This is going to do two things.
- The first is that it will warm up the soil.
- The second is that it will encourage all kinds of weed seeds to start growing.
The Second Thing To Do
- When you think it is time to plant tomatoes, remove the clear plastic totally and pull up the weeds.
- Put a half-inch layer of compost on top of the soil and lay down black plastic (weighing down the edges).
- Plant your tomatoes through this black plastic into the nice warm soil below.
The tomato will think it is in heaven and root growth will be very fast.
And The Next Step Is To Protect The Young Plants Themselves
We’re going to protect the plant tops by covering it with a frost fabric. This material (like cheesecloth) holds in the heat at night, breaks the cool winds and protects plants from a few degrees of frost. You’ll get the earliest plants on the block if you do this.
Here’s When To Start Planting Hardy Plants
You can start planting perennials, trees, and shrubs as soon as the frost is out of the ground and you can dig in your garden without having to wear mud boots.
If you have to wear rubber boots because it is too muddy, then the soil is really too wet to be worked and all you’ll be doing is destroying the important soil structure.
As long as the perennial is not growing leaves nor has been protected in a greenhouse, it is safe to go outdoors. If you purchase it after it has been outdoors for a week, then you’re fine.
If it is still in a cold frame or greenhouse, then it is still susceptible to frost damage and needs hardening off before being planted my case, I’m going to be digging the roots up before the stops start growing so I can move them easily.
Move Your Plants When The Ground Firms Up
That’s the other thing you can do as soon as the ground firms up. Get out there and move your perennials, shrubs, roses, and trees into a different spot. If the plant has survived the winter, a little move at this time of the year will be a piece of cake and it will likely move and never even notice it. If you need to warm up the soil in established beds, simply pull back the layer of mulch to allow the sun to reach the bare soil .Be prepared to push it back up around the plants in late spring before the weeds can start to germinate.
You Can Plant These Vegetables Early
Pick the vegetables and flowers that will handle cold nights. As soon as you can dig, you can plant
- onions, and
The earlier the better for all these plants and you’ll get much higher yields with cool growing than a later date. Kale and spinach are two other good crops for an early start if you’re so inclined.
Hardened-off pansies are wonderful spring bloomers as they’ll absorb freezing temperatures without batting an eye.
Here’s What To Do If There’s A Killing Frost
If you decide to push the season a little bit too hard and a late frost is threatening to remove all your early success, I note turning on the sprinkler and letting it run all night or running it at 11 pm for 15 minutes and then again at 5 am for 15 minutes will help prevent frost from forming.
You do want to get a layer of ice or water on the plants before the frost or sunlight hits them.You might find some ice on some plants (this is really a good thing) but the frost will not bother established or hardened off perennials if they are ice-covered (it’s all about the physics of water releasing heat to freeze). I have used water sprinklers on many a cold night to protect plants.
Start Removing Mulch From Roses
Get the mulch off the roses as soon as the ground or mulch thaws to stop them from throwing new buds and shoots. If they start throwing new shoots, this will be quite frost sensitive and you’ll have to protect these shoots until they harden off enough. So get that protection off as soon as possible now so the roses will develop naturally.
Spring gardening season is almost upon us and I for one don’t care how warm the winter was.I still want those warm spring nights, the frogs peeping and the smell of freshly dug soil.