Pre Season Plant Care:We're excited about spring too! Calgary is notorious for weather shifts and changes as we know. At noon it can be blue skies and plus temps at 4 pm it's minus and snowing anytime in spring. Such is Calgary's climate.
Calgary's gardening season is always a battle against time due to our climate. Our last frost day historically lands on or about the May long weekend and frost can happen even later than that. Our first frost usually comes about the middle of September, so that means we have a short window to get our plants in the ground.
We certainly all want to get the things we need for our gardens however, the sooner you get them the longer you will have to care for them, the longer you wait the less chance you will have in getting the plants you are looking for so, it becomes a bit of a time conundrum as to when you get your plants home and what to do with them until the time comes it's safe to plant them.
This is not an insurmountable problem, but it helps to be prepared to watch your plants for a few weeks and know that they need you to survive. They can't just sit in a dark garage or survive a cold night in the car. Your plants are living beings that need your care until they can look after themselves. Your plants cannot freeze. Keep in mind too, cold temperatures affect plant varieties differently.
Know where you are going to store your plants while we wait for the weather to clear. Heated greenhouses are the best course of action for sure, but most of us don't have one. The next best place is a sunny south window. Then West, then East and North well, any port in a storm they say.
If you have grow lights, then you can pretty much set your timers to ensure ample light. 14 -18 hours a day is a good rule of thumb.
Remember that some of your plants need different light requirements as well. Tomatoes love the heat and the sun, as do petunias and geraniums while begonias and coleus hate it and very well might burn up in direct sunlight. Some of your plants cannot stand too much heat. So, take some time to know that you have a place to care for your plants before you load up the car.
Once you have a place in mind the next step is to ensure you can water them. Watering is ultra-important because many of your plants will be in tiny pots that can dry out very quickly. It's already very dry here and combine that with direct sunlight all day and your plants can become very thirsty very quickly. Ensure that water is easily and readily available. You might be surprised how often you'll have to do it compared to in the ground or large planters.
You may want to consider drip trays or even a tarp for under your plants. Generally, you want to water until a little bit drains out of the bottom, so a catch-all is a great idea. Water frequently, your plants will begin to wilt without water. If they are wilting this is a sign, they need water and will perk up, almost immediately, if it's not too late.
Don't overwater.You can certainly kill your plants with kindness. Yellowing leaves is a sure sign they are too wet.
Depending on when you purchase, they may require fertilizer. Half strength 20-20-20 will suffice until you can get them in the ground.
Please keep in mind, we do not guarantee annuals, vegetables or herbs due to their perishable nature. No matter how nice it gets, our last frost-free day is around May 21st. This means planting outdoors any time before this is at your risk.
When you do plant? Watch the weather and cover for frost and overnight lows if necessary.
Watch your plants carefully. They may look fantastic before you go to bed and terrible when you get home from work. Keep an eye on them for the best results.
We know you know what to do in May,
but here are a few things you can certainly do now!
1. Decorate with Hanging Baskets
There are many roads to Rome when it comes to hanging baskets. Here are a couple of tips. Use Proven Winner varieties that don't need to be deadheaded. Always use a slow release fertilizer like hanging basket 14-14-14. When you see a great basket you can be sure it has been fertilized! If you start early you can save money by using 2 ½ inch basket stuffers!
2. Plant Tomatoes
Certainly, this is the very last chance to start seed tomatoes here. If you are going to plant with seed now use an early variety like Early Girl. If you missed early planting worry not, we will have plenty of seedlings on hand! Plant in a larger, deeper planter to maintain moisture or the ground place in a sunny hot location. Try wool pellets for water retention.
3. Go Tropical
You can certainly use tropical plants in your containers and beds. You can even move indoor tropicals outside for the summer. Harden off tropical plants before sending them into direct sunlight and watch for cooler nights. If you plan to bring indoors again ensure you are not bringing pests into your home.
4. Spice Up Your Garden
Most herbs grow well here through the gardening season. Even Basil! Plant it in a sheltered spot in a south facing area. Water carefully and fertilize! You can plant tubs with other herbs for sure, but try to keep plants with the same sun / water requirements together.
5. Bring On the Bulbs
Many bulbs can still be planted. Look for Dahlia's, Lilies, Gladiolas, Anemone, Garlic and Onion!
6. Brighten Shady Spots
Add a dose of colour to shady spots in your landscape with versatile perennials like Hosta and Heuchera or annuals like Fuschia, Torenia or Begonias. Shade plants have come a long way there are more choices than ever.
7. Camouflage an Eyesore
Vines have the ability to scramble up fences, buildings, garages, power boxes or whatever you see that you would rather not! You can plant Sweet Peas from seed or look for more formal vines like Hops, Clematis, Honeysuckle or Virginia Creeper. Annual vines such as Morning Glory, Hyacinth Bean, can cover things quickly and effectively.
8. Amend Your Soils
Tired beds and soil will not produce great plants. Amend your soils with good composts like Hop or SeaSoil. Any introduced organic materials are great for the structure and health of your soil. Look for things that are ready made and will break down quickly and some that won't. You can also add other organic materials for drainage like Zeolite, or Perlite. Earthworm Castings and Charcoal are also good ideas. Micronutrients are important too. Gaia Green Rock Dust or Giai Green 4-4-4 are great sources of micronutrients, if your soils are low on minerals, so too will be your veggies and plants. Be sure to add some! If you're looking for moisture retention add Vermiculite, Wool Pellets or Coconut Coir. You can also now add bacteria's and fungi with Soil Activator and Myke which are most beneficial to your soil's and therefore your plant's health.
It's amazing how fertilizing your plants make a huge difference in their health and showiness! All fertilizers are marked with a three number combo like 20-20-20 the first number indicated the amount of nitrogen, the second number phosphorous and the third potassium or N-P-K. Nitrogen helps the leafy parts of the plant, phosphorous the roots and potassium the overall health of the plant. Anything transplanted should get a healthy dose of Myke directly on the roots or a high middle number fertilizer. Hanging baskets can use slow-release fertilizers and so can your lawn! Look to add manures as fertilizers, they contain high quantities of materials used by all sorts of plants. Use a fertilizer that best suits your needs whether that be organic, water-soluble, liquid or solid such as bone meal. If you're not sure we are here to help!
10. Bring on Pollinators!
Attract colourful butterflies and bees to your backyard by planting a banquet of flowers they love. If you can live with Dandelions please leave them! They are an excellent early food source for bees. Aside from that, look for nectar-rich perennials such as Bee Balm, Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Salvia, Phlox, and Dianthus. It doesn't matter if you plant these in containers or in the earth. Pollinators are part of a healthy eco-system and if you can help out by planting them, then please by all means. If you grow veggies too you won't be disappointed with outcomes!