Dig in: Do not be afraid to kill the crops and different gardening suggestions from Edmonton horticulturist Jim Gap
When worried new gardeners wondered how to start, Lois Hole gently encouraged them not to let fear get the better of them.
“People came to my mother and said, ‘Can I plant these seeds now? And my mother said,’ This is a box of seeds worth $ 2. Put it in. Live dangerously. ‘ It’s cheaper than coffee, “said Jim Hole, gardener guru and son of beloved former lieutenant governor, during a question-and-answer session Thursday.
Even so, Hole has collected plenty of horticultural tips and tricks – learned from his mother, raised on a farm, and helped run his family’s greenhouse business – that he was happy to share during the Edmonton News-moderated session at 6 host Nancy Carlson.
But the main suggestion he made on Thursday was not to be afraid to try.
“We all have this fear of killing plants,” he said. “I can tell you that every great gardener has killed a lot of plants … and they had to learn from their mistakes.
“But the reality is that we have built up so much fear – and that is unjustified.”
Let’s dig in.
The dirt on the dirt
The Edmonton area has some of the best soil conditions in the world, black and extremely rich, but it has a lot of clay, he said – which isn’t a bad thing in the right amount.
“If you get too much clay, you have some kind of caking on the surface, the roots have a hard time getting in,” he said.
Clay-loam soils benefit from an annual injection of organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure. Burying it in the ground helps bind clay particles, which allows for better root growth, he said.
But don’t overdo it.
“What I see is [people will] Put a ton of compost and a ton of manure in it and it really upsets the balance of the plants … all kinds of top growth and very little root growth, ”he said a couple of inches a year, working it in. But do it every year. ”
Edmonton gardening expert Jim Hole. (Thandiwe Konguavi / CBC)
To build or not to build?
A rototiller can help break up clumps of clay or other large clumps and greatly encourage seed germination. But there are many downsides to consider, Hole said.
Rototilling causes organic matter in the soil to be lost and the soil compacted, removing some of the “core spaces” that are helpful for plant growth, he said.
As for the weeds, the rototilling could remove some of the annual weeds, but it’s guaranteed to make your perennial problems – like quack or thistle – worse, he said.
“It will make your quack weed beautiful. It will come back like crazy,” Hole said. Rototilling cuts the rhizomes or underground stems of the plant, and each cut piece can start a new plant.
Hole recommendation for rototilling? “In the middle of the street. Do something. Don’t overdo it.”
Let the temperature guide you
Despite the volatile, often chilly nature of a spring in Alberta, about 90 percent of a vegetable garden can go underground this weekend, Hole said.
Good performers include potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, peas, parsnips, spinach, and Swiss chard, all of which can be planted directly as seeds, right in a garden, or in raised containers.
“It’s so easy to build raised containers,” he said. “I make elevated tanks right outside the front door. It takes me five minutes. Make a little divot with an index finder, put the seeds in, cover it, water it. Boom. You can have carrots.”
Other good early plants to get in now are cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, he said.
Cold and frost, even snow, are not a problem for these crops, he said. “You just have to get out of there … bring the seeds in.”
Tomatoes – Hole’s favorite plant – join peppers and cucumbers on the list of plants that should wait until the threat of frost is over.
“Harvest in the warm season, you just want to hold this back until it warms up a little,” he said. “They don’t like the cold.”
Plants such as basil and paprika are particularly troubled by cool night temperatures.
The latter, he added, should almost bloom if you have any hope of picking peppers before the season is over.
A terrace paradise
Hole said there was no special magic in creating a balcony garden, but following the basic rules of gardening.
Use high-quality, soil-free potting soil that is light and clean in the pots. It dries out quickly, so it’s important to water it, he said. Then make sure tall plants are staked out or pinned in to provide good support for shelter from the wind.
Even rhubarb could be planted in a pot – as long as the pot is big enough, he said.
“It’s not difficult,” Hole said of the container nursery.
“Larger containers make it easier to manage and make sure you have the plants that won’t overtake the area. Then you’re good to go.”
Beautify your garden
Under the milk jug dome: Hole does not recommend placing milk jugs or other plastic containers over new plants, a practice some gardeners practice to ward off cutworms. He said the artificial greenhouse it creates is not good for the plant’s health.
Blankets and covers: Fabric blankets provide excellent protection for plants from frost or overnight. Hole recommends placing the blankets on the plant before the temperatures get too cold to ensure the cover can trap some heat to keep the plant cozy.
Landscape fabric: Unlike blankets and blankets, landscaping fabric doesn’t serve much of a purpose in the garden, Hole said. It doesn’t stop weed growth, but worse, it doesn’t let organic matter get into the soil naturally.
Fences: That year, the City of Edmonton encouraged citizens to plant food gardens in their front yards. Hole said a fence might help prevent your neighborhood rabbits from benefiting from your hard work.