Plant Early, Plant Often?

Our favorite garden centre had an open house this weekend. We almost didn’t go because we thought it might be too busy, but we got there early enough in the day that it was still possible to find a parking space. I typically go a little crazy on my first visit to the garden centre each year, stocking up on a ridiculous number of plants only to discover that I don’t have enough room for all of them. This year I promised myself I’d take a much more moderate approach and actually managed to stick to it. As I walked around the greenhouse I was just giddy with the sights and smells of all the plants, and I had to keep reminding myself that I could come back another day and that I didn’t have to buy every single plant that caught my eye!

I splurged on a peony that promises “huge, majestic” blooms, but otherwise I managed to stick to the list I had made before heading out. The veggie seedlings were on sale during the open house, so we picked up some tomatoes, lettuce and other such treats. We did start veggie seeds indoors this year but these seedlings are further along so we decided to buy some and stagger the plantings a bit.

We spent the rest of Saturday going for a hike and then met up with friends at one of our favorite pubs, so we didn’t actually get out into the garden until Sunday. We spent the morning weeding and preparing the soil, and then decided to do a bit of planting. We planted potatoes and dill (a very large and hearty-looking plant), and then decided to try putting in some of the seedlings we purchased. Conventional wisdom says to wait until the long weekend in May to plant the garden, but this confuses me. This was the rule of thumb in Edmonton too, and it made sense to me out there as it is not at all uncommon to have a frosty morning in early May. However, it seems odd to me that people in Niagara cling to the same rule. The climate here is a lot milder and the nighttime lows have not dipped below zero degrees for several weeks now. Anyhow, I started planting at the beginning of May last year and everything turned out fine so I’m doing the same thing this year. Obviously some of the more delicate seedlings need to stay indoors for a while, but we began planting some of the bigger ones on Sunday. What is the worst thing that can happen? Say it gets freakishly cold here and we do get a killer frost. Ok, so I’m out about $6.00? (a 4 pack of seedlings cost 59 cents) I think it is a risk I can live with.

In my opinion, a greater concern is the critters. In addition to the birds and squirrels our garden is also frequently visited by rabbits, raccoons, skunks and possums. While we don’t mind sharing a little of our harvest with them we do like to give the wee plants a fighting chance when they are first starting out. This year we decided to try a trick that I read about in my favorite garden book of all time — cover the seedlings with plastic bottles. Basically you take off the lid, cut off the bottom and place the bottle over the seedling to protect it from the elements and hungry critters.

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This morning we went out to check on the plants while we waited for the kettle to boil and were delighted to discover that most of the bottles were still intact. A couple of the bottles were knocked over, but the plants remained protected inside of them. So far so good. The only trouble we have had is finding enough bottles since we don’t buy pop or bottled juices very often. I am going to go to the No Frills today to buy some cheap no-name brand pop just for the bottles — since pop has no nutritional value I don’t feel like it is a waste to dump it down the sink for the sake of the garden! We will also be hitting up our friends and neighbours for donations from their recycling bins.

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