When is it okay to start bedding plants?

Have you noticed we have more daylight now than even a couple weeks ago?

I do have to say, it’s nice to be able to walk at 5 p.m. and have it still be light out. And where I live, I don’t walk after dark if I can help it. I never know where the moose, deer, and other wildlife is hiding.

With the longer daylight hours comes the desire to get the outdoor plants started, but don’t get too excited just yet. The dates ultimately depend on your temperate zone, which I’ll discuss shortly. I have made the mistake more than once, and my seedlings didn’t do well.

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What’s a temperate zone?

In a nutshell, the temperate zone is what the minimum temperatures can get to in any given area. Here in Canada we range from an area with the coldest temperature at -1.1 degree Celsius (9b) to -56.7 (0b). Now that is cold!

My area ranges from 3a to 2a, depending on the year. Oveall the average is 2b, which is from -40C to -42.8C. That’s just temperature alone; the windchill is not factored into these numbers.

When living in zones like this, it definitely cuts down on what a person can grow through the summer. Perennials have to tolerate frigid temperatures and annuals have to grow fairly quickly due to a relatively short growing season. It would be wonderful if we could all have heated greenhouses so we could enjoy more of a variety, including citrus trees.

When we were in Vancouver a few years ago I was surprised to see banana trees planted outside. I was told they could survive brief periods of below zero temperatures, but I personally wouldn’t be that brave. But then again, I don’t live there so can’t say for sure.

Frost dates.

When you’re planning your garden you need to know the average first and last frost dates. It does range in comparison to what your temperate zone is, but in my part of Alberta we generally don’t plant anything outside until after May Long Weekend (Victoria Day). And depending on the year, we’re sometimes covering our tomatoes and other plants by the end of August.

When you’re deciding on your seed planting dates, there’s a simple formula to follow. On a normal year it should work out okay, but we all know Mother Nature has the final say.

Copied from the Government of Canada site. Click the image to be taken to the source.
When can I plant?

The rule of thumb is to start plants 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to put them outside. Since May Long is the earliest we can safely put plants out, I generally do not expect to start anything until the beginning of April. That gives me a little more than 6 weeks.

As some seeds take longer to germinate, it’s good practice to pay attention to the information on your seed packets. Also pay attention to the days to maturity, as each plant type is different. Some you won’t have to start inside, such as peas, beans, beets, carrots, as they don’t transplant well and grow quickly. Well, except for carrots; but they are below the surface so a light frost won’t hurt them anyway.

Other plants such as flowers, tomatoes, peppers, many herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, for example, do better when started indoors. They take longer to reach maturity, so depending on your zone, will benefit from being started indoors.

What about light?

All plants need light once they start to grow and giving your plants full sun is best. If you don’t have a south-facing window that gets direct sunlight, the next best thing is a grow light. They need at least the equivalent of 6 hours of full sun a day. I have to admit, my plants usually end up being leggy because they don’t get the proper light as I have limited south-facing window space.

This year I am going to put my seedlings under grow lights. In fact, I cleaned off the top shelf in a bookshelf for some plants. I invested in some small grow light bars and have them in place. So far my shorter house plants are under them, but as the daylight hours are longer I’ll be moving them closer to the window. (My office will soon be entirely over-run with plants.)

In addition to growing time and proper light you’ll need to make sure you monitor watering as well. A spray bottle is ideal for seeds and seedlings, or watering from the bottom to prevent them from being damaged or washed away. A mini greenhouse is ideal for starting most seedlings, but take care to allow for ventilation and be sure it doesn’t get too hot inside.

In conclusion.

Planning your garden is exciting, whether it’s your first or 50th. Starting your own seedlings can bring a little bit of summer into your home early, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour sooner as well.

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Welcome 2022

It has been over a year and a half since I last posted, but I needed the time to just learn how to be on my own again.

As I begin this year I have set some goals for myself. One is to get back on track with this blog and website. It has been neglected for far too long.

Second is to stay consistent on my other website. I have been publishing weekly blog posts and my readership has increased, which makes me happy.

Third, I just want to enjoy what life has to offer. Summer 2020 was a major challenge for me but I got through it, and built a deck almost all on my own; simply because it was something Ross and I had talked about and I needed something to do. Summer 2021 had its own set of challenges, with the almost zero rainfall and wasps that kept me inside. Here’s hoping Summer 2022 is better in that regard.

Now that I’m moving forward in life, let me tell you about the few things I have done since May 2020.

As mentioned, I built a deck onto our house; a project that was supposed to be ours since travel was out of the question. (Damn COVID.) I may have built it a little bigger than we had talked about, but I’m happy with the result. When the package was delivered I took one look at the pile of lumber and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” After some googling I found some information I could work with, and proceeded to mark out dimensions.

Fast forward to September 2020 (I started it in July, after we had Ross’s Memorial Service and family get-together) and the deck was done. Aside from a little help from my daughter, my son’s girlfriend, and a friend, the majority of it was done by me. And I only bled once when I cut my leg with the handsaw (no stitches required, just a band-aid). Finished size: upper level 8′ X 20′ and the lower level is 16′ X 24′.

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After taking a Leave of Absence from my library position after Ross passed away, I handed in my resignation at the end of September. I decided I could manage on my savings and some life insurance; a choice I’m glad I made. I did the occasional writing gig, and made some sales on Etsy that helped pay some bills.

I invested in a snowblower so I could do most of my own snow removal. My father-in-law did use his tractor and plow a couple of times, which was appreciated. The downside to it all was we didn’t get near the snow we should have, which led to a very dry spring and even drier summer.

Summer 2021 was spent tending to my raised beds (I built two more with the help of my daughter), camping with a friend, and fighting off the wasps when I was outside. I made a self-watering planter and filled it with herbs and put it on my deck. It was nice to have fresh herbs right outside my door. I have plans to build at least one more this summer for more herbs.

Photo above was taken March 19, 2021, just after my daughter and I put my new outdoor furniture together.

The yard changes continued in November when I hired an arborist and his crew to take down some dying poplars, Manitoba maples, and a very overgrown caraganna hedge. I now have somewhat of a view from my office window, and a winter view of the field north of my house. When spring rolls around the row of young caragannas will fill in and I’ll no longer be able to see the field, but that’s okay. I do plan on having the crew back to get rid of some other dying trees, but that will have to wait until my budget allows.

And now here I am, with the first two weeks of 2022 already gone. As I anticipate a summer filled with more rain and less wasps, I have plans to plant some roses, build an arbor, and create a living fence around the firepit. My goal is to publish at least two blog posts per month, and add more articles to the website as well. Life does go on, and moving forward is something we must do no matter what life has handed us.

Oh, and my houseplant collection has grown considerably as well. I’m seriously thinking about adding on a 4-season sunroom to let in more light and give my bigger plants a better home. Did I mention the only south-facing windows I have are my office and where my dining room table sits?

I am excited to be back on track, and am even more excited to share my gardening experience and knowledge with you.

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Peace Amid the Chaos

To start, I hope everyone is doing well. We are dealing with an unusual situation; one most of us have never had to experience before.

It has taken me a bit to wrap my head around the whole thing and I have decided to take advantage of the down time. Well, the little down time I will actually have that is.

My part-time job as a library assistant is still there, although we are no longer allowed to have our doors open to the public. We will still be proceeding with cleaning of shelves, weeding of books, getting craft kits ready, and doing inventory. Yes, I think we will be busy for awhile yet.

As spring is finally here (well, the calendar says it is) it’s time to start thinking about the garden. Keeping a supply of fresh fruit and veggies on hand will be easier when we are able to grow our own. I’m impatiently waiting for the snow to melt so I can start building my greenhouse, build some raised beds, and mark out the areas for the fire pit, arbors, and flower gardens.

There’s just something about working out in the garden. No matter what is going on in the world around us, the garden offers peace and tranquility. I am fortunate to live in an area with few people around. I consider us blessed to have the peace and quiet so many others only dream of.

Whether you live in the country or the city, now is the time to start getting your garden ready. If it is still covered in snow, there are still things you can do. One of them is to go to your local grocery or hardware store and buy your seeds, some potting soil and containers to plant your seeds in. I did a one-stop shop at our local hardware store yesterday and spent almost $100.00 on seeds, soil, mini greenhouses, and peat packs.

Image Copyright Diane Ziomek 2020

I know it may seem like a lot, but when I don’t have to go into town for fresh fruit and vegetables, I will have recouped the cost in food and fuel. And saving money is why many people start a garden in the first place.

This has been an unusual year to say the least. More people are working from home, simply because they don’t have a choice. I think that’s not a bad thing for most, as there are more opportunities to take small breaks to stretch, get some water, and have a healthy snack.

Whether you live out in the country or in an apartment, you can still take advantage of the benefits of gardening. Fresh produce, being more active, and just enjoying the process of growing your own food amid the chaos of our current situation.

It is even more important at this time to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, utilize the technology available to stay in touch with family and friends (physical distancing), drink plenty of water, keep active, and eat as much homegrown fruit and vegetables as possible. Plus, don’t forget to take the mental break needed as well. We should all come out of this with better habits and healthier bodies if we make the changes necessary at this point.

As I get ready for gardening season, I will be counting my blessings. No matter what’s going on in the world I have my garden to offer peace and tranquility. I’ll be posting pictures as the weeks go on of my progress in my gardening journey, and I would love for you to do the same. I now have a Facebook Page where you are free to post pictures of your seedlings, plants, gardens, and even your houseplants. With physical distancing in force it’s even more important to remain in contact with others via texting, video messaging or the telephone.

Lets all do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and find peace amid the chaos.

What are you doing to stay healthy and safe?