Cold weather no obstacle for local gardener

Matt Gardner
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For most horticulture enthusiasts, the arrival of spring represents the official start of the growing season.

Not everyone, however, is content to wait out the winter.

Such is the case with local resident Joni Hladun, who since 2003 has annually started growing her garden indoors before moving the plants outside when the weather warms up.

“What happens is I take (the plants) in and out, in and out, because the nights are still cold,” Hladun said.

“In the fall when I put my little green plastic housing out, I use Christmas lights to keep it warm inside and they will last a little longer than just September.”

In maintaining a greenhouse inside her home, Hladun pays careful attention to the planting mix and soil.

Purchasing her seeds through a catalogue that she says offers more variety than local stores, she maintains hundreds of plants indoors on trays -- covered with domes in order to keep the moisture in -- with heating pads underneath.

The plants Hladun grows include lobelias, coleus, pansies, impatiens and calla lilies.

“Some of the plants need a little bit of work before hoping to get a bud out of them, so I have to cover them in dark and black plastic and you need no bottom heat,” she said.

“But it takes a while, and that’s the pansy. The pansy is the one that’s fussy. Impatiens are another one that’s fussy.”

While she typically plants hundreds of plants each year, Hladun is planting slightly fewer this year.

She began planting this year’s crop on March 6, keeping careful tabs in a notebook of what she has planted, how many plants and when they come up.

“They’re doing well,” she said. “They’re still little, little sprouts -- just tiny little ones. But they’ll grow. I have two months to wait.”

What happens is I take (the plants) in and out, in and out, because the nights are still cold. Joni Hladun

With winter still stubbornly hanging on, aside from occasional warm days, Hladun’s plants must subsist largely on the light from fluorescent lamps, which she keeps as close as possible to the crop.

Alluding to the large amounts of electricity needed to maintain the indoor garden, her husband Ben joked, “I have 62 light fixtures for 33 trays on 33 heating pads on four to six … metal shelving units.

“When I plug them on in the morning, the traffic lights dim.”

During the summer months when the plants move outdoors, the Hladuns traditionally invite interested members of the public to see their garden.

Joni Hladun noted that they wish to show others not only the beauty of the plants, but to illustrate the achievement of growing them -- “what I can achieve, what we can achieve, what they can achieve if they try,” she said.

She plans to extend the invitation again this year once the weather warms up and the plants are moved outside.

Residents interested in seeing the garden later in the year may contact Hladun at 306-763-2785.

See also:

Urban Paradise -- preparation pays off for local woman

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