Spring showers christen the garden season

Tyler Clarke
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Johns Garden and Gift Centre co-owner Debbie LaHaye tends to plants on Wednesday.

The much-needed rainfall that fell overnight on Tuesday kicked off this year’s garden season, with now the time to get those seeds in the ground.


Although the area has been without frost for almost a month, Johns Garden and Gift Centre co-owner Debbie LaHaye said that many gardeners play it safe and wait until the first week of June to get into the ground.  

“The ground needs to be warm for the seeds to germinate, so the earlier you put them in the less likely they are to do well,” she summarized.

At the same time, she said that those able to give plants an early start with indoor greenhouses are even better off, noting that a large portion of their plants were planted as early as January, at Leray Gardens in Prud’Homme near Saskatoon.

Jessy’s Garden took advantage of both the early greenhouse approach and the earlier than usual end of the frost season, in what is anticipated to be a record crop for the charitable organization.

“Jessy’s Garden has really spread its wings,” garden co-owner Bonnie Sanderson said, noting that this year’s 13-acre crop of various vegetables is a significant step up from last year’s seven or eight acres.

Of their 13 acres, 10 have already been planted.

About 3,300 pounds of seed potatoes are in, alongside 50 pounds of onion bulbs, 70 rows of carrots, 24 rows of corn and various other odds and ends make up this year’s effort, which Sanderson hopes to see feed 6,000 families -- a jump from last year’s 4,000 families.

“We pray for a good crop, and if that happens we can feed many,” she said, noting that the rain that fell overnight on Tuesday was a good way of starting the season.

“The weather has been doing not so bad out here, “she said. “We were able to get in and the planting almost completed, and it’s nice to see the rain, because we need it.”

The Prince Albert Food Coalition’s inaugural community garden season has also been off to a good start, member Merle Lacert said, noting that 16 garden plots have joined the city’s 50 existing plots just north of École Holy Cross.

“The majority of them have been planted, if not all of them by now,” he said.

The 16 Prince Albert Food Coalition plots were mulched by civic workers out of an existing grass field, which has made for a rough first year, he noted -- something one always expects for a first-year garden.

The ground needs to be warm for the seeds to germinate, so the earlier you put them in the less likely they are to do well Debbie LaHaye

“The soil itself is something that we’ll look at the long term, because it’s a combination of sand and clay,” he said. The addition of a soil and manure mix might be an option in advance of next year’s growing season.

Moving forward with this year’s growing season, backyard gardeners should spray their tomatoes with copper spray to avoid early blight, LaHaye said.

She also recommends diatomaceous earth to accompany cabbages -- a product “made up of the bottom of the sea – all of the shells and everything crumpled up, and to insects it’s like glass. It’s environmentally friendly, and that’s the big thing.”

Aside from that and the potential addition of fertilizers and other treatments, gardeners should be good to go -- weather dependent.

“A beautiful rain once per week -- if I could have my wish, that would be (this summer’s weather),” LaHaye summarized.

“And weather that doesn’t go above 25 degrees,” Johns Garden and Gift Centre co-owner Debbra Graham added.

The Prince Albert Food Coalition will monitor the 16-plot community garden and its gardeners throughout the summer to see how things are going and collect feedback for next year, Lacert said.

With the community garden “a work in progress,” he said that the coalition plans on meeting with the city in advance of next year’s growing season to see if there are other locations available to garden in, pending member interest.

However, with the community garden effort already boasting a waiting list, Lacert said that he anticipates seeing things pick up nicely going into next year.

“We have some gardeners who are brand new to gardening – it’s their first time ever -- and we have some gardeners who are experienced,” he said.

“We have some young and some old … We have a broad mix, which is what we wanted to do -- to engage a broad mix of the community.” 

Organizations: Gift Centre, Prince Albert Food Coalition

Geographic location: Leray Gardens, Prud’Homme, Saskatoon École Holy Cross

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