The best time to start planting your garden this spring

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Green thumbs, you’ve waited patiently all winter, and now, the time is here. It’s officially gardening season! So whether you tend to a few containers of veggies on a balcony, or you have a large backyard plot with flowers, herbs and shrubs, there are a few steps to get started.
As for when to start planting? Well, that depends where you live.We asked Global News Meteorologist Ross Hull for his advice:MaritimesThe risk of a hard freeze can persist into late April/early May in this area so for seedlings that are cold sensitive you will want to wait until mid to late May into early June. A good marker is the Victoria Day long weekend – during that period or after is often a safer time. Some crops are hardier to the cold and can be planted earlier such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and peas. Story continues below advertisement

Southern Quebec & Eastern Ontario:Later in May or early June is the best time to ensure that frost doesn’t impact spring planting in this area. During or after the May long weekend is usually a safer bet but keep an eye on the forecast because frost can still hit as late as May in this region. Although some vegetable crops and plants that are more frost-hardy can be seeded earlier.Southern Ontario:Mid to late May is the safest time to plant to avoid that chance of frost in this area. Although keep an eye on the forecast because frost can linger into May at times if there’s a cold spell. Lettuce, spinach, and Kale can usually be planted earlier in the season. Sunflowers can also be planted earlier in May.Central Canada:Mid-May for semi frost-hardy plants and late-May early June for more frost sensitive crops or plants. Wait until the first week of June for cucumbers, squash, corn, and tomato plants.Alberta:Late-May early June is the ideal time to plant warm weather crops such as beans, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes. Some areas (especially higher terrain) could be susceptible to frost as late as early June so make sure you follow weather updates closely. More hardy, cooler weather crops such as beets, cabbage, carrots, kale, and potatoes can be planted as early as late-April. Story continues below advertisement

 British Columbia:The more temperate climate in parts of this province means you can start your spring planting earlier, especially in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. Early to mid-May is generally a good time for warmer weather crops while more hardy plants can be planted as early as late-March into April.Next stepsWhat to do first? Just like in your yard, experts recommend giving the garden bed a good clearing.“Rake through it. Get the dead stuff out,” says Len Chambers, a horticulturalist with the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens. “It’s a matter of cultivating that soil and getting it ready for planting.”

A rake is ideal for a larger garden where you may need to turn over a fair bit of soil. The metal tines on this one will get through compacted soil without breaking or bending. And the handle is adjustable, depending on how much surface area you need, which is perfect if your beds are a variety of sizes.


If you’re a horticulture newbie and you’re starting small with a container or raised bed, you may only need a hand rake to get the soil stirred up and prepped for seedlings. These Fiskars with flexible tines will get the job done quickly and efficiently. And they’re great for tight corners or whisking around existing plants.

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 Chambers also recommends using a rake or spade to dig out decomposing leaves or roots from last year’s harvest. 

Every shed should have one of these multi-use tools. It’s basic, but it works for a variety of tasks, from clearing old plant material to edging to digging in larger perennials or new shrubs. As a bonus, the handle is made of environmentally friendly ash. Users repeatedly commented on its well-thought-out design and high-quality construction. “A thing of beauty,” said one happy customer.

 U of A horticulturalist Duncan Giedelhauf says after raking, the rotted plant material can be mixed in with green kitchen waste to make a great compost/feed for this year’s garden – but he warns that you should be careful how much leaf material you reintroduce.“I’ve seen it happen where people rototill whole leaves into their garden. It changes the matrix enough that it dries out faster, and things are not breaking down.” Instead, he says put those leaves aside and add them to a compost bin with kitchen waste and use that for the garden. Story continues below advertisement


For outdoor composting, this uber popular dual-chamber tumbling composter is a game changer. Tumbling the materials means no more old-school mixing clippings and kitchen waste by hand. Instead, drop everything in the handy slide-top and turn over with a hand crank every few days. Two chambers means that you can use completed compost while adding peelings and organics to the other window in the meantime. Bonus: It’s made by a Canadian small business owner.

 When getting ready to plant, it’s a good idea to add fresh soil and sand, says Chambers. He recommends topsoil for nutrients, and a coarse sand for good drainage.  “Topsoil actually has a lot of good micronutrients that plants need, but it doesn’t have a lot in terms of structure. You need to add organic material to it to make it more fluffy,” he advises. 

Timberline soil is regionally sourced to ensure it matches with your local climate and conditions.

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 In terms of sand, Chambers says any coarse brand will do, as long as gardeners stay away from fine sand, because when mixed with soil, it will create a hard, compacted material in your flower bed.

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This bag comes washed and graded and can be mixed right in with soil.

 Once you’re ready to plant, digging in seeds can be done by hand or with small garden tools, but there are a few innovative items that can make this task easier. 

Using a hand spade or small shovel trowel to dig in a seedling can be difficult. It’s hard to create just the right-sized space. If you’ve never heard of a dibber, try one! It makes it easy to core the proper hole for seeds or seedlings every time.

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Sometimes it’s challenging to figure out how much space to give your seeds, especially if they tend to spread out or grow higher than the rest. This handy tool takes the guesswork out of planting. Just press the template into the soil, poke in the seeding tool and spill the seeds into the perfectly placed holes. Created by a Canadian entrepreneur to maximize seed planting in a small bed.

 Once seeds and seedlings are in the ground, the next step is giving everything a hearty watering. The U of A horticultural team recommends a hose nozzle that features a few different spray strengths.“It depends on how fragile the plant is. I would recommend a fine mist for seedlings,” says U of A Horticulturalist Duncan Giedelhauf. Once plants have gotten bigger and stronger, they can withstand a heavier shower and ensure enough moisture gets down into the soil, he says. 

The Amazon’s Choice Restmo, made from zinc-alloy with an extra long wand that’s easy to hold and control, has ten different settings from “shower” to “full.” And there is a use for that supercharged jet setting besides surprising your loved ones on a hot day! The U of A horticulturalists say it’s the perfect strength to shoot aphids or other bugs off leaves and stems.

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For smooth, even irrigation of all your new blooms, this unique hose won’t kink or get tangled as you move around the garden. With water pressure, it expands to three times its original length, and once the water drains, it returns to its original size. Because it shrinks down, storage is easy — it can fold up into a pail or plastic container.

 As a final touch, add mulch to your flower and garden beds, the U of A team advises. Along with being aesthetically pleasing, mulch provides insulation for those burgeoning buds.“It’s really good practice. As it slowly breaks down, it is improving the soil’s ability to get nutrients,” says Giedelhauf. “It keeps soil cool on hot days, keeps moisture in there and improves the soil’s structure.

You can’t go wrong with a dark brown mulch made with natural forest products and treated to keep its colour, for everything from flower beds to vegetable gardens to perennial bushes. Note: the team we spoke with says the key to mulch is keeping it not too thin, and not too thick. Seven to 12 centimetres (three to five inches) is about right!

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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