Tofino gardening in May
by Trina Mattson, Tofino
Yikes, it's May, and you know so far everything is about 2 weeks behind because of the cold, the weather, plants and it seems everyone you know is suffering from it. The only good thing about this cold weather is the fact that the horsetail are also about two weeks behind, oh don't be fooled they are still coming up, probably bigger and even more well adapted, but none the less behind.
Adapting is going to be the name of the game, gardens need to be adapted to the new weather patterns that seem to be happening, everything from drought tolerant, to cold tolerant. And if you have followed the weather over the last few years, especially in the winter, the trend has been, protect anything that is not 100% hardy in the winter, seems many plants were lost this year from the cold and snow load. And even if you take into consideration that plants don't live forever, there was too much loss this year for it not to have been the weather.
Okay bad news over, sort of, good news is that it is May, and bedding plant season is upon us. And once again the inevitable question is always raised, why did the plants I bought out of town go red leaved and are stunted? And again the same answer, we are colder than out of town. Temperatures need to be in the double digits during the day, every day, and at least 9 degrees at night for bedding plants to even be considered. Now if you have a sunny greenhouse, then they could be housed in there until the temperature spikes, with the door closed at night. But at least the time is closer to be planting and potting up color. So get those baskets ready. And if you can't wait to plant them, at least be prepared to move them indoors if the night temperature drops.
Let the foliage from your tulips and daffodils wither naturally, just take off the seed heads, and give them a good shot of fertilizer so they can produce blossoms next year. As winter heathers finish blooming give them a light shearing to promote growth, if the centers of your heathers are starting to get bare, mound soil up over the bare branches as they will put out new growth from the area you covered in soil. Watch out for aphids as they are starting to attack plants, especially those in greenhouses and cold frames. And slugs are going to be coming into their own soon. If you see holes in the leaves of your rhododendrons, fatsia, laurels, pieris etc. you probably have a case of black beetles, now you could go out with a white cloth around dark and put the cloth around the base, shake the plant and try to catch the beetles as they fall off your plants to destroy them, or you can use a garden nematode twice a year to control them, these nematodes are watered into the soil and they basically eat the larvae that can either kill your plant, or after they emerge as a beetle eat the plants leaves. Many times in early spring, if you notice say your Rhododendron or Pieris has drooping leaves, and never seems to perk up and probably died, that beetle larvae has probably ringed the bark of your plant right at the soil level thus killing it.
It's still cool enough to be sowing cool weather crops, and as the weather warms hardier crops can be sown as well, but wait for the temperature to spike a little higher still before setting out hot weather crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. Don't forget to fertilize your vegetables, using an organic fertilizer if it suits your nature, with the gardens we have discovered that a good shot of granular organic fertilizer in the soil will help to build the nutritional value of the soil, as the granular breaks down, give an organic water soluble fertilizer for the plants roots to have immediate access to nutrition, just use a higher dilution rate.
The hummingbirds have finally shown up and are hungry, be sure to set out a feeder for them, and as they are susceptible to molds, clean the feeder out properly between refills. And the tweety's are about as well, singing for their supper. As the temperature rises in the ponds as well, watch out for the morts, but after a long winter, they are also ready for some food.
On that note think spring even better think warm spring, everyone on 3:
1... 2... 3... warm spring!
Trina Mattson runs the Ordinary Corner Nursery in Tofino.
Tofino gardening tips for May 2009 by Trina Mattson from the Ordinary Corner Nursery in Tofino, BC.