Local enthusiasts provide information to help your thumbs, gardens get greener
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
This year, more than ever, home gardening projects are looking like a great way to enjoy sunshine and fresh air. To help make sure residents enjoy the fruits, and vegetables, of their labour, local gardening enthusiasts shared important tips and information when it comes to having a prosperous garden of flowers or vegetables.
Those with experience planting and growing locally warned that planting too early can often kill your plants and seeds.
“I would not be planting flowers yet… I wouldn’t plant annuals that I would buy from a greenhouse until probably the end of May. Perennials are tougher. Mine are up and growing, but they’re not big enough to bloom yet or anything like that, and a little bit of frost or snow won’t hurt them… Usually the soil isn’t warm enough until the end of May, and you always run the risk of frost killing things and then you have to buy over again. It’s good to wait until for sure after the long weekend in May before you even think about planting anything,” said Ruth Coughlin, Past President of the former Sioux Lookout Horticultural Society.
“You have to plan out your garden and plant in stages. This time of year it’s still too cold, and that’s the biggest mistake people do around here is they put stuff in way too early because we can have frost right into the first week of June. This time of year, if you protected them a bit, you could put out cauliflower, broccoli, and you can plant some kale and lettuce seeds. They can take the cooler temperatures. Potatoes you can plant this time of year because they’ll just come up once it’s warm enough. We usually plant our potato patch the week before the long weekend in May. Then after the long weekend in May, depending on the weather, we really monitor the night-time temperatures and the soil temperature because none of your squashes, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and beets germinates well if your soil temperature is under seven degrees Celsius. As soon as you see the temperature staying around eight to nine degrees at night then you’re good to go with planting everything,” explained Shawn Burke, Sioux Lookout resident and gardening enthusiast.
When it comes to planting flowers, Coughlin said people have options depending on what they’re looking for. She said seeds are an economical option that can be started earlier in the season as an indoor project before taking them outdoors once the weather warms up.
“There are two types of flowers. There’s annuals that you have to plant every year, and perennials that you plant once and they come up every year. The annuals are cheaper than perennials, but you have to buy them every spring,” said Coughlin.
“The cheapest way to go is seeds. If you start them from seeds then it’s a lot more economical, and maybe that’s something to do for people who are stuck inside with nowhere to go. You can start seeds yourself in the house.
“With annuals people go for marigolds, petunias, pansies, and things like that… They (Garden Centres) know what grows here so, if they get in any perennials, it’ll be black-eyed Susans, hostas, and those kinds of things that they know grow here. There’s flowering shrubs too like lilac bushes, rose bushes, and all that sort of thing. They’ll have fruit trees too,” she explained.
Both Coughlin and Burke agreed that, due to the condition of soils naturally found in the area, building a raised flower bed for your plants is the best option when possible. Raised flower beds provide growers with the opportunity to fill the beds with the soil of their choice, and the beds help the soil reach warmer temperatures.
“The soil that’s naturally around town here, lots of areas are very sandy, so it’s not very fertile soil. We also deal with a short growing season because of the night-time temperatures in the spring, so your best bet is always a raised bed here or plant where you get full south and east exposure… Short raised beds, like using two-by-eights to make your beds or two-by-sixes, you can get it warm enough where you actually get good growth in your vegetables,” said Burke.
“It’s easier because if you have raised beds you can make them whatever height you want, so if you’re older, and don’t want to get a sore back from bending over, raised beds are great. Also the soil in them warms up quicker in the spring, they drain better, you can fill them with good soil… Perennials don’t do well in raised beds, and the reason for that is frost can get at them from not only the top but the sides, and that usually kills them,” said Coughlin.
For the past ten years Sioux Lookout residents have been enjoying the Sioux Lookout Community Garden, which is a project of the Municipal Environment Committee. The garden, located on Second Avenue near the former Queen Elizabeth District High School, has been open to community members that want to do gardening no matter what their experience level is.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout and Joanne Peacock, Community Garden Coordinator, confirmed the Community Garden will be open this year with the implementation of COVID-19 precautions. Additional details and an opening date haven’t been confirmed.
In a news release on April 25, the Government of Ontario announced amendments to emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which includes permitting the use of community gardens across the province.
“The new and amended emergency orders being introduced will… Permit the use of allotment gardens and community gardens across the province. These gardens are an essential source of fresh food for some individuals and families, including those who face food insecurity. Local medical officers of health will provide advice, recommendation and instructions that the gardens must meet in order to operate, such as physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly used equipment and surfaces,” the news release states.