The May long weekend has come and gone, and for many Yukoners that signals the beginning of the gardening season.
Since the onset of the pandemic, many have picked up new hobbies and projects, like home renovations, bread making and, yes, gardening.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a novice, there are plenty of things to learn so your gardens can thrive this season.
Start with the base
Before you can furnish a house, it needs to be built. The same can apply to gardening, and that begins with the soil.
In mid-summer of last year, Michel Duteau launched YukonGrows because he wanted “to produce some amendments for gardening and agriculture.”
“With COVID last year, I saw it was the right moment to not only continue the idea but to launch because there was a much bigger interest in gardening,” said Duteau.
The idea of YukonGrows is to offer soils that are adapted to the conditions in the North. Duteau’s most important ingredient in his soils is biochar.
“Biochar is a type of charcoal that will help the microorganisms to survive and thrive,” said Duteau. “Biochar also helps retain moisture and give it back and helps transfer the nutrients to the plants.”
Duteau said he’s tailored his soils to the North’s gardening styles.
“The blends I’ve designed are adapted to the type of practices we have here, either open garden, raised beds or container or basket gardens,” said Duteau.
“These blends have a mix of ingredients that are specific to those practices so some will hold moisture more efficiently, some will drain more efficiently. All are inoculated with beneficial microorganisms to help cycle the organic matter and help transform its nutrients for the plants.”
|A foundation of good soil will help flowers like these thrive. (John Tonin/Yukon News)|
Duteau said different soils work better for different types of gardens.
“Structure comes from the mineral content but most especially the organic matter contents,” said Duteau. “The structure for a basket should be different than the structure you would use in an open garden.
“The open garden, the structure should drain more easily than the structure in the basket.”
When starting into the gardening world Duteau said what people see the end objective, the plants they want to grow. If you want your plants to thrive, he said, you need to start with good soil.
“It is foundational, it is very important that you have a quality soil if you want to have quality crops. Often it is bypassed. Often we go to the beautiful plants and we don’t care so much what we grow it in,” said Duteau.
“If we put our tomato plant in whatever soil in Vancouver it may be OK. Here we have challenges that not having a good soil will probably lead to failure. You need to put all the conditions on your side.”
Time to plant
Now that you’ve got a strong soil foundation, it is time to start growing. Lorne Metropolit, owner of Yukon Gardens, said plants can start going into the ground soon.
“(You can start) anytime after the long weekend, it kind of relates to the weather we are getting,” said Metropolit. “Sometimes it could be three, four days earlier so typically the safest time to plant is around early June.”
Just because we are in the North doesn’t mean we can’t have a beautiful garden, said Metropolit.
“We are the same as anyone else — we are just a little farther north and temperatures are a little cooler so that’s to be expected,” said Metropolit. “The long-range forecast is projecting to be cooler than normal which we will have to keep in mind. Basically, you put your plants out at this time of year and watch them.”
If temperatures get lower, Metropolit suggests covering the garden.
“Cover them preferably with some type of cloth,” said Metropolit. “Plastic can almost attract frost. So use some old blankets of linens. If you have to use plastic it’s best to use two different sheets so there is dead space between them.
“These are many things that gardeners will learn by trial and error.”
Metropolit said hardier plant examples are pansies, violas, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
“These are all cold crop,” Metropolit said.
Gardening requires a fair amount of work, he continued.
“The more you give, the more you get,” he said. “If you have beautiful soil, plant your seeds. If you plant it too deep you’ll have poor germination, if you plant it too shallow you’ll have poor germination. You’ll learn by doing this.”
Growing your plants is a rewarding task, said Metropolit.
“You’re doing a hobby that is something that is the best for you which is growing vegetables,” said Metropolit. “And, for some reason they taste better. They give you a natural high knowing you can go out and harvest what you’re going to have for supper out your back door.”
Metropolit advised new gardeners to speak with their neighbours or garden centres to get tips on growing the garden.
Happy gardening, Yukon.
Contact John Tonin at firstname.lastname@example.org