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Get garden-ready: 3 questions for the expert

Too soon to think about the garden? Never.
What to do to get garden-ready? Ask the expert, Jim Hole.

Late February is too early to think of this year's garden, isn't it? No, and definitely not this year with a pandemic-fuelled frenzy around seed-buying. Time to check in with Alberta gardening expert Jim Hole with a few late winter queries.

APT: Other than seeds, what should we be doing right now to get garden-ready?

Hole: The most important thing is the seedling soil, which should be a professional mix that is lightweight and clean, so there's no worry about weeds or pests. The mixture has finer peat and particles like perlite--something easy to work with and that won't get heavy and soggy from watering. You can also use peat pellets that just need water (good for tomatoes). You also want to get away from plastic, so use the peat pots or pellets and upsize when the roots penetrate. There are eco-friendly products to help you get started.

APT: Can we start anything yet?

Hole: Begonia tubers, cuttings from geraniums, potatoes--you can get them growing sooner--but many things will overgrow if you start them too soon. If you have a cold spot in the basement or garage to keep things from taking off, that's good. Right now, just pick out your seeds, get the containers and soil mixture ready--all the necessary prep before the outdoor season begins.

APT: I've heard it's a good idea to keep a journal.

Hole: Always write things down, and draw a plan of your garden each year. Write down what you liked best, what seeds/plants worked and what didn't. Don't be afraid to experiment and fail and try again. It's only the cost of a package of seeds, so be brave.

APT: Can we get anything green growing sooner?

Hole: I always recommend grow lights. Remember, light is the plant's food. People grow citrus/lemon trees through the winter months, and you can always have micro-greens and herbs growing on a sunny windowsill. For starting seedlings, there's better success with using a grow light in the basement with a heating pad under the seedling tray to get things moving along. Plants grow hardier and stockier with the help of a grow light.