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Start planting! Q and A with Jim Hole

Raring to go in the garden? Take a few tips from the expert.
Ready, set, plant! Cool-loving vegetables and flowers, like pansies, are good to go. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

We're almost at May, which should bring showers, flowers and seedlings poking out of the earth--exciting stuff for gardeners and would-be green thumbs among us. Alberta gardening expert Jim Hole offers a few thoughts on May planting--probably the busiest time in the gardening year.

Q: What should we be doing in the yard right now?

Hole: Once you have your yard raked, add the dry leaves to the compost. Everyone should try to compost if they can, it actually takes only a little space in a corner of the yard, so give it a try. Then you can prune dead branches from trees and shrubs and plant some seeds in the garden. I put in some carrot and bok choy seeds already.

Q: Do you have concern about frost?

Hole: The average last frost for our area is May 9, meaning there's a 50 per cent chance there will still be frost after that date. But there's also a fifty per cent chance there won't be frost, so why not risk the few dollars of seeds to get a jump on the growing season? I say plant early, and plant often (re-sow as needed, for lettuce etc). The only things to leave until later are things that hate the cold, like cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. I wait until June for those heat-loving plants.

Q: What about baskets of flowers? When can these be placed on the balcony or patio?

Hole: You see the cool season ornamentals for sale now--baskets of pansies and snapdragons at garden centres, ready to go. So these frost-hardy flowers can be out; just bring them in at night or place a light covering over them if the weather drops below zero overnight.

Q: And the lawn? Is it time to fertilize or water?

Hole: If it's really dry, watering is ok. Aerate the lawn, with your own tools, if possible. But leave fertilizing until later in May or into June.