• Late March: Don`t Work the Soil Yet

    A few days of unseasonably warm temperatures does not mean that summer has arrived. We live in Southern Ontario and weather can be variable. Before deciding on what gardening chores you can do now, check the long range forecast. Look at both the daytime and night time temperatures. Excessively low night time temperatures can slow or halt plant growth. Environment Canada estimates that the last frost date for Toronto is May 9, based on a 30 year average between 1960 and 1990.

    Your garden soil needs an opportunity to warm up and dry up before you start to work in it. Working soil that is too wet will result in compacted soil. Let your soil warm up before you plant, divide or move plants around. The exceptions are some of cool weather crops, such as spinach, that will happily germinate in cool soil.

  • March: Warning About Growing Potatoes at Home

    Now is the time home gardeners are planning their vegetable gardens and ordering seeds, and some may be considering growing potatoes this year. The Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture (OMAFRA) has some cautions about growing potatoes in urban home gardens.

    Their web site explains: “Late blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans is a devastating potato disease. Spores in the late blight fungus are spread by the wind and can travel long distances. Urban gardeners cannot access commercial crop protection materials that provide good control of this disease. Potatoes grown in urban areas are sources of late blight inoculum that can infect potato fields located as far as 200 km away.”

    For this reason, they strongly recommend NOT using saved potatoes or purchased eating potatoes. Instead, OMAFRA recommends only planting certified disease free potato seed from a reputable garden centre.

  • March: Calculating the Sowing Date

    Seed packages indicate the number of weeks needed to have a seedling ready for planting out.  Add on a week for ‘hardening off’ your seedlings.  To calculate the date for starting your seeds indoors, start with the date when you want to plant the seedlings outdoors and count backwards.  For example, to plant your snapdragons outdoors the week of May 27, you will need 10 weeks for growing the seedling and 1 week for hardening off – start them the week of March 4.

  • March: Apply Dormant Oil

    To eliminate any overwintering insects and diseases on fruit trees, apply dormant oil spray as directed on the package.

  • March: Prune Shrubs and Vines

    Hard to believe when the ground is thick with snow and the air is frigid, but spring is not far away at all. Now is the time to prune out any damaged, diseased or tangled / crossed branches and stems of summer-flowering shrubs and vines before they leave dormancy.

  • March: Winter Wounds on Young Trees

    The arrival of spring may show a vertical ‘split-like’ wound in the bark on the west or southwest side of a young or newly planted tree.  This wound, sometime called sun scald, is the result of the sun heating up the bark and stimulating cambial activity.  The cold temperature that follows kills the active tissue and a split occurs.  Clean the wound by cutting out the bark that is loosened and damaged.  Healing will begin on its own when the growing season starts.

  • March: Selecting Lettuce Seed

    Students at the Colorado State University studied varieties of lettuce seeds to determine which were most resistant to bolting.  Batavian lettuce varieties, a cross between leaf lettuce and head lettuce,  came out on top.  The most resistant Batavian cultivars were Nevada, Sierra and Tahoe.  Butter lettuce varieties also showed good resistance to bolting.   The study also showed that red romaine lettuces were good for individual leaf harvest and picking as baby leaves.


  • March: Starting Seeds Indoors

    A wide variety of containers can be used to start seeds indoors – the containers that your salad greens came in, yogurt containers, pots that you have saved from last summer, purchased pots and cell packs from the garden centre.  The important thing is that the container has drainage, sufficient depth for good root development and is very clean.  If re-using a container, wash it in a solution containing bleach.

  • March: Tuberous Begonias

    Start tuberous begonia tubers indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date.  Place them in a shallow container filled with a growing medium that is porous but moisture retentive and does not contain fertilizer or manure.  Coarse sphagnum moss, peat moss or a good potting mix will all work.  Completely cover the tubers with the growing medium.  Keep the growing medium moist but not soggy.  Place the container in a warm spot with filtered sunlight.

  • March: Feeding Houseplants

    Now that the days are getting longer, it is time to start to feed your houseplants. Give them half the recommended dosage of plant food every other week rather than full strength every month.  Be sure that the growing medium is damp before you apply the plant food.