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Minter: Cooler spring temperatures — and how to garden among them

Master gardener Brian Minter: "We still have a long season ahead of us."
You can still garden during cooler spring temperatures, says master gardener Brian Minter. It'll just take a little more care.

As we transition to June, the continuing wet, cold weather is challenging for our heat- and sun-loving plants, but it’s merely a delay.

There will still be plenty of time to plant our food and colour gardens. At least our current nighttime temperatures are in the 8 to 10°C range, which is ideal for planting out most heat-loving plants.

The trick, however, is to first make sure all your plants are hardened off well or acclimatized to these cooler temperatures before setting them out in the garden or in containers.

This simply means leaving your plants outside in a protected area — a spot that is out of the sun and wind — for about a week to ensure they can adapt to these current conditions. A small greenhouse or a cold frame is an ideal location for acclimatizing your plants, but almost any protected outdoor area can work well too.

In many cases folks find it helpful to first upsize their plants by transplanting them into traditional one- or two-gallon sized nursery containers in order to develop a more robust root system and plant size. This extra step can save considerable growing time when you do set your plants out.

My other concern at this time of year is the availability of a good plant selection.

After May, many growers reduce the range of varieties they continue to grow, and it might be wise to pick up your favourite varieties soon to ensure you get the plants that you really enjoy. Tomatoes and peppers need a longer time to mature, so secure them as soon as possible.

Started plants will save you two to three weeks in growing time, but if you can’t find the plants you want, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins can be started from seed even now as there is still plenty of time. 

Here again, pick up the varieties you want soon as seed companies also run short on many varieties at this time of year.

Some growers are now growing larger vegetable plants for later planting, and some even have small  fruits beginning to develop for a much faster finish.

One of our great local food growers has wisely suggested early July as one of the best times to seed many vegetable crops for a late summer harvest. 

This is a brilliant idea because vegetables are so expensive now that having a garden full of fresh produce growing into fall will be a huge added bonus for so many folks.

In spite of our inclement weather at the moment, we still have a long season ahead of us and plenty of time to grow and harvest our own food.