Skip to content

Minter: Prepare your garden soil while we wait out the cold weather

Master gardener Brian Minter: "By planting a bit later, we more than make up any lost time because of faster growth in all our plants."
Shovel in bark mulch.

Our continuing cool weather is nature’s way of suggesting we should hold off on our early planting and seeding until we get some consistent warmer temperatures.

It’s also important to remember that each day we get a minute more daylight as the sun moves closer to our northern hemisphere, and the intensity of its warmth will be evident on those sunny early March days.

By planting a bit later, we more than make up any lost time because of faster growth in all our plants.

There are, however, many things we can do in our gardens to improve both our soils and the subsequent growth of our plants.

In smaller space gardens we are often limited in the location of our garden beds, but if you can choose a spot, find one which has sunlight from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Even if you get good sunshine for part of this time, the quality of light and warmth will pay off with better crops, especially those which love heat.

Raised beds are always warmer and dry out much more quickly after periods of rainfall.

Two essentials of good soil are an openness for air and oxygen which help root development, and lots of valuable organic matter which aids the flow of nutrients to plant roots.

Organic matter and worms also help your soil retain more moisture as summer temperatures rise. By using raised beds, or at least berming up your soil by six to eight inches, the soil temperature will, on average, be roughly 5°C warmer.

This is a huge boost to early crops.

If your soil is quite heavy, the addition of fir or hemlock sawdust or fine bark mulch will open it up nicely.

Adding in your own garden compost will augment your organic matter, but you will still need well-rotted manures or products like Sea Soil to provide more organic nutrient.

All your in-ground garden beds will benefit from the addition of these materials as well, and it’s a great time to do it now.

If you’re a container gardener, those soils can also be worked up now and the addition of organic matter is beneficial.

Make sure you use quality planting soils with good porosity.

If your containers are out in the open, cover the soil with some impervious material to keep it dry until planting time.

It’s just a few weeks before we can safely put our early colour and vegetable plants directly into the garden.

By preparing our soils now, we’ll be ready to go when the time is right, all our new plantings will fare better, and you will be rewarded with a great garden performance.