Top spring gardening mistakes to avoid this holiday weekend

The sun is expected to appear throughout much of BC this long weekend and for many eager gardeners it’s the first time this year they’ll be heading to their favorite nurseries for a much-anticipated gardening fix.

CBC asked the experts for a few tips to guide gardeners.

Don’t plant too early.

Just because your favorite plants are in stores doesn’t mean they are ready to go into the ground or container yet.

“It’s so tempting, but don’t make that mistake,” said Thomas Hobbs, owner of Southlands Nursery in Vancouver. “It’s too cold at night right now for things like tomatoes, basil and begonias.”

For those who can’t help but get their hands into some soil right away, there are lots of flowering plants like marigolds, pansies and rhododendrons that can be planted now. Winter lettuces, potatoes, broccoli and most herbs are also good to go.

Even though tomato and basil plants are available in some garden centers now, the rule of thumb is that they cannot be put into the ground or in containers until the May long weekend. (Cathy Kearney/CBC)

Some of the plants will need to be hardened off before they are planted.

Many plants available from nurseries and garden centers have just come from a greenhouse and need some attention to give them a good chance at survival.

“You expose them to a little bit of sunlight in these cooler temperatures during the day,” said Deb Ego, manager of Five Maples Nursery in Abbotsford, BC “Do that a little bit at a time and then bring them back inside at night, she said.

Your plants can be safely planted outside once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 15 C.

If you aren’t certain whether a plant is ready to go into the dirt, don’t be shy about asking questions. Both Hobbs and Ego say garden center staff are there to help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Save money. Don’t buy new potting soil for your containers every year.

It can be arduous work hauling your containers to the green bin, dumping out the contents and awkwardly refilling them with those heavy bags of potting soil every year. And it turns out, you don’t have to.

“I would say you can probably get away with three years or so,” said Ego. “You can keep reusing that soil as long as you’re prepared to fertilize it,” she said.

A slow release granular fertilizer can be added to the soil before planting, and should keep your annuals blooming for about four months. By mid-summer you can add liquid fertilizer for a nutritional boost.

Rhododendrons are perfect for planting this long weekend. (Francesca Swann/CBC)

Don’t overplant

If you’ve got a garden bed that’s big enough for four tomato plants don’t plant 10. Learn how much space your plants will need.

“What happens is, everything suffers,” said Miles Hunter, owner of Hunters Garden Centres. “If you overplant you are likely to have more pest or disease because they aren’t getting enough light, water and fertilizer.

Share your bounty

Even if you’ve been careful about not overplanting, come August, you may find you’ve got more cucumbers, tomatoes, peas and carrots than you know what to do with.

“Share with your neighbors,” said Leanne Johnson, president of GardenWorks.

Her company partnered with Science World and Life Space Gardens to create a balcony garden exhibit at Science World in Vancouver that teaches people how to reconnect with nature by growing their own food.

“It’s creating this community that, over time, we’ve lost. And by sharing, we are finding it again.”