An unseasonably cool spring is putting the chill on gardening this year.
Horse Lake Garden Centre owner Roger Stratton blames the weather for causing a slight dip in business compared with last year. The South Cariboo has been getting frost almost every night for the last month, he said, and he’s had to take precautions.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had frost that’s lasted so long. People are a little gun shy getting all their plants now because they’re afraid of freezing and losing them, especially new time gardeners,” Stratton said.
To protect his crop, Stratton has had to deploy 500 feet of frost cloth, a light fabric that allows light and water to go through while keeping frost from touching the plant.
Stratton said with cooler temperatures, prospective gardeners need to make sure they “harden off” their plants by acclimatizing them to the Cariboo weather. Those new to gardening here need to remember the Cariboo’s growing climate isn’t the same as at the Coast or in Kamloops.
The frost should stop happening by the end of May but Stratton cautioned new gardeners to make sure the soil is at least 10C before planting outside. Not rushing things and keeping an eye on the weather is key to success, he said.
“If you buy it, you want to put it out during the day and in at night. Especially if it’s vegetables or annuals that are a little tender. Perennials can stay outside just under an overhang so frost doesn’t hit it, because frost only falls vertically, not horizontally,” Stratton advised. “That way you’ll have far more success to get your plants to grow.”
As a result of the frost and cool weather, Stratton said he’s had to stop holding product for customers as he’s practically run out of space in his greenhouses. This is partly because he made sure to have a large number of plants available this year, as last year he ran out of most plants by the third week in May.
“I still think the interest in gardening is going to be there. I hope it’s going to be there because we have a lot of product,” Stratton said.
The garden centre has a lot of trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and hanging baskets so he doesn’t think that there will be any danger of running out like last year. At the moment, Stratton said customers are buying a lot of shrubs and trees, which are perfect to plant right now, as they have already hardened them off.
For first-time gardeners, Stratton advises they start with something simple like a hanging basket of strawberries, tomatoes or flowers. His advice varies depending on whether people are keen to try container, flowerbed or vegetable gardening.
“It really depends on the people. The best thing is to talk to us and we can help walk them through soil composition, plant spacing and teach them a little bit about how to accommodate their particular plants,” Stratton said.
“It’s a very rewarding thing watching a plant that’s only two inches high turn into a lovely flowering hanging basket or a nice perennial that’s flowering. It’s a very comforting and rewarding part of life, I find.”