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Northern Gardening: Planning ahead for the spring

Have you started planning your garden yet? Since COVID-19 hit, more people have started gardens to enjoy this outdoor activity, to grow a few vegetables or just to enhance their outdoor space for “staycations”.
garden
A winter garden of primroses. - PHOTO BY MARY WRIGHT

Have you started planning your garden yet? Since COVID-19 hit, more people have started gardens to enjoy this outdoor activity, to grow a few vegetables or just to enhance their outdoor space for “staycations”. This led to a shortage of some seeds and gardening supplies last spring. It looks like there are more shortages this spring.

I like to order seeds from seed companies online and even by mail from my favourite seed source that has not yet completed going online. There are several reasons for this. There is a much wider selection of varieties of flowers and vegetables and a wider selection within a particular flower or vegetable for colour, size and especially dates to maturity for vegetables and bloom time for flowers. I ordered at the end of January. One source already had a six-week delay in shipping due to overwhelming orders. Another just informed me that they cannot supply me with Calibrachoa seeds, which need to be started early indoors. An extensive internet search for this seed came up empty. I will settle for “wave” petunias to order immediately by phone, if possible. Some suppliers are not even accepting phone orders.

Seeds are arriving in local stores, but even if you are planning to pick up a few seed packs locally, do not delay if you want a good selection. They disappeared pretty fast last year. Local stores also bring in a reasonable selection of seed potatoes, but for anyone who likes to try some new varieties selection, is already limited. When I preordered at the end of January, some varieties I received last year were already sold out. My advice is to order now if you want to try different varieties and to watch for local supplies and purchase without delay.

Shortages are not limited to seeds and seed potatoes. Seeds started indoors benefit greatly from grow lights. Insufficient light produces weak plants and laggy growth. Although I grow my seedlings in a south-facing sunroom, I start some seeds earlier in the house before the sunroom is consistently warm enough. I use grow lights and bottom heat with my jury-rigged small plant stand. A proper light stand would allow me to overwinter tender perennial herbs and perhaps grow some greens next winter, as well as start some seeds this spring. Intending to splurge and purchase a three-tier light stand, I could not find what I wanted. All were sold out. Hopefully, they will restock in the coming months. Meanwhile, I continue to make do.

My main message is this: If you plan on any outdoor activity this summer that requires a purchase, be it a new bike, or even garden supplies, buy early.