Early Spring Planting

by | Mar 3, 2020

As soon as we get a nice, sunny day many folks are eager to jump into spring gardening. While we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves (temperatures are still cool for some activities, we may well get a hard frost yet etc.), there are several things that you can get growing now. Read on for tips on how to get early plants off to a great start!

We’ve been so fortunate to have a temperate winter this year (okay, with the exception of that spell in January!), so many folks are understandably anxious to get back in their garden and begin planting early vegetables, including perennial veggies, fruit trees and, of course, colour. Follow a few key steps to get your soil ready and your plants settled, and they’ll be off to a great start!

Early Spring Soil

The critical factor in spring garden success is your soil – once it thaws, it will be heavy and wet. Not only do you need to open it up with some cultivation, but you should also add some aerating materials, like a fine grade of fir or hemlock bark mulch or sawdust, to vastly improve the porosity and drainage of your soil. Whether you are planting small fruits, fruit trees, flowering trees, evergreens or even early onions and potatoes, good drainage will be critically important to get your plants off to a great start.

Haskaps are becoming increasingly popular. They’re very hardy and delicious too!
Once you have opened up the soil, then you can incorporate additional organic materials, like composted manures and other additives, to enrich the soil. The test I always use before planting is to grab a handful of wet soil, make a ball, and then crumble it with my thumb. It should break apart easily. If your soil does not, add more aerating materials to create higher porosity.
Peas are happy in cool season gardens and are quick to produce.

Early Spring Vegetables to Plant

While it’s true that you won’t need to wait to dive right into your soil, not all plants can be planted just yet. Here’s what can be planted in early spring in Chilliwack:

  • Early potatoes and onion sets/plants can be set out now in protected areas and in well-prepared soils.
  • Brassicas – like ‘early’ varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, as well as kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach – can also go out.
  • Peas and broad beans can be planted now, too, and if we get frost, a covering of the white N-Sulate cloth will protect them nicely.
  • Strawberries and raspberries have now started to arrive in garden stores and would do well to be set out early.
  • Asparagus should now be available in stores for planting.
  • Rhubarb can also go in now.

Planting in Early Spring

When you plant bare-root small fruits, flowering trees, and fruit trees at this time of year, it is a good idea to dip them in a mix of liquid root starter blended with a handful of clay soil. The clay will cling to the roots along with the liquid starter. Bury the plants just over the top of the roots.

With grafted trees, bury them so the graft is just above the ground, and with roses, bury the bud union for a little extra winter protection. Once planted, water them in thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets and to prevent the roots from drying out.

With trees that are field grown and wrapped in burlap sacks, it is important to leave the sack on because it is holding the root system together. Plant the tree with the sack in place. If the sack is bound with nylon twine, you can cut it, but only once the burlapped root system is firmly in the soil. The sacking will rot away, usually within one season.

Plant roses carefully and they’ll provide years of enjoyment.

Rhubarb is a long lived perennial vegetable. Put them where they will be happy though… they do not like to be moved!

If container-grown plants are root bound, they should have their outside roots carefully ruffled up to ensure they grow outwards into the new soil. If they are not root bound, simply set them gently into the new soil just to the top of their root system. Water thoroughly to get them settled in.

If we have a dip in temperatures that persists, the plants will stay dormant, but the roots will start to grow immediately, getting established before any new growth begins. Keep them moist at all times, especially when it’s windy or sunny and warm, and enjoy gorgeous growth earlier this season!