Growing success: why late winter is the time to get a jump-start on gardening

From seeds to rodents, master gardener Brian Minter offers tips on how to set yourself up for a successful year of gardening.

Master gardener Brian Minter offers tips on proactive gardening

Now is the time to get a head start on your garden, says master gardener Brian Minter. (Pixabay)

If you want your garden to really stand out this year, late winter is the perfect time to take proactive steps for success, says master gardener Brian Minter.

Minter said seed catalogues are already being mailed to homes across the province and for many gardeners, especially in the colder regions, it can be very tempting after a long winter to start ordering seeds.

"It's kind of a danger thing — you start ordering way too much when in fact you don't need a lot of seeds to have success," said Minter during CBC's B.C. Almanac.

From seeds to rodents, master gardener Brian Minter offers tips on how to set yourself up for a successful year of gardening. 14:19

Minter said Canadian gardeners are very lucky because Canada is one of the few countries that requires suppliers to test their supply of seeds for their ability to germinate. He said all seeds from reputable vendors can be expected to germinate properly.

"So if something doesn't grow, don't blame the seeds," said Minter.

Minter said that in the late winter the biggest challenge when planting seeds is proper timing. Planting your seeds too early, he said, can lead to plants growing out of control as the days get longer and they are exposed to more sunlight.

Instead, Minter said to hold off and plant your seeds later in the year. Also, he said it's a good practice to keep notes on how your seeds did in previous years and apply what you learn.

"Later is always better," he said. "Please don't panic and think you've missed the opportunity to plant, because you never have."

For those gardeners who have plants already grown but that have laid dormant all winter, now is the time to move them back out into the garden, he said.

Pest problems

Another thing to be aware of this time of year is pests, said Minter. As the winter comes to a close and the snow melts, pesky rodents, crows and raccoons will start being attracted to your garden.

Minter suggested coating the base of your trees in a mixture of glue, latex paint and sand. He said it's a common practice in the Netherlands that will dissuade rodents from gnawing on the tree's bark.

When it comes to protecting your lawn from crows and raccoons, Minter said to lay a tight plastic mesh over the grass — something readily available in gardening stores.

He said the birds and rodents are trying to eat insect larvae under the grass, and the mesh will allow you to mow your lawn while also stopping animals from attacking the soil.

"It works like a charm, there really is no other solution."

With files from B.C. Almanac