This spring has proven to be a challenging time for green thumbs trying to plant their favourite vegetables, fruits and flowers in Saskatchewan.
There was unseasonably cold weather, drought and now a heat wave.
For many gardeners, this has meant a later start to this planting season.
Now with the hot, dry weather, gardeners should be making sure they have a watering can handy, says Jackie Bantle, manager of the ag greenhouse and horticulture field facility at the University of Saskatchewan’s college of agriculture and bioresources.
“If you’re putting seeds in the ground, and if we’re not going to see any moisture for a while, you should probably give them a little bit of water on the soil surface,” Bantle told Saskatchewan Weekend‘s Shauna Powers.
“Once you do that, then the nice warm soil and the moisture is going to get them sprouting.”
Bantle said you should make sure to keep the topsoil moist, “so that those little seedlings don’t dry out, because once they’ve germinated, if they dry out, they’re going to die on you.”
If you are still planting, try to do it in the morning or evening to avoid the heat of the day for yourself and your seedlings.
“Get them in, water them well,” she said. If you plant in the evening, “they have the whole night to kind of relax, get a little bit more settled in the soil before the heat of the next day.”
“Once you get them in the ground, they’re going to need to be watered every day just to keep them moist until their roots get established.” That should take about a week, she says.
Then you can water less often, but making sure the roots are reaching out and finding some moisture further below the surface.
Bantle said there are a number of fruits and vegetables that grow well on the prairies and in the heat.
“Anything that’s a warm season crop,” Bantle said. “So things like tomatoes, peppers love this kind of weather.”
Melon crops like watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins grow well in the heat, as do cucumbers, corn and beans.
Flea beetles are already out, she warns.
“They’re the little jumping black flies.… Once you know what they look like, you’ll never forget.”
That means you should cover brassica vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage.
“I go with something that’s a fairly light row cover because brassicas don’t like the heat.”
However, “raspberries grow great on the prairies, and raspberries do well in dry weather” Bantle said. “So once they get established, they’ll love this heat and dry weather.”
Bantle said there are a couple of varieties to choose from, including primocane varities, which will produce fruit on this year’s stems and be ready in fall.
“The primocanes usually do well, but if we get an early frost, then sometimes you don’t get any raspberries, which is a bit frustrating.”
The other is floricane varities, which produce fruit “on two-year-old canes and that fruit is usually ready … in July or August,” she said.
Strawberries are also a great prairie berry, though they don’t like extreme heat.
Bantle plants the day neutral variety of strawberry.
“Those guys flower throughout the season and they’ll produce fruit throughout the season,” she said.
“Then there’s the June-bearing type, which overwinter better here. But as the name suggests, you only get berries around June, July, and you don’t get anything into the fall.
“And there’s everbearing. Those aren’t as familiar out there. But again, they bear fruit throughout the season and they also overwinter a little bit better.”
Other berries to try are goji berries, saskatoons and haskap berries.
Haskaps, which are relatively new to most prairie gardens, take time to bear fruit.
“If you plant a haskap tree, you’ll get berries in probably four or five years. If the birds don’t get them first,” Bantle said.
If you are still putting in transplants, make sure they’ve already experienced some of that hot sun and hot weather.
“The theme that’s coming across is be prepared to water,” Bantle said. “Wear your sunscreen, take some water with you and keep yourself hydrated, and actually work in the morning or in the evenings and avoid that hot afternoon.”