6 min read

Garden Update - April 2022

Corner plot garden update - start of spring 2022 features wild weather, lots of mulch and finishing up some garden projects. Got a few seeds planted as well.
Garden beds, three covered with grow cloths and mulched pathways in between. Early spring in sunshine.
Corner Plot Garden in early spring.

You can't talk about the garden without talking about the weather (a perennial favorite discussion topic here in Canada) and this month the weather has been so indecisive. Here in Edmonton we've had +21 degrees C (70 degrees F) and then it's snowed and been below freezing for a week. The snow disappeared and then this past weekend, it snowed again for two days and then the sun came out and it's already gone...

I guess this is predictable when you are gardening in zone 3b in the middle of a shoulder season, but it has meant that I feel like I haven't gotten as much done as I'd hoped.

So, what has been going on?

At the start of the month I signed up for Chip Drop, an awesome free service that links arborists who need to get rid of their wood chips with gardeners who want mulch. After getting an account setup, I quickly got about 20 yards worth of mulch dropped on the driveway. Now, I would never complain about something that's free, but there were a lot of spruce needles in this load - like 1:1 needles to woodchips - and I was initially nervous to use them in my garden, because of what I've heard about conifer needles acidifying the soil as they decompose.

I did some quick googling and was reassured that while the fresh needles themselves are acidic, when placed on top of the soil, they don't actually make the soil more acidic. Other people are using conifer needles in their garden as mulch with good success, so I am too now! I have filled the pathways between my vegetable beds and I find the mix of chips and needles makes for a really plush ground cover that, so far, stays put and doesn't get blown around by the wind.

I still have a lot of the Chip Drop leftover, so was coming up with ways I could use the remaining mulch. One idea I had was to pile up the mulch, have it decompose and use the heat generated to warm the root zone of my heat loving peppers and eggplants. I've seen this done before using manure and straw instead of wood chips and spruce needles, but I'm hoping the change of material will still generate enough heat over enough time to be useful to the plants.

Wood chip mulch pile ready for the garden or a hot bed.
Leftover mulch from the Chip Drop. Should find a home in the expanded vegetable garden or another hot bed soon!

I staked four foot tall chicken wire into a circle and then filled it up with the mulch leftovers, leaving about six inches of room at the top to add a mix of potting soil and compost, which I'll plant my transplants into in a few weeks. I was thinking I would also cover the bed with greenhouse plastic, to really lock in the warmth. I'll be sure to post about this in more detail later!

I was happy to find that the previous gardeners here planted a bunch of onions and garlic before they moved out, which are now all sprouting. I am still going to try some spring garlic of my own this year, as I missed the chance to plant it in the fall because we moved in so late.

I've managed to plant a few seeds of my own outdoors as well and have had a few radishes, mustards, peas and spinach plants germinating so far. I am hoping a few rainy days will really get things going shortly. Here are the dates when I've planted my seeds outdoors so far:

  Apr 3 - Mustards (a mesclun mix) and spring garlic

  Apr 18 - Spinach, snow peas and daikons

  Apr 24 - Carrots, radish, arugula, quinoa, dill, pak choi and kale.

Not saying these are the best times to seed these veggies in Edmonton, but it gives you an idea of what I'm doing. There is always some wiggle room with when you start things and a lot of the time it depends on what the weather is doing that year. I roughly follow this guide from Westcoast seeds and adjust based on when we get precipitation/warm weather (and how antsy I get to be out in the garden). I also use floating row covers to protect my seedlings, which potentially allows me to plant a few weeks earlier as they keep the ground a few degrees warmer and protect any young plants from frosts, up to a point.

Spinach, daikon and pea seeds starting to sprout under frost protection.
Looking under the covers, a row of spinach, daikons and snow peas poking through. This is the stage I'm at with my direct seeded crops.

Indoors, I have a good mix of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, leeks, broccoli, kale, beets and some herbs started in plug trays in my basement grow rack. Other than only a third of my leeks sprouting and a few tomatoes that were stunted, I've had reasonable germination and growth down there and should have some healthy seedlings to go outside shortly.

In the middle of the month, I went over to my parents place and divided their twenty-plus year old rhubarb plant. This plant had been in their garden since they moved to their house but the past few years has been putting up spindly little leaves. It was looking very sad, so we decided to dig it up, divide and replant it to see if we could revive it.

It was a monster and we managed to divide it into eight sections, with at least a few buds on each! The tap root kept going and going, but was spongy and rotten - maybe the reason it hadn't been doing so well the past few years.

I planted three of the sections in my garden the same day we did the dividing and they have since started to sprout leaves, though they're still only small.

Earlier this winter I ordered some haskap bushes and an apple tree and am waiting for them to arrive in the next few weeks. I have been planning out where they'll go, as well as considering a vegetable garden expansion. At the moment, the idea is to plant a haskap hedge around a new section of in-ground garden beds. This'll eventually act as a fence to keep the dog out, but I'll need some kind of temporary barricade this year until the bushes have grown out enough. My dog is a bit of a wimp, so I think a string line set up between a few stakes will probably be enough to keep her away.

I've measured out where I'd like everything to go and will double dig the beds this month as I run out of space in the already established garden.

Finally, I also did some carpentry work and finished building my composters. They are two pretty simple bays - rustic maybe - made from repurposed pallets. The front has slots that I can add boards to as I need them, to keep the compost pile contained as it gets bigger. I made myself two bays so that, as I fill up one, I can start a fresh pile in the other, giving time for the first compost pile to decompose. There's probably room for a third if I need it as well, but I was going to wait and see.

Compost bays made of repurposed pallets.
Finished compost bays made from repurposed pallets. One bay will hold the active compost pile until full, then I can start a new pile next to it as it finishes. 

The other thing I worked on was a drying station inside my garage so I can easily dry all the leafy greens and root crops I'll be harvesting. It's a metal screen attached to the wall, which I can fold up or down as I need it. I might invest in a box fan at some point as well. It will sit over the screen blowing air towards the floor just to speed up the drying process.

Next month should be really busy and exciting in the garden! I have a lot planned and there's sure to be a lot more growing than currently. Check back later for another garden update or for one of the gardening articles about whatever I'm working on, that I'll be posting sporadically.

Even better, consider subscribing to get any articles I publish delivered directly to your email inbox! Have questions or comments to share? Get in touch here!