Cultivating Spring

Starting your own bedding plants

As the winter frost retreats, we know that another Saskatchewan spring is around the corner. Whether you’re new to gardening or have a green thumb, starting your own bedding plants can be both fun and rewarding. This spring, try it out and see what you can grow long before the last frost and enjoy all summer long.

Pick the right plants
The first step in the journey of cultivating bedding plants is selecting the right seeds. Because our growing season is relatively short, opt for seeds that are well-suited to our climate. 

You can start many seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost date, which typically occurs in late May or early June. This allows your bedding plants to reach a sufficient size for transplanting outdoors once the risk of frost has passed. The Old Farmer’s Almanac online is an excellent resource for learning what to start when. Your local garden centre can also provide plenty of guidance, and so can the seed packets themselves.

For beginners, try starting peppers in mid to late March, tomatoes in late March or early April, spinach, cauliflower and lettuce in mid to late April, and melons and squashes in late April to early May. For flowers, try alyssum, geranium, hollyhock, lobelia, marigold and nasturtium as bedding plants to start indoors from late March to early May. 

Create the right environment
To nurture your seeds into healthy seedlings, provide them with the ideal indoor environment. Use seed-starting trays or pots filled with a well-draining seed-starting mix. Position the trays in a sunny spot or under artificial lights to ensure adequate warmth and light for germination.

Warm it up
Saskatchewan's spring temperatures can be unpredictable, so it's crucial to pay attention to the temperature needs of your seedlings. Maintain a consistent indoor temperature between 60-75°F (15-24°C) for optimal germination and early growth. Consider using a heating mat to provide bottom warmth if your indoor space tends to be on the cooler side.

Tender loving care
Once your seedlings have developed sturdy roots and true leaves, it's time to transplant them into larger containers or directly into your outdoor garden. Harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over the course of a week. Choose a cloudy day or late afternoon for transplanting to reduce stress on the plants.

A good home
Before transplanting your bedding plants, prepare the soil by incorporating organic matter and, if necessary, amending the pH with lime. Well-draining soil is also essential for preventing waterlogged roots.

Watch for frost
Even after the last expected frost date, Saskatchewan gardens can occasionally experience late frosts. Be prepared to protect your tender bedding plants by covering them with blankets or sheets overnight. This precaution can save your plants from potential damage and ensure a robust start to the growing season.

Water, water everywhere
Proper watering is critical for the success of your bedding plants. Water consistently, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the plants helps retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

Love the locals
Consider incorporating native plants into your bedding displays. Native plants are well-adapted to the local climate and often require less maintenance. They can attract local pollinators and contribute to the overall biodiversity of your garden. 

Enjoy the fruits of your labour
As spring turns to summer, and your bedding plants burst into bloom, take a moment to revel in the beauty and fragrance of your garden. Whether it's the vibrant flowers or the homegrown vegetables, the joy of starting your own bedding plants is a rewarding, hands-on gardening experience.