By Brandi Cowen
The gardening season got off to a slow start in my little corner of
southern Ontario this year. A few eager green thumbs got busy planting
in early April, only to watch their fledgling gardens fall victim to an
ice storm a few weeks later.
The gardening season got off to a slow start in my little corner of southern Ontario this year. A few eager green thumbs got busy planting in early April, only to watch their fledgling gardens fall victim to an ice storm a few weeks later. Fast-forward to the days leading up to the Victoria Day weekend, when more cautious gardeners in my neighbourhood scrambled to protect their plants from overnight frost. Is it any wonder I opted to postpone a garden-shopping spree until June?
Wacky weather is a fact of life these days. We don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it and help customers learn to do the same. The first step is to launch a re-education campaign. There’s a lot of lore out there, especially online. Internet forums abound with assurances that the May long weekend is always the perfect time to plant. Sometimes it is, but I suspect the folks in Gander, Nfld., who spent the holiday digging out from under 58 centimetres of snow, needed to rest up a bit before picking up their garden tools. Unless we give casual gardeners another easy source to turn to, expect them to be led astray by “common wisdom.”
Build your reputation as the local expert by monitoring your area’s weather and using your website, e-newsletter and social media accounts to let your community know when to plant. Throughout the year, be sure to keep your ears open for forecasts about unusually warm, cool, wet, dry or windy weather. Your marketing efforts should recommend plants that thrive in your area’s particular conditions and offer tips to keep plants happy and healthy.
If your area is in danger of an unusually late spring or early fall frost, tell your customers a few days ahead of time and teach them how to protect their plants. Your local media will likely cover all this the day before the weather turns, but customers will appreciate having a little more lead time to prepare. Getting in gear to protect plants from a mid-week frost may involve a minor logistical miracle, fitting a trip to the garden centre in between work, routine household chores and kids’ activities. You’ll be a hero if you can let a busy working family know early in the week that someone needs to swing by the garden centre on their lunch break to pick up supplies before Thursday night’s frost.
If the weather has intimidated me, a gardener with a large network of knowledgeable plant professionals from coast to coast, imagine how daunting it must be for a first-timer thinking about getting into the garden? If your garden centre can offer the information casual gardeners need to tackle whatever Mother Nature throws at them, you’ll become their go-to destination for all their gardening needs.