There is much that newcomers to the prairie learn to contend with, not the least of which is our continental climate and short growing season. For gardeners new to the region, and for longtime residents who are seasoned sowers, there is always much to learn. 

That was the premise of Gardening 101, organized by the Humboldt Regional Newcomer Centre and hosted by Humboldt’s Misty Gardens. Jaylord Tanora provided the introductions. Owner of Misty Gardens, Paul Kneeshaw, has a Masters in Agriculture Sciences and has been a wealth of knowledge for local growers over his 21 tenure at the greenhouse. Kneeshaw took the two dozen participants through the lockstep processes of our short growing season, through to key pest mitigation methods and optimum time for harvest. 

Participants learned about the 2b climate zone for Humboldt and what that means for the start of the growing season.

“We’ve lived in Humboldt for 20 years, and there is always a spring frost after the 21st of May, 20 years out of 20,” cautioned Kneeshaw. “You can count on it. It gives us an 85 day growing season, so what that means for everybody here is you’ve got to be ready to go when we hit the May long weekend.”

Kneeshaw explained that nursery plants are often used to get a head start on the growing season, but they need to be hardened for a few days before planting them outdoors. They need to be repeatedly placed outside in containers and taken inside to build some resistance to the relative cold. 

Kneeshaw and co-worker Annette Carter took the growers through the various vegetable crops that are cultivated in our climate. The tutorial included root and leafy vegetables, tomatoes, peppers and other crops. They also addressed issues like blossom end rot and cracking, which is a result of inconsistent water supply. 

For prairie gardeners, it's all about timing, says Kneeshaw. 

“I worked with a farmer who was growing wheat and barley, and he said ‘if you start even with Mother Nature, you’re too late,’” Kneeshaw said. “That’s a rule of thumb, and it may be kind of pessimistic, but that’s the message I want to get out. You need to plant when it’s time to plant.”

The session wrapped up with questions and answers where many workshop attendees asked about specific challenges they had encountered. Everyone had a chance to tour the extensive greenhouse offerings and get into the spirit of another long anticipated spring and summer in the garden.