Spring on their minds – Winnipeg Free Press

spring-on-their-minds-–-winnipeg-free-press

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We may not be able to predict what life will look like next year, but for many gardeners who are planning their spring garden, 2022 is an opportunity to grow better and grow more. The arrival of seed catalogues in mailboxes fuels our desire to garden and sparks action to place seed orders early while supplies last. But with a global paper shortage, that seed catalogue you are eagerly awaiting may not be arriving any time soon.

We may not be able to predict what life will look like next year, but for many gardeners who are planning their spring garden, 2022 is an opportunity to grow better and grow more. The arrival of seed catalogues in mailboxes fuels our desire to garden and sparks action to place seed orders early while supplies last. But with a global paper shortage, that seed catalogue you are eagerly awaiting may not be arriving any time soon.

T&T Seeds, a Winnipeg-based mail-order business since 1946, typically mails its annual catalogue to customers by the end of November. “We’ve had so many requests,” says Chitra Paliwal, director of sales and marketing for T&T Seeds, which is located at 7724 Roblin Blvd. “People are patiently waiting — they really want to have that physical copy in their hands.”

T&T Seeds photoSriracha sauce, anyone? Sriracha jalapeno peppers are great for growing in veggie gardens and patio planters.

With no word yet on when the 85,000 copies of the 77th edition of its popular mail-order catalogue will be ready to send out to customers, T&T is shifting its strategy. A digital flipbook has recently been posted online, says Paliwal, and T&T is planning to send a postcard with a QR code to a targeted number of its customers. Simply scan the QR code with your device camera and link directly to the new catalogue online.

With more people interested in gardening as well as in growing their own food year-round, Paliwal says T&T Seeds expects to ship approximately 500,000 seed packets. Unprecedented demand for seeds combined with localized shortages due to shipping delays or in some cases, environmental stresses, left many suppliers struggling to keep up in the past couple of years. “There were definitely lessons learned from our 2021 experience,” says Paliwal, who is a graduate of the Asper School of Business. “We worked all summer projecting and securing supplies for 2022 deliveries.”

Securing product early has enabled T&T Seeds to get an early start on production, so seeds are packed and ready to go, says Kim Howard, the company’s retail manager. The past two years have also seen soaring demand by customers for fruit trees and small fruits, she says, as well as for native plants and more sustainable gardening products.

T&T Seeds photoTrader Mulberry tree is extremely long-lived and produces delicious fruit.

Consumers are paying more attention to how they can improve the health of their garden soil, says Howard. Sheep wool pellets from Dark River Farms in Alberta are a fantastic new product, she says. Why sheep wool pellets? A natural alternative to chemical fertilizers, wool pellets contain essential nutrients to promote healthy root development. “It is a slow-release fertilizer, so it won’t burn your plants,” says Howard. The pellets can be used to increase soil porosity and maintain soil moisture. “Wool holds three times the amount of water. If you overwater, it will also wick the water away.” In spring, sprinkle the pellets onto the soil surface of your garden bed or raised bed and gently work them into the top two to three inches of soil. It is recommended to water the pellets well, so they swell up in size. A two-litre bag will cover 40 square feet. The pellets can also be added to pots and hanging baskets as a mulch and soil additive. Wool pellets are also a natural slug deterrent. Sprinkle the pellets around your plants to create a protective barrier.

ReWild Spring Fling cover crop blend for gardens is another new regenerative product for 2022. Founded by a group of regenerative farmers and soil health advocates from Manitoba, ReWild Garden Seed officially launched in Crystal City in spring 2021 and is owned by Covers & Co., an agricultural seed company. Also known as a green manure, Spring Fling is an all-natural seed blend that contains a mix of 15 plant species including nitrogen-fixing legumes that are designed to feed the soil, restore nutrients and reduce weeds. It helps to sequester carbon and offers valuable food for
beneficial pollinators.

Wait until the soil warms up in spring, then scatter the seeds according to directions. Cover lightly with soil and water. Approximately 45 days from seeding, the fun begins. Mimic a roaming herd of herbivores by stomping the cover crop down. Let the vegetation grow a little more, says Howard, stomp again if needed, then dig it into your soil. By creating and maintaining natural organic matter, you will have healthier soil.

T&T Seeds photoAn heirloom variety, Red Noodle pole beans retain their red colour even after cooking.

T&T is offering several new seed varieties. More people are incorporating vegetables into their flowerbeds, says Howard. Two distinctively new and colourful seed varieties include Red Noodle pole bean and Sriracha jalapeno pepper. Red noodle pole bean seed produces long clusters of deep red beans. “They are a vining bean,” says Howard, “and stay red in colour even after you cook them.” An heirloom variety, they produce all summer long. Thinking of making your own Sriracha sauce next year? Sriracha jalapeno peppers start out green and turn red. The peppers have a good shelf life and are suitable for growing in patio containers in a full sun location.

“We have some wonderful new metal row markers,” says Howard. Powder-coated and laser-cut, the garden stakes are more durable than wood and come in two different sizes. Choose from up to 14 different plant names. The markers are made locally by Milkhouse Industries in Carman. “We’re really trying to get a lot more local vendors involved with T&T Seeds,” says Howard.

Trading lawns for rewilding with flowers and native grasses that attract more pollinators has become a significant trend. If we’re not actually replacing our manicured lawns, we’re thinking about it. “People are looking for more ways to help nature,” says Howard. T&T is offering more perennial seed mixes including blends that attract butterflies as well as seed blends that are deer-resistant. Blues Brothers flower seed mix consists of nine different blue-coloured flowers including Nigella love-in-a-mist and Morning Glory that bloom in the first year. Flower seed mixes take the guesswork out of deciding which plants to choose for flower beds and patio containers, says Howard.

T&T Seeds photoAn intriguing cut flower variety, Lemon Drop Spilanthes is also known as the toothache plant.

There are also intriguing new cut flower varieties such as Lemon Drop Spilanthes, also known as the toothache plant for its analgesic properties.

Native grasses provide habitat for many kinds of beneficial insects and were so hot in 2021, says Howard, that varieties such as Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem and Prairie Dropseed sold out immediately. T&T sells these as bare root plants that are wrapped in cedar shavings.

If you want to grow fruit in your garden, Paliwal and Howard recommend purchasing your bare root plants now. Your order will be shipped in spring. Every fruit variety, especially cherries, sold out as soon as it was available, says Howard. The Trader Mulberry tree is an entirely new fruit species that T&T will offer in 2022 for the first time. Trader Mulberry was named for the Trader family whose members planted the original tree around 1892 at their farmstead in southeast North Dakota. The original tree still stands today. Cold-hardy, Trader Mulberry has good resistance to damage from the spotted-wing Drosophila fly.

Bare root trees and shrubs are sold at a fraction of the cost of a containerized plant. Each purchase is accompanied with instructions for growing, says Paliwal.

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