By Jane Kivett
We have started the growing season with frequent rains, but the temperatures have remained fairly mild.
No amount of rain will deter a determined gardener!
Pruning can be done, planting new trees and shrubs if the soil isn’t too saturated, splitting overgrown perennials and preparing pots for annuals.
Vegetables, perennials and annuals that need an early start should be started indoors in March.
Vegetables to plant in the garden in late March or early April are garlic, potatoes, broad beans, peas, onions, swiss chard, radishes, lettuce, cabbage family and spinach.
We usually wait until the night time temperatures are at least above 10 C when the soil is warmer.
We have started tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, brassica (red and green cabbage and kohlrabi) all under grow lights in the house.
When buying seeds or commercially grown starter veggies, especially tomatoes, be sure to look at the ‘date of maturity,’ which means the approximate date the first fruit is ripe and ready to pick.
For example, we grow ‘celebrity’ tomatoes which mature in approximately 70 days, but longer season tomatoes can take up to 80-85 days.
If wondering when to plant all the garden seeds, ‘West Coast Seed Catalogue’ has a detailed guide for planting dates particular to our area of the Lower Mainland.
The catalogue is free and can be found at greenhouses or ordered by calling 1-888-804-8820.
Questions and Answers
We have downsized to a much smaller house and lot. How can we grow vegetables in pots on our patio?
Downsizing is becoming a popular occurrence due to many circumstances, therefore commercial seed growers are meeting that demand by developing plants for smaller spaces. They will be compact, have less foliage, but still produce a generous amount of flowers and/or vegetables. Most vegetables will grow in pots, but those that have been developed for small spaces, such as ‘bush’ or ‘patio-pick’ in the description are meant for space saving. Supplies that are required: a large clean three to four gallon plastic pot with drainage holes, a drainage dish, fabric such as dryer sheets, remay cloth or landscape fabric to line the bottom, a balanced potting soil, fertilizer and a staking device like a tomato cage. If using commercial potting soil it may need to be amended with compost to provide micro-nutrients and microorganisms which increases root absorption of available food. The three numbers listed on commercial fertilizer (N-P-K) stand for the ratio of Nitrogen-Potassium-Potash in the container. All of these nutrients are needed for healthy plant growth, but for good fruit production, larger amounts of potassium and potash are required. Fertilizing every one to two weeks is a recommended schedule, especially for tomatoes which are heavy feeders. If watering is more frequent due to hot dry weather then fertilizing should be increased. We fill the drainage trays with water during the hot weather so extra water is available if we’re away for the day. Automatic watering can also be installed to save on time and keep plants from drying out.
Do I need to deep till the garden every year?
The annual rite of tilling has been done in the past to aerate, chop and kill weeds, mix in organic matter and fertilizers. Plus, there is that psychological feeling of preparing a clean slate for the start of another growing year. Tilling weeds under does destroy them, but at the same time buried weed seeds that have laid dormant for years are brought to the surface. Now they have light and more air to awaken them just as though they had been sown. Of course, early hoeing and pulling the weeds prevents any seeds from forming. Compost can be mixed in the top six inches of soil without deep tilling which is where most of the feeder roots will be. Fertilizer can be spread on the surface. If garden soil is high in clay content it will naturally compact. In that case, a deeper tilling in of amendments is necessary. Raised beds filled with a lighter soil could be another way to garden with no tilling. If a green ‘cover crop’ has been grown in the winter to add nutrients to the soil, it will also need to be tilled in. With any garden job, we have to ask ourselves, “Why are we doing it?” Is it because we always have?
Every spring I purchase primula at the grocery store and would like to know how to grow them on to another year.
These harbingers of spring are hard to resist when the days are rainy and we thirst for colour. The colourful plastic sleeves used for display purposes should be removed so the roots aren’t sitting in water. They have been grown in a cool greenhouse, so to prolong their life place them in a cool area of the home or even better in an outside display. Keep them evenly moist, remove spent flowers, and feed with an ultra-bloom type fertilizer every two weeks. When they finish flowering plant them in a garden bed that has good drainage and enjoy them again next spring. Slugs and snails seem to think they are a spring appetizer before the entrée of hostas, so I do throw slug bait, ferrous phosphate, around them early in the season.
• Gardening questions can be sent to “Green Thumb” at firstname.lastname@example.org