Time, Thyme and more Time

   

As a newcomer to the lower mainland (and new to BC for that matter) I’m a rookie when it comes to growing things in zone 8. I’ve nurtured plants in zone 3 for forty-plus years but I’ve never lived anywhere but the Canadian prairies*.

It’s a whole different ballgame, so to speak. Plants thrive here in the warmth and humidity. They get several more months to grow and produce, whether flowers, seeds, herbs or fruit. 

On the prairies timing is everything; you have to have your seeds in the dirt and under artificial light in March or you won’t have seedlings ready to plant out in May. If you transplant too early you can loose your tomatoes to frost, if you wait too long you may lose them in the fall before they’re at full production. It’s a risky business and every gardener has lost the gamble at one time or another.

Here in White Rock things are more flexible. The season is twice as long and that allows for some leeway in choosing what to plant and when safely expose it to the elements. Instead of choosing only seeds with a short “days to maturity” time, I can choose virtually any seeds. ANY SEEDS. 

It’s no wonder the local farms are already selling freshly harvested carrots, tomatoes and baby potatoes at the market. The variety of local produce already available is staggering: strawberries, raspberries, greens, peppers, garlic, basil to name a few. 

Even my own peppers and tomato plants are flowering on my balcony, something I’d be waiting another month or two to experience back in Edmonton. It’s a whole new adventure, and I think I’m going to be able to adjust just fine. <grin>

  
*Ok, I did live for four years in southwestern Ontario in my early twenties, but I’ve tried to wash those memories from my brain.

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Early start to the veggie garden for 2013

image This spring has been very unusual here in my zone 3 yard. During the last week of April we were inundated with snow and cold – ok maybe that’s not terribly unusual for Alberta. But on May 6th we set a new record high of 31C (that’s 88F my American friends). I brought out all of my seedlings to acclimate them and its too darn hot! I have to protect them in the shade for crying out loud. That’s just not normal.

image

The forecast says that the risk of frost in the next week is minimal, and Edmonton’s average last day of frost is May 12th, so I should be home free, right? Well, as much as I’d like to believe that I think I’ll wait another week before I transfer my seedlings to soil.

But the weather has been perfect for sowing my vegetable garden. Here’s what’s going in the dirt this week:

  • Corn: Fleet Bi-Color Hybrid
  • Squash: Spaghetti
  • Sunflower: Ruby
  • Zucchini: Raven
  • Spinach: Regal
  • Swiss Chard: Lucullus
  • Peas: Progress #9
  • Lettuce: Esmeralda
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Carrots: Touchon
  • Carrots: Scarlet Nantes
  • Beet: Chioggia
  • Bean: TendergreenBush
  • Potatoes: Kennebec
  • Onion Set: White
  • Onion Set: Red

As far as seedlings go I’ve sown:

  • Tomato: Black from Tula
  • Tomato: Tumbler
  • Tomato: Mamma Mia
  • Pepper: Serano del Sol
  • Onion: Spanish Candy Hybrid
  • Cucumber: Spacemaster
  • Eggplant: Hansel
Seedlings in waiting

Seedlings in waiting

I have some winter lettuce that will be ready to eat long before the head lettuces. I think I’ll plant a second type of cucumber as well. My chives, lavender, mint and oregano have all returned and I have ample garlic coming up in more than one place. I’ve got parsley and cilantro seedlings started and I’ve bought some basil, thyme, rosemary and sage bedding plants.

Yippee! It’s spring!

Sowing Salad Greens in Planters

 

Mesclun mix

This morning the sun was shining brilliantly on my south-facing patio and it felt like spring had finally arrived in my zone 3 Edmonton backyard. Because we’ve had so much snow this winter, it’s taking forever for the grass to appear and the garden to make it’s way to the surface.

But today was warm, bright and sunny, chasing away the cold weather blues that have engulfed our prairie city for so many months. It seemed like the perfect day to sow the first of my outdoor seeds – the greens.

I don’t like to refer to my greens as “lettuce” because I plant so much more than that. My mesclun mix is a combination of lettuce, arugala, endive, mustard greens, radicchio and who-knows-what else. The oriental greens mix has gai lan, pac choi, mizuna, red leaf mustard, tokyo bekana, spinach mustard and toy choi. I don’t even know what half of those are!

I began by removing a significant amount of last year’s soil from two large planters I use for my salad greens, leaving about six inches in the bottom and topping up with fresh sterile starter mix. I do this so that I don’t have any random seeds in my mixed greens – I don’t want any poisonous plants growing among my yummy salad leafs. I wouldn’t know which were safe and which weren’t.

After I moistened the soil, I spread a small handful (about a teaspoon) of seed evenly over the surface and lightly pressed them in. I placed a brick under the back of each planter so they would tilt slightly to the sun, encouraging as much heat and light as possible on these early spring days.

Finally, I covered one of the planters with a specially designed wire mesh which I built last year to protect my seeds and shoots from the birds. The local sparrows were watching me closely as I covered their favorite open-concept dining room, and they were not amused.

In a week to ten days I’ll have my first few sprouts and within a month I’ll be eating fresh greens plucked from just outside my back door. By reseeding every two weeks I can have baby greens all summer long.