The Tried & True...plus the New!
Choosing your 2014 Garden
Every December it was my Dad’s pride and joy to have his own Lettuce and Tomatoes from his little greenhouse for Christmas Dinner! He faithfully tended a little Coleman oil stove in his very small, maybe 12 foot by 8ft glasshouse, during frosty or snowy Brentwood Bay winter days. I don’t remember the Lettuce varieties but he swore by English Moneymaker tomatoes and one called “Shirley” which was his wife’s name, my mother’s name. Every Spring I still sow my Moneymaker tomatoes with him in mind. Partially for childhood sentimental reasons, partially for performance. And now March is upon us; you will be making your seed or garden choices as well…how will you choose?
There is fashion in the plant world too and *NEW*, *NEW*, *NEW* to tempt you; you need look no further than the glossy seed catalogues, next the seductive Nursery displays…very soon! My first recommendation? Choose 80% “Tried & True” and 20% the glamorous “New-you” for overall success! Aim for 100% enjoyment first: win or fail.
Seedy Saturdays are a great venue for “Tried & True” with the current trend to save heirloom seed as close as your neighbourhood AND to share them. Garden columns by local growers and well experienced garden club members are great guides, as well as educated staff at real garden centers. They all aim for your success from theirs. West Coast Seeds complimentary catalogue is almost a Veggie encyclopedia with all their growing tips between their seed sales…
Getting your hands in the dirt next makes you your own expert by doing! Even your failures or “oopsies” start your own encyclopedia for experience and ultimately, success. Nothing tastes sweeter than your own cantaloupe, still warm with the August sun: true story from my garden last year~ it was such a thrill! Debbie Littler shared her “Tried & True” of planting through black plastic and it works! (Dear Mother Nature: Please send another year of a hot August to help.)
Do choose something *New*. Last year I also tried Watermelons. I got one teaspoon per “golf ball”! Instead I will try a green Honeydew Melon as its needs closer to my successful Cantaloupes “Halona” and “Earli Champ”…
Oh, by the way trend wise, Cauliflower is the new Kale! (Though newly introduced “Rainbow Lacinato” Kale is outstanding, and still standing) Over the last few years of articles on “Rainbow” coloured veggies; I have tried Purple, Italian green-domed and all sorts of white Cauliflower. (Sorry those yellow ones just didn’t appeal to me…)Two summers ago, I “grew” pink Cauliflower? Oops, it was still edible but sunburned “white”…I now choose Cauliflowers that are “self-wrapping”, meaning the growing folding leaves protect the developing white heads from too much sun. Try open pollinated “Amazing”.
All Brassicas; meaning any Cauliflower, Kale, Broccoli and Cabbages love a sweet soil. My sharing: add one cup, yes a full cup, of Dolomite Lime in each planting hole. This works even if your garden patch has previously suffered from a common brassica disease, “Clubfoot”. My Brussels Sprouts this year amazing! I am still eating them~ look for the variety called “Gustus” from West Coast seeds.
For those with limited gardening space; choose varieties that have descriptors of “bush”, “dwarf” or “container” that will take less growing space. Sow carrots, onions, even leeks and start “thinning” and eating them while they are half grown, allowing those left to mature to a normal harvesting size. “Winter” Leeks are silky tender in September, you don’t have to wait until December! (I have 5 Leeks left of WC Seeds “Bandit” in the frozen ground now awaiting the soup pot.) Graze and re-sow “quick veggies like Radishes, Spinach and small Butter Lettuce throughout April to August.
Mix your Herbs into corners of your box beds, like Basil in your Tomato pots, making sure you stagger the spacing so everyone gets enough elbow room. Add in your edible flower varieties too like Calendula, Viola, Borage, and Nasturtium; try Dianthus as well for happy bees and sweet smelling and tasting bouquets.
As you wait for your soil to warm up: for anything, even weeding…it is minus 5 as I write and mid-day…plan your soil amendments, choose your fertilizer and plan your garden on paper especially if you are rotating veggies. If you cannot rotate your garden spot, it makes it even more important to enrich your same site soil. Every few years add minerals by broadcasting granite dust or greensand. You will be amazed as your “greens”, especially Sir Basil, and Their vigor is Your health from eating them!
Veggies, Herbs…Flowers next! And No, they do not have to be restricted to only edibles. Your garden should be a balance of pleasures. What gives you joy? What do you have to work with? That can be time and money as well… Choose a project: Teas perhaps. What do you need to seed or plant, to harvest, to blend to make that this season’s goal? You work backwards for what you want to where you start. Plant some “FUN”!
Spring will be here so so soon, plus all your complaints of what you want to do in the garden and not having enough hours again! Be kind to yourself and remember to enjoy your gardening choices. Choose a glass of your favourite wine, your favourite trowel…plus a new choice plant for your patio simply for looks and pleasure. Now garden!
Originally published in the March 2014 edition of the Metchosin Muse