Vegetable Gardening

I have been meaning to write on vegetable gardening for sometime. This is a story that has sat on the back-burner for far too long; as I like to keep a laundry list of potential story ideas it kept getting pushed down the list, that is until this morning.  While I was scrolling through my disorganized hard-drive looking for another article that I am working on for this blog, I stumbled upon this planting guide, that I put together a few years ago for a class project and presentation in an Environmental Studies class that I was enrolled in at the University of Victoria.

While this guide is being posted late in the summer growing season, this list of planting suggestions is something to re-consider next spring. Or alternatively you can even use some of the suggestions in this story for planting your winter vegetable varieties this month or in early August, depending upon your planting schedule. Right about now, is the ideal time to start planting many winter vegetables seed varieties as it will allow for a full maturation period, so that you can harvest your vegetables come: November, December and or in January. I hope this list of planting tips helps you out whether you are a seasoned green thumb or a newbie.

But before we get growing [pun-tastic!]. I want to recommend purchasing your seeds from a company called  West Coast Seeds . Located in Delta and Ladner BC, this companies seeds are stocked at most garden nurseries throughout the BC Lower Mainland and within the Capital Regional District [CRD] as well,  here on southern Vancouver Island where I live. GardenWorks Garden Centres usually carry West Coast  seeds as does another great CRD based gardening chain called Dig This . Both gardening stores have expert staff members that are both approachable and full of great gardening tips and advice when asked.

Back to West Coast Seeds though, this local company has been producing an excellent and varied array  of vegetable seeds for many years in British Columbia. So sought after and well-respected are these seeds, that they are often the seed of choice for many local and organic vegetable farmers. In fact, the next time you visit your local farmers market [ if you live in and around British Columbia] I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, if when asked, your favorite farmer happily informs you, that he or she orders the majority of their annual seed stock from this reputable BC company.

Also for beginner gardeners, who don’t know the difference between a cucumber and a squash seed [as I did three years ago] this company goes out of its way to make planting vegetables an easy and manageable undertaking. Detailed planting instructions are located on the reverse side of each seed packet. West Coast Seeds  also publishes and distributes its annual seed catalogue free to most of the garden stores that carry their products. So next time you visit your local nursery, ask the sales associate at the front counter for your free copy of this catalogue. This seed catalogue includes lots of innovative planting tips, information on soil chemistry and plant physiology as well as a supplemental seasonal planting chart, located towards the front of the catalogue index.  This well be of great use to yourself when you go to plant the following vegetables in your backyard or community garden plot.

1. Calendula – Direct seed this variety of seed into the ground in either March or April. But because it was such a late planting season on the west coast this year, due to the long bought of cold weather and rain, it would have been best to have waited the rain out and planted these seeds towards the end of April when the month long deluge started to abate.

Calendula: Also referred to as Pot Marigold or a Garden Marigold at garden nurseries. This is a misnomer according to Planet Botanic as there are two different varieties that can be wrongly lumped together under this common name. The strain of Calendula that has inherit medicinal properties, known for healing skin wounds is the variety known as Calendula officinalis.

2.Dukat Dill- Start seeds indoors and then transplant outdoors after threat of frost is over.

Dukat Dill: Terrior Seeds claims that this variety of dill is: " the sweetest dill of all." Also of benefice to your garden is the fact, that this sub-species of dill attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs and other pollinators like bees.

3. Borage- You can direct seed borage into the ground in mid-spring. But, again if you live on the wet coast, you would have had to use your best judgement in this regard in this most recent growing season. Never hurts to have the most recent addition of the Farmers Almanac on hand either and before you know it you’ll become a walking barometer. Or alternatively as I have found out, through past gardening experiences that it is an invaluable experience, to speak with an ‘old-timer’ about when it is the best time to plant a type of vegetable seed that you are unsure about. If you are a twenty or thirty something, senior citizens will be more than likely willing to share a lifetimes’ worth of planting knowledge with yourself.  Realize that when you become a vegetable gardener, you represent the next generation of vegetable gardeners and therefore it becomes your inherit duty to share this body of knowledge with future generations of gardeners, forty or fifty years down the line.

Borage: This is a great companion plant and it is also a great garnish to be used in salads and other dishes according to the Encyclopedia of Spices.

4. Lavender-  Be ready to plant lavender 10-12 weeks before the last frost inside as seed starts or sow alternatively, you can wait out the cold whether and plant Lavender outdoors in the late summer.  As to how, to best use Lavender, you have many options.  My favorite however, is the way in which my friend Miranda uses bunches of dried lavender as a natural fragrance inside of her bathroom. Miranda hangs one or two bushels of dried Lavender upside down to act as a natural odor eater. Not only will you come out of the bathroom smelling like spring you will also smell, about a million times better than Frebreze. 

5. Italian Parsley- Start this plant inside or in alternatively outdoors in a cold frame and then get your soil ready, so that you can transfer your seed starts into the soil outside after the danger of the last frost has disappeared in your bio-geoclimatic region.

Italian Parsley: Not only does this plant make a great garnish but it is also an excellent source of Vitamin A.

6. Basil:  Start these seeds outdoors in early April.

Basil: WH Foods explains that basil has amazing anti-fungal properties. Who knew? In addition to making a rad pesto sauce for your next pasta dish, this tasty herb is bursting with Vitamin K, which prior to this post, I didn't even know existed!

My Ideal Companion Planting Scenario (based on careful research and a little bit of passed planting experiences)

Broad Beans- Can be planted outdoors in either February/March/April depending on the whether.

Broad Beans: This vegetable requires a trellis or similar structure to facilitate vertical growth. Click on the hyperlink above to find design schematics. Or if you are particularly adventurous in your gardening, try incorporating broad beans into a Three Sisters Garden

COMPANION plant with either: carrots, celery,chard(s),corn,eggplant,peas,potatoes

CABBAGE- Slugs will either make or break your cabbage crop this summer.  To keep these slippery suckers at bay, simply take a jar lid from any pasta or jam jar and fill it up with beer. I usually save the backwash at the end of my beer for this purpose, then place a few of this lids with beer in between your cabbage plants. I have also used eggs shells as well, to deter slugs. This unfortunately has not worked as well as the beer lids, in your garden however, you can try a combination of both. Sprinkle egg shells around the perimeter of your cabbage plants.

Cabbage: In my experience, these guys/gals are huge nutrient feeders and as such will likely require a lot of compost enriched soil to thrive in as well as direct sunshine to grow strong and tall.

COMPANION plant with either: celery, dill, onions & potatoes

Broccoli- Start these seeds inside a greenhouse or alternatively in a  cold frames in either February or March, here on the West Coast and then be ready to  transplant these starts outside in April depending upon the weather. A word to the wise however, avoid transplanting broccoli in the heat, the heat triggers a bolting impulse within these young plants, they begin to go to seed if it is too hot outside which means you will be unable to harvest any lush heads of broccoli. This is why it is vitally important to transplant these little seedlings outside into a shady location, here on the west coast in early to mid-April when the ambient temperature outdoors is still relatively mild.

Broccoli: Requires a lot space between rows and within rows, to facilitate proper growth. Consult your local gardening store for more information on this prior to planting these seeds.

Carrots- (Plant dill away from the carrots) plant these seeds directly outside in April. Ensure that you continual thin out your carrots after a few weeks of growth.  Failure to do so will result in gnarly bunches of carrots being harvested later-on. Stunted growth also indicates improper soil PH balance. Carrots love and thrive in sandy-soils.

Carrots- require full sun to grow

COMPANION plant with either: radish, onion, rosemary & tomatoes also CHIVES improve the growth and flavour of carrots

Peas- They fix nitrogen in the soil and also require a trellis structure to grow on.

Peas: When affixed to a trellis, it is not uncommon for them to grow up to 4-5' in vertical height depending on quality of humus enriched soil and access to sunlight and water.

COMPANION plant with either: carrots, celery, parsley, potatoes, radish and spinach. DO NOT plant peas with onions or rosemary.

NOTE: Alyssum deters aphids, draws in bees to pollinate blooming fruit trees  and Mexican Marigolds deter rabbits.  This type of marigold should be planted around the perimeter of the garden.

Happy gardening everyone.  Hope to have a story on composting up within the next few days, which will make a great addendum to this story. So until then, may you continue to tread lightly amongst your rows of vibrant and lush vegetables.

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6 thoughts on “Vegetable Gardening

  1. Really informative post. I’m going to try planting broccoli this season. I’ve heard it’s relatively easy to grow and can handle the cooler weather. I’ve been wanting to try napa cabbage as well. Any tips on growing napa cabbage? I love the taste of it but I’m a little worried about the pests with cabbage.

    • Well it depends upon which region your are living in. Coastal growing areas are different from inland growing areas and also dependent upon the climatic variation/weather. I am not familiar with the napa variety but the one insect you need to watch out for are aphids, they love cabbage. To deter against aphids seek out ways to find and buy ladybugs, ladybugs prey upon aphids and should solve your potential problems LED Guy. Also one last tip, cabbage is a member of the brassica family and as I was taught by expert gardening friend Miranda, never plant brassicas [brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage & brussel spouts) in the same location. Also I should add slugs will likely attack your cabbage- to guard against them place three-four jam jar lids around the perimeter of of your cabbage row. Fill the lids with beer and this will stop the slug invasion, they slink into the beer and die.

  2. Would like to know if anyone has had the same misfortune as me: I bought a cubic meter of “supreme blend” soil from Trio gravel mart, and roto tilled it into my vegetable garden. To my surprise, most seeds did not germinate, and those that did were severely stunted. Upon reading articles on the net, the compost they used possibly contains corn gluten (a pre-emergent herbicide). I did a side by side test on soils with and without the supreme blend, and my suspicians were correct. The management at Trio refuses to disclose to vegetable gardeners about the toxicity of their soil on seedlings. I have photos of last years and this years test plots if you are interested. I believe this situation needs a course of action. I would appreciate a reply, best regards, Kent Card. Ph 658-5433.

  3. Hi folks:
    I have been researching vegetable greenhouses on the Island and came across this site. I would like to visit your facility and discuss what we are lead to believe as being the best growing light in existence. – Induction.
    Kindly get back to me at your convenience. I hope to be making one trip earl next week
    Cam Kerr
    CNJ Lighting Solutions
    604-916-5541

  4. This is not a reply to Kent Card’s question, as I don’t know how to get into the right category. My only question is how do I print this excellent article. This uses a pc with an HP printer.

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