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.
2.Dukat Dill– Start seeds indoors and then transplant outdoors after threat of frost is over.
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.
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.
6. Basil: Start these seeds outdoors in early April.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.