MINTER: Warmth will help you grow vegetables
Once again, with cold spring weather persisting into June, it has been a year of challenges for our food gardens.
The good news is there’s still lots of time to get our veggies and fruits planted. Remember, the whole idea of food gardening is to enjoy the wholesomeness and wonderful flavour of your favourite fruits and vegetables, grown as organically as possible. Even if all you have is a container on a particularly sunny balcony, you can still enjoy some great flavour.
Here are a few tips to make your gardens more successful:
• For most veggies and fruits, by waiting for warm weather, our plants will grow and produce food faster.
• Raised beds or containers have warmer soil by about 8 C for faster root growth.
• For container gardens, the larger the container, the better for growing and maintenance, and they don’t have to be expensive.
• Use only quality soils and add organic matter to enrich them. Container soils must be used in containers — do not use topsoil in containers.
• For most things, planting seeds will still work, but fresh quality transplants can save you up to three weeks of time. Many growers are producing larger plants for a major head start.
• Choose the plant varieties that perform the best in your area and remember there are early, mid and late varieties for longer harvest periods.
• There are some wonderful new varieties of plants like ‘Simply Salad’ blended lettuce, ‘Cute Stuff’ red peppers and Japanese burpless cucumbers.
• Heat lovers, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons, sweet potatoes and basil will perform better the closer we get to consistent night temperatures of 10°C. Plant them where you get sunlight between 11: a.m. and 3: p.m.
• You can still plant started everbearing raspberries and strawberries for enjoyment this year.
• Do your watering in the morning as much as possible to allow your plants to utilize the moisture during the daylight growing process. At night plants transpire moisture away. Keep the foliage of your plants dry at night to minimize disease problems.
• If you choose to grow organically, organic soils and fertilizers are more readily available now than ever before.
• If you are very time challenged, as most folks are today, slow release nutrients that feed continually for up to four months are available.
• Once we get into warmer summer weather, disease and insects tend to be less of an issue but daily checking of all plants is the best way to control any problems. Today there are effective organic solutions to control pests and disease.
I want to assure everyone that there is lots of time left to enjoy growing your own food garden. Many great gardeners are already enjoying the harvest of their cool crops that were planted some time ago. The bottom line is don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful food garden this year – remember those wonderful flavours!
LEND A HAND
If you grow a bounty this season, consider donating some of your produce to your local Salvation Army as part of the Plant a Row, Grow a Row program. For details, visit growarow.org.
Brian Minter is owner of Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.