Is it safe to go outdoors?

 by David Hinks

We hoped last week that the soil in the raised beds would soon be dry enough to plant a couple of bags of onion sets and after checking that the soil was workable (take a handful and squeeze – if it stays together in a ball it is still too wet, if it crumbles it is ready) we got down and dirty on Wednesday of last week. After working up the bed with a spading fork and levelling it a bit I pushed the sets into the soil far enough that they would be covered with a couple of cm of soil when I did a final levelling of the bed with the back side of a steel rake. The sets are spaced about 10 cm apart and I plant three parallel rows on my raised beds that are about a metre wide. The beds in the background in the photo were planted with garlic cloves in October of last year and are now happily growing – they love cool weather.

Thanks to the great yoga teachers at Rising Sun Yoga in Almonte I was able to plant the onions in Chair pose (standing with the knees bent and leaning forward) rather than bending from the waist or getting down on my hands and knees. I found this much less stressful for my back or knees. Whether you are a yoga fan or not it is always important to do some stretching exercises before starting to work in the garden.

If you remember I had planted a three-metre row of peas when we had a little bit of warm weather on March 30th in a very sheltered bed against a south-facing shed wall (a very favourable micro-climate).  This Sunday, a full three-weeks later I finally saw the first sprouts coming through the soil as shown in the photo following. If the weather had turned warmer and the soil had become much warmer they could have sprouted in as little as a week. In the relatively short growing season that we have for plants that prefer cooler growing temperatures I always try to plant as soon as I possibly can. This week, if the soil in more raised beds dries up enough, I will be planting spinach, lettuce, a mesclun mix and possibly some early potatoes.

Leeks and parsnips are two vegetables that are fairly easy to overwinter in the garden bed. Parsley will also overwinter in the garden. These plants are biennial; that is, they produce flowers and seeds in their second year of growth. Thus if you want to harvest them to eat it is best to do so before they start to send up flower stalks. The following photo shows leeks that have come through the winter in fine condition.

Last week the sweet potatoes were starting to produce slips – now some of them are a foot high and need to be potted up. I am putting some in eight cm square pots and others in five cm square pots. These latter are deeper pots that are used for tree seedlings. With these I am hoping to get longer straight roots. The problem with potting sweet potatoes too early is that the roots will start to circle around inside the pot – and as the root is shaped so is the tuber shaped. I have harvested some really gnarly looking tubers in the past when I left the slip growing too long in the pot. The plan this year for slips that have been potted up too early is to snip off a 15 cm piece of the vine and root it just a week or ten days before transplanting to the garden. Sweet potatoes root very readily from any piece of the vine.

The cannas tubers that we planted last week- in 5-inch pots (14 cm) are already starting to grow very vigorously and I will be placing them outdoors in the sun on the patio if the temperature is close to 15 C and will be bringing them inside at night if the temperature is going to drop below 10 C.

A dozen enthusiastic vegetable gardeners gathered at the Mill of Kintail Gatehouse Saturday April 20 at 10am to share their knowledge about growing food ranging from gardeners with a lot of experience to those who are new to growing vegetables. This was at a Workshop sponsored by the Neighbourhood Tomato. Stay tuned for more workshops.