by David Hinks

 The Victoria Day rule for planting the garden is an important rule for heat-loving and frost-sensitive plants. Looking ahead for the week it looks like things may cool off a bit but it is a bit of a guessing game. I am going to take a chance with a few heritage tomatoes that are getting large and unruly.  Hardening-off of the heat-loving plants will continue and most of them will be planted next weekend when the weather is more settled.

I am putting a tomato cage around my tomatoes as I am planting them which will help support the plant and will also disturb the plant less than if I did it later. The variety of tomato I planted is called Brandywine. Its fruits are described as large and ugly but with excellent flavour! Weather conditions on Sunday afternoon were perfect for transplanting seedlings – cool with a fine misty rain – not really B-B-Q or patio weather however!

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I’ve also been busy the last few days transplanting the vegetables that will withstand some frost such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. These join many of the other early frost-tolerant vegetables such as onions, garlic, lettuce, spinach and potatoes that have been planted several weeks ago in most cases.

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Some of the Kale has also been added to the decorative herb garden in the front yard. This is an heirloom variety of kale named Nero Di Toscana that is described as producing long, dark green blistered leaves.

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One concept that you may want to include in your gardening plans is that of crop rotation. This is an important control method for insects and disease as many pests are specific to one type of plant and may over-winter in the soil. It also may help to avoid soil degradation as different crops use varying amounts of nutrients, for example peas and beans may add nitrogen to the soil whereas most green leafy vegetables are high users of nitrogen. It is important to note that rotation plans have to apply to vegetable families as members of the family are generally vulnerable to the same pests – plant vegetables in family groups and then move the family to another area next year. The family groupings of most common vegetables are as follows:

Solananaceae (Nightshade) – includes eggplant, peppers, potato and tomato

Brassicaceae/Cruciferae – includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, mustard, radishes, and turnip

Cucurbitaceae – includes cucumber, melons, pumpkins, squash, gourds and watermelon

Fabaceae/ Leguminosea – includes beans, peas and peanuts

Liliaceae – includes chives, garlic, onions and shallots

I believe that the soil has warmed up sufficiently to plant bush beans and beets. I am planting two rows of beans and three rows of beets on my metre-wide beds. I am planting a 53-day green bean named Oceanis that is described as a European filet bean and a beet named Kestrel which also takes 53-days to reach maturity. Beets can be eaten earlier as baby beets or beet greens or allowed to mature to full size. I prepared a raised bed about a metre wide and three or so meters in length. The first step was to dig over the area and get rid of any weeds. I then added some compost – some of my own and a bag of composted sheep manure. I then mixed it up a bit with a spading fork and was ready to plant. Just as I was finishing turning over the soil I turned my back and a big robin swooped in to gobble up a fat white slug that I had exposed – I am choosing to interpret that as a good omen for the growing season!  I used the back side of a steel rake (I could have used a hoe instead) to dig parallel rows about two cm deep. I then planted the seeds, then drew the soil back over the seeds and tamped it down lightly with the bottom of the rake.

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Another concept that is useful for vegetables such as beans and beets is succession planting. Rather than plant all of the beans at once plant part every two weeks or so thus spreading out the harvest over an extended period. This can continue over the summer. The average bush bean takes about 50 days from seeding until harvest (beets 55 to 60 days). Given that the weather will likely start to cool off considerably by mid-September, I will want to plant my last crop of beans around the first of August. This also creates the opportunity to have more than one harvest from the same plot of land – I will be planting my later plantings of beans and beets in areas where I have harvested lettuce, spinach, peas and early onions and potatoes.

The third workshop sponsored by the Neighbourhood Tomato Education Committee will take place on May 25 when we will be demonstrating planting techniques and discussing how to deal with pests. For more details please go to the following address: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6586840417