Yes, it’s time to rethink the way we plant our gardens. As I prepare to take a tour of high school students through the garden, I had to call and warn them to bring umbrellas and boots. Rain has become the norm here and it’s mid April. I haven’t done much in the garden but the greenhouse is full of plants waiting patiently for better weather.
We need to think seriously about our cool spring weather. This spring is a repeat of last year, cold and wet. Normally I would have planted potatoes and onions back in March. This year the potatoes were planted in April and the onions are still waiting. I planted into raised beds as planting in the ground is out of the question with saturated soil. I have planted a few peas in one of the raised beds but most of the space is reserved for several All American Selections of beans that I am trialling this year. I may plant a few rows of lettuce for a quick crop before the beans go in. If the weather remains cool it may be early June before bean planting begins. Beans are best direct sown right where you want them to grow.
Because of our wet spring many cool season crops like lettuce and spinach will take weeks to grow from seed. Chances are that they will mature in late May just as temperatures increase. The problem with that is if the weather warms up cool season crops will bolt, produce flowers and go to seed. Bolting lettuce is inedible in my opinion as the leaves take on a rather spicy flavour.
I think that we need to consider planting cool season crops in late summer to early fall. The overwintered cool season crops that I planted last year are keeping me in salads before anyone has planted their seeds. If you really want to plant lettuce or spinach this spring, my advice is to buy seedlings so you have a head start. You want to be able to harvest your salad greens before they bolt. With the rain predicted into next week it’s going to be a slow start to the gardening season. Be sure to stop by and support your local independent garden centres. With weather like this they are struggling. If we don’t buy their plants, growers will be told to stop production. Grab whatever dry and sunny days you get and plant your garden.
It’s time to plant cool season flowers such as sweet peas, pansies, snapdragons, nasturtiums and sunflowers. In the greenhouse I have started summer bedding plants such as Marigolds, Zinnias, Heliotrope, Celosia and ornamental peppers. Dahlias can be brought out of storage now and checked for new growth. I like to plant up my dahlia tubers in pots in the greenhouse to give them a head start. They won’t go out in the garden until early May.
In the vegetable garden you can now plant kale, collards, mustard, lettuce, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, leeks, arugula, onions, peas, parsnips, radishes, spinach and turnips. Remember to rotate your crops so they are not planted in the same spot as last year. Crop rotation helps to prevent pests and disease.
Hopefully mother nature will bring us some sunshine soon. My tomato plants in the greenhouse need more light as they are only half the size they should be. I usually hold a plant sale on the first Saturday in May but can’t see my plants being ready to go outside in two weeks. If I have learned anything from gardening its that I can’t control mother nature. She has a mind of her own.