Gardening Tips: Much To Do

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared on 21 March 2018.


What to do this week

This week is a good time to talk about a couple of things you might want to get to around the garden soon.

One of those things is any plants you might have brought in from the garden last year. They will probably be showing signs of spring awakening. My fig trees are a good example, or perhaps you brought in a few pepper plants and just left them in the basement, not even bothering to water them much, and certainly not fertilizing them. Now is the time to change that tune. These plants will need water, light and food now, so bring them up and help them get started again. It is time to water and fertilize. Liquid fish or seaweed fertilizer is easiest, as you can just mix it with the water.

Overwintering pepper plant. (Photo by Keri Sullivan, CC by 2.0

Overwintering pepper plant. (Photo by Keri Sullivan, CC by 2.0)

Your onion seedlings should be doing well by now. They will also have to be fed, and liquid fertilizer is the easy solution once again. Onions are heavy feeders, so fertilize those seedlings every two weeks from now until planting time. It is also maintenance time around the house, even for your house plants. They are going to need more water, and fertilizer too. As they notice that the days are getting longer they will be putting on growth, and will be drying out faster from the longer hours of sun on the windowsill.

It is also time to start your warm season annuals from seed. They need a head start indoors so they will produce in our relatively short summer. From now until the end of March is a good time to start tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. You are also going to want to get going on hard to germinate seeds, like parsley, celery and some perennial flowers. They often take a long time to germinate.

There are a few things you can do to help these hard to germinate seeds. Stratification is one technique that is helpful, and easy enough to do on a small scale. Prepare a container (mushroom containers are great for this) with your soil mix, sprinkle the seeds across the top, water well, and enclose in a plastic bag. Then put it all in the fridge for a week. This is a bit of a trick. The seeds will feel as if they have been through a short winter, so when you take the container out of the fridge they will usually germinate quickly. This is a really good way to break a seed’s dormancy. I use this technique with celery and parsley seeds. It also works well with perennial flower seeds.

Another technique is scarification. You may not use this much just yet, but it can be useful to know about, and I have used it this early on flower seeds like sweet peas and four o’clock flowers. It is for seeds that have very rough and tough and hard outer coats, so much so that you want to nick them a bit just to let some water in so they will germinate. Some people actually do this with a knife, but I prefer to put the seeds into a jar with a bit of crumpled up rough sand paper and shake them around. That scratches the seed coat just enough so they can absorb water and start to germinate.

And finally, let’s talk a bit about spinach, which you will be able to seed directly into the garden as soon as you are able to get it cleared and prepared. I just got a bunch of snow out where I am in Skye Glenn, so I will have to wait a bit, but spinach is a cool weather crop. It will not germinate once it gets past 15 degrees, and is much happier in the cold. You can plant it as soon as you can see your garden or dig it out of the snow, and enjoy spinach before any other greens are ready. Just scatter the seeds. You don’t have to bury them, but do press them into the soil to help them stay put.

Spinach will not last into the hot weather, but as an added bonus to getting to this early, you can look forward to using the spinach bed for another crop later in the season.

I have given you a lot to do this week, but luckily you have longer days.

Featured image: Onion seedlings by Madeline Yakimchuk.





Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.





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