Photo Courtesy of Farmers on 57th
These posts are from Linda Gilkenson's 'Garden Tips'. Linda is a Pacific Northwest expert gardener and entomologist
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February 8, 2021
Extreme Cold Warning
As the cold outbreak has developed over the weekend, the forecast now for some parts of the coast are for lows down to -7 to -12oC (10-20oF) by Wednesday night. This is much, much colder than our usual Artic outbreak and well into damaging range for many of our coastal gardens plants. There doesn’t appear to be any significant snowfall in the forecast that would provide valuable insulation. So today, beef up your insulation on all above-ground vegetables, even the hardiest ones we don’t usually worry about; kale, hardy leeks, Brussels sprouts, as they would be damaged at these lows. If possible, pile on more leaf mulch around plants and then cover with tarps, plastic sheets, old blankets, etc. New subscribers can find more info about cold preparations in my Jan. 22 message (below).
Unfortunately, because it has been so mild this winter, some plants are at greater risk of cold injury now because they have started to grow. Artichokes are especially vulnerable so pile the mulch back over the crowns of plants and add an extra covering (e.g., tarp or very large pot turned over the crown). Fluff up mulch and cover strawberry plants to prevent frozen soil from heaving up the crowns.
If you have a lemon or lime tree outdoors keeping warm under a cover a with heating cable or Christmas lights, harvest any ripe fruit today (note that lemons can be ripe without turning yellow; I picked dozens of ripe lemons from my tree yesterday). Put extra covers over the tree to insulate it: at these temperature, the heating system may not be enough to prevent fruit and buds from being frosted.
Don’t forget you irrigation system, either, which might have valves or other parts that are vulnerable to freezing. If you have fruit or vegetables (or dahlia tubers, etc.) stored in outbuildings, bring them indoors for the duration of the cold snap. Bring indoors potted plants that usually can stay out or at least drag them against the house and cover them.
OKAY, folks, get out there now and do what you can for your garden!
January 22, 2021
It was frosty last night, dipping a degree or so below freezing in many gardens. That is not low enough to damage hardy winter veggies out in the garden, but in case temperatures dip further tonight or this weekend you might want to add more mulch, if you have it, to beds of lettuce, spinach, and other greens. Or fluff up the mulch already on the beds, which has probably been flattened by this winter’s snow and rain. If there is snowfall this weekend, that is all to the good, as it will further insulate plants. I am still hoping it gets cold enough for a night or two to really frost my Brussels sprouts and bring out their best flavour....
It doesn’t look like the immediate forecast holds really cold weather, but, to review for newcomers to this newsletter, be alert to forecasts for the next month and a half (never trust a coastal February as anything can happen). Hardy leafy greens, hardy leeks (not all varieties are hardy), winter broccoli, winter cauliflower and cabbages are usually OK to -5oC (23oF). If it gets colder than that, it is a good idea to throw a tarp over plants. Since it is too cold for growth, it doesn’t have to be a clear cover. Be sure toanchor covers down well with stones, bricks, etc. in case of outflow winds, which can be quite strong in an Arctic outbreak. Root crops, such as carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, will be fine even in prolonged, very cold weather—as long as you have spread a good layer of mulch right over the tops of the plants to keep the ‘shoulders’ of the roots from being frosted.
I occasionally experience -7 to -9oC (16oF) at my elevation and have had uncovered winter broccoli and cauliflower plants survive that in good condition, but leafy greens, such as chard, spinach and lettuce take a beating if they aren’t covered. If the worst happens and your leafy greens do get frosted to the ground, don’t remove the plants. They usually come back strongly from the roots to produce a good crop in early spring. The hardiest greens, such as kale, parsley, corn salad are rarely, if ever, damaged by cold.
And REALLY, everyone, your garlic is just fine! If garlic shoots are poking up through the mulch now, not to worry—they are very hardy. If your garlic shoots are not poking up by now, don’t worry about that, either—some varieties are later than others.
Unless there is a really extreme weather pattern setting in, I won’t send a reminder out about covering plants, so just keep an eye on the forecast. And, if you find yourself shoveling cold white stuff, just remember that snow is great for your garden.
January 1, 2021
Seedy Topics, Happy New Year
I meant to send out a note on Dec. 21 celebrating the start of lengthening days—but a snowstorm took out the cable in my neighbourhood that afternoon so I had no internet for a few days.
Anyway, here we are at the beginning of what everyone is hoping will be a brighter and better year. And now that the days really are getting longer, gardeners are looking forward to growing their best garden yet. So Happy New Year to you all!
If you haven’t thought about what you want to grow this year, it is time to do that as seed suppliers are already shipping madly to keep up with early demand. While ordering, look ahead to what you will need for mid- and late summer sowing. [For those who might not have it, there is a planting chart on my home page that you can print out showing suggested planting dates for winter harvests. ]
Those late summer plantings would mostly be of frost-hardy varieties that can stay in the garden over the winter. For such plantings, make sure you are ordering the hardiest varieties of leeks, lettuce, leafy greens, cabbage, etc. Also, be sure order to buy enough seeds to provide a harvest all winter. For example, it takes a lot of carrots (to be sown by early July) to supply a household through the winter. Large seed packages cost less per seed than small packets and, if you store the seeds carefully in cool, dry conditions in airtight containers, most vegetables keep at least 3 years and often much longer. Exceptions are parsnips (get fresh seed every year) and onions and sweet corn seeds, which are only good for a couple of years. While I am on this topic, if you don’t have a dehumidifier for your seed collection, get one! It will pay for itself many times over in keeping left-over seeds viable for years longer. These small metal boxes are filled with a silica gel desiccant that can be reactivated by heating in the oven (I have had the same one for over 20 years). You only need the small (40 g) box for a whole tote full of seeds; cost is $15 from Lee Valley Tools: ca/shop/tools/workshop/tool-maintenance/53828-silica-gel-dehumidifiers
Whither Seedy Saturdays? In other years, Seedy Saturdays, starting in January, have been a high spot for gardeners in communities all over BC, but this year, of course, events have been cancelled or altered. Some, such as Cowichan (Jan. 30), Denman (Feb. 6), Sooke (Feb. 27) plan to host a virtual event and have speakers lined up, others, including Salt Spring, Richmond and others are still working out what form their event will take. Keep checking this listing for BC Seedy Saturday updates: http://www.bcseeds.org/seedy-saturdays-and-sundays/
Something I am really looking forward to is British Columbia’s first province-wide, virtual Seedy Saturday Conference, taking place from February 19-21, 2021. It is being delivered via Zoom and Facebook, hosted by FarmFolk CityFolk and independent community Seedy Saturday organizers from across the province as part of the BC Seed Security Program (our US gardening friends are welcome to ‘attend’). Keep updated and watch for the schedule to be posted later this month at: https://www.farmfolkcityfolk.ca/ourwork/virtual-seedy-saturday-conference/ Seed vendors have been invited to participate so it should be a great place to learn about local suppliers you might not know about.
Growing Sweet Potatoes? If you want to grow your own starts of sweet potatoes (AKA “yams”), you will want to start a tuber sprouting this month to make sure slips are big enough to plant in May. It isn’t always possible to find starts at nurseries, but you can grow quite a few plants from a tuber from the grocery store. Lay a tuber on its side in peat, coir or other
soilless medium or prop one in a jar with water half-way up the tuber (like we used to do when we were kids...). Keep them very warm and don't let them dry out. When the shoots that grow from the tuber have a clump of their own roots showing at the base of the sprout, gently sever the little plant from the mother tuber and pot it up. Grow them in the warmest windowsill you have until time to plant out (May). For more details on starting sweet potatoes, see my January 22, 2018 message: http://www.lindagilkeson.ca/gardening_tips.html