New seeds are ready to sow for a fall and winter garden. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Time to plan the winter garden

Weeds have gotten away on me, I’ve just finished laying out my soaker hoses

By Mary Lowther

Binda Colebrook wrote a terrific book called Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest. She researched what grows well in our climate and explains how and when to grow it.

For example, right now we can sow the following either in flats or in the ground: chickory, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, endive, fennel, kale, storage carrots, fall lettuce, overwintering onions, winter radish, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. Some folks have had success sowing snap peas at this time, but I’m not one of them.

Because slugs and wood bugs have moved across the street to live in the cool forest until wet weather strikes the garden again, it’s safe to sow seeds outside. But first I’ll dig under most of the broccoli/kale/mustard volunteer weeds that have sprung up all over the garden from last year’s seed saving. I’ll leave a few to see what they become.

Authors like Colebrook would be appalled to see how unorganized my garden is. Weeds have gotten away on me, I’ve just finished laying out my soaker hoses — a job I should have done last month, and blackberry vines are competing with morning glory invading my overgrown raspberry patch.

The problem is that once I retired I didn’t have to get up early to go to work so by the time I felt like arising, having a cup of tea and breakfast, the day was half gone already. Then there was the dinner to make, the fridge to clean and books to read. After that, it was too hot to go outside so gardening was left to the cool of the day after dinner, as long as reruns of Closer, Bones, or Major Crimes weren’t on.

Back in the day I managed to squeeze in gardening before and after work. Why should things be any different now? The cat wakes me up at 5:30 anyway, so I might as well get up and do the gardening before the neighbours let their dogs out to bark at me.

So it’s time to soldier on if I want a fall, winter and spring garden. When I sow seeds outside now, I’ll hand water them twice a day and shade them from the sun with a low fence of landscaping cloth on their south side until they sprout. Then I’ll lay soaker hoses along their rows and hook them up to the timer set for every day for a week, then every four days until our wet season.

I haven’t had good success with cold frames over the winter because the only thing the slugs didn’t eat was chickory and David said that was too bad, but it only went to show that slugs aren’t that dumb. Maybe I should have harvested it when it was smaller and not so bitter. Colebrook’s extolling the use of cold frames to provide fresh vegetables during the winter has raised my hopes and ambition again.

I’ll make a small, three by four foot wooden box with a lid made of clear plastic stretched over a lath frame. Since I read that wood bugs proliferate around wood, I’ll line the box with Styrofoam and hope they don’t squeeze through the cracks. A friend of David’s mentioned that a layer of sand may deter slugs, so I’ll try that. I’ll sink the box into the ground on a slant toward the sun and plan to cover it with hay on cold nights. One must plan for the future.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.


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