It’s time to re-pot pea seedlings so they won’t become root bound. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Transplanting outdoors will have to wait a while

It won’t be until the end of March it’s warmed up enough for garden to pass the “bare bum” inspection.

By Mary Lowther

This time last year I had already hoed off the first round of weeds and transplanted pea seedlings, but this year snow continues to pile up on the garden. I stopped bragging to my brother in Ontario.

In the past we could safely transplant seedlings by mid-March but I suspect it won’t be until the end of March by the time it’s warmed up enough for the garden to pass the “bare bum” inspection. In Britain, a gardener traditionally tested the soil’s warmth by pulling down his breeches and sitting on the soil. Presumably that’s all he did.

Here in our mountain valley the long rainy season and short days produce more than our share of slugs and wood bugs determined to prevent gardens from flourishing. Given the worrisome loss of insect life due to the world-wide use of pesticides, I’ve joined the ranks who aim to avoid a Silent Spring and have learned some methods to outsmart little predators, albeit they are a lot smarter than they look.

Larger organic farms can control insect populations with chickens and ducks but the rest of us don’t have that luxury. Predators like birds, garter snakes and frogs either don’t stick around for long or don’t eat enough slugs to make a dent in their population, so it’s up to us. Despite recent promulgation of the so-called health benefits from consuming insects, I prefer to get my protein from sources that don’t turn my stomach so I do not stalk the wild slug for nourishment.

Growing my own seedlings gives plants a head start so that by the time they’re planted out, they’re too big to get completely devoured by hungry insect maws. But this year, seedlings I started a few weeks ago are ready to plant out now so I must re-pot them into larger containers or they’ll get root bound. I’ll probably have to re-pot them once more before it’s warm enough to plant them outside. I go through a lot of potting soil but since I make my own it’s not a big expense. I have various sizes of pots from seedlings I’ve bought in the past so I just dry them out and re-use them. When gardening season really gets underway, my seedling shelves fill up quickly and stay that way until after mid-summer when I’m only starting a few crops like late lettuce.

These re-potted seedlings fit into trays and go back under lights that are set with a timer that turns them on for 16 hours each day. Once the weather warms up and cabbage moths start flitting around I’ll cover the seed trays with spun cloth cover so they can’t lay eggs on the seedlings. The butterfly net I bought specifically to catch them sits idle in the corner, unsullied by anything remotely moth like because moths read minds and like to taunt gardeners, flying away with glee. But they can’t get through spun cloth covers.

Events: Brian Russell Halls will discuss hobby sized greenhouses. Saturday, March 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dinter’s Nursery. Drop in during these times and have your questions answered.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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