Janette has 35 years’ experience with organic vegetable and market gardening. She is author of From Seed to Table: A Practical Guide to eating and Growing Green (Plans to send additional copies to Novel Idea Kingston)

This weeks Q & A focused on transitioning outdoors to the garden; planting seeds outside and transplanting seedlings . There were also specific questions about some vegetables including leeks, garlic, carrots, potatoes cucumber and zucchini. We were introduced to an interesting vegetable, the “Good King Henry” and some ideas for crops in difficult to plant sites.

Cold Hardy Crops

Cold hardy crops, as their name suggests, can tolerate some cold, a little frost and a little snow. Think of them like daffodils and crocus. They have a natural anti-freeze and their cell walls don’t break down with a little cold exposure. Those that aren’t cold hardy, shouldn’t be planted until the last frost. An example of these are tomatoes.

Vegetables able to tolerate some cold are onions, leeks, garlic, peas, beets, spring turnips, kale, spinach and head lettuce. If you have these, plant them out now or wait until Monday. This weekend will most probably be the last cold one this spring. Onion started indoors should also be moved outside now.

Cold tolerant fruit bushes include strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Young apple trees also tolerate the cold.

Seeds to plant directly in the soil now include green onions, beets, spring turnips, kale, lettuce, endives, swiss chard, summer cabbage, radish, spinach, arugula, mustard greens and peas.

Seeds to plant outdoors around the third week of May include cucumber, squash, basil, beans and carrots.

Temperatures of -4 C to -5 C are considered a hard frost and it is at this point that you should consider protecting your seedlings???. If you’re concerned that temperatures are dropping too low for your particular crops, cover them with a floating row cover. This adds approximately 4 ºC to the temperature. If you don’t have a row cover, use an old sheet, which you can weigh down with rocks. Plastic is not recommended as if it’s really windy the plastic could damage the seedlings.

Here is a table you may find useful when planning your crops.

Hardening off seedlings

Take your tray of seedlings outside to a protected site, ideally on the south side of your yard. Gradually extend the length of time they’re outside over a three to four day period. The biggest threat to new seedlings is wind. Extreme wind will dry out the delicate seedling leaves quickly and can cause severe damage.

Questions about specific crops

Arugula

Arugula can be planted through the summer, every three to four weeks for continuous supply in your kitchen.

Dividing chives

When dividing chives, each clump should be 2 to 3 inches in diameter. This will allow for undamaged roots in the centre When transplanting, water thoroughly. Prepare the hole for transplant, add compost and  water, plant the chives and water again for best results.

Garlic

Garlic must be planted in the fall for optimum growth as light levels signal growth pattern. From from late March until the summer solstice, all the plant energy concentrates on the shoots. After this time, the focus shifts to the bulb. The more the shoots grow, the bigger the bulb. If garlic is planted at this time of year (May), the shoots will be less well developed and the bulb less robust. If you plant your garlic now, you can pick and eat the green shoots. Remember however that the bulbs will not develop significantly.

Garlic includes two subspecies: soft neck and hard neck. Hard neck garlic has a stalk in the middle of the cloves on which scapes  (a curled flower stalk) are formed. Janette cuts scapes in late July and August to use in cooking. Soft neck garlic does not produce scapes, but unlike hard neck garlic, can be braided.

If in the spring you find critters have eaten your garlic after a fall planting, (as did one participant) some detective work will be necessary for future prevention.

Carrots

Carrots  can be planted now and into next month. These are slow to germinate and can take two to three weeks. They germinate best if well-watered. One year Janette planted carrot seed in a weekend during which there was 5 inches of rain and the carrots germinated right away. In sandy soil, Tracy plants her carrots very early to ensure germination. She had most success the year she had a soaker hose watering each carrot plant directly and regularly.

Alternate method to germinate carrots are to soak the carrot seeds for three days before planting. Another option is to buy pelleted carrot seed. The seed holds moisture well and is bigger and therefore easier to handle.  

Growing beets

Add compost to the soil, water and give them enough space Beets like to grow quickly. If their growth is slowed they become pithy.

What to plant between rhubarb?

Generally it’s ideal to space them well when planting and leave as they are. Most plants grow well if they have enough space.

Should I hill my potatoes?

Potatoes shouldn’t be hilled. New potatoes are produced above the seed potato, so the more soil, and mulch on top the better.

Can cucumbers and zucchini be trellised?

Cucumbers can be trellised. Janette has grown hers on string suspended above the plant. It may be possible to train them on a tomato cage, but the plant grows longer than the 5 to 6 feet of cage, so it will need to be trained around and carefully tended to.

Zucchini does’nt have tendrils and doesn’t climb. It takes lots of space and if you only have a small area to garden its best to buy a bush variety.

Turnip and beet tops

Turnip and beets are biennials. Some may start to sprout. These aren’t good to eat, but can be planted to grow a crop of turnip or beet greens. They’ll also produce seed for the next cool-weather crop.

Good King Henry

Good King Henry is a perennial version of wild spinach, a great green that will come back each year. Joyce tried to plant her seeds outside last year, but was unsuccessful. This year she started them indoors and so far they’ve germinated. Seeds for Good King Henry are available at Richter Herbs. 

Growing fig trees

These trees need to be protected over the winter. Some gardeners dig a trench, lean the plant in, and cover it with soil and mulch.

Some ideas of what to grow in difficult areas.

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail

If you’d like to learn more from Janette Haase, register for her Monday afternoon coaching sessions on Zoom.

If you’re not already registered, join our next Master Gardener Zoom Q & A on Eventbrite

Thought for the day:

Grow it….Don’t mow it 😊

And plant vegetables instead of flowers this year.

Happy gardening!

Reporting by Colette McKinnon, Master Gardener in Training, Rideau 1000 Island Master Gardeners

An interesting aside is that peas (and beans) don’t need very rich soil.