getting ready for spring gardening

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Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I didn't have much luck with tomatoes - I grew them in my small greenhouse, and I guess a combination of factors prevented them from getting full grown - lack of heat, compost, and sunlight. I'm not going to bother this year because they're relatively cheap at the store. I'm going to grow things that I've had success with, and that I sometimes can't get fresh at the store. The stuff I grow here generally tastes better than store brought. I wish it was a longer and warmer growing season here, though - I'd love to grow some fruits and berries. Blueberries, Red berries, bakeapples (cloudberries) and cranberries grow wild all over, but I've not had success at frowing them in my garden. I'd love to be able to grow melons and pumpkins, but, again, folks here have tried and failed.


Now that radiorahim and I have shacked up, I have a back yard! He's got wild raspberries growing out back there that come back every year, but I really want strawberries.

I'd also like to grow some salad greens, like leaf lettuce, herbs, etc.

Since I've never really had a garden that was my responsibility before, I'm not going to be too ambitious this year. Some fresh herbs and lettuce and strawberries will probably be enough for me, and if I do all right at it this year, I'll add to it next year.

I wonder how hard it is to grow blueberries?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

You can buy berry starter plants probably locally where you live, Michelle, and should have no difficulty growing them. Starter plants are available from Veseys and other online suppliers if you can't get them locally, but that would surprise me. I've had difficulty here because I live in a much more northerly climate than youse.



remind remind's picture

Not hard, Michelle,  my front yard is full of them, I just wait until they produce berries and pick em.... :D


No really, what I do is make sure the area where they grow in, has additional winter snow piled up on it, as it seems they like early spring water to produce more clusters of berries. Before I started doing this, they would produce not much, as I do not water them artifically throughout the spring and summer.


They are wild blueberries though, and  are basically low bush ground cover. But once you taste them you would never eat a tame blueberry again.


 Eliza, amazing what you are doing in expanding your gardens this year, what kind of wheat are you growing? And do tell us how your garbonzo beans turn out.


Have started my tomatoes and pepper plants, and am a bit late in doing so. As such I hope they are not as late as last year in developing outside. This year I am adding to my raised beds and having a bigger garden as we think we have the conditions figured out.


Sadly what has helped is our having to get rid of the old growth pine trees in our yard, the soil is much less acidic naturally, so we no longer have to compensate.


Hey, that's what I should do in our front yard, which is just a teensy postage stamp - plant berry bushes!

remind remind's picture

Michelle, they are not exactly "bushes",  each little ground cover plant is abour 4-6 inches tall and they grow about 12-18" apart, and wild not planted, but yes, environmental sustainability  would indicate people should get rid of their "lawns" and plant something useful.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Has anyone had any luck growing okra? Especially appreciate hearing from those at higher elevations with chilly nights. The sites of I checked state a growing period of 50-60 days, but all are US based sites and I don't know if they take overnight temperatures into account.

Brian White

Just a note, if you grow runner beans, go for stringless varietys. They have been on the go for more than 20 years but the Canadian stores do not stock them.  It is a great shame.  Even asking for them will help because this year and next, they can put in their orders.  I have polestar that worked great in years past and other ones to try are lady Di and (I think) butler.     I tried okra and it failed miserably.  I also tried yardlong chineese beans and they failed miserably.  I think both of them need a bit more heat than we have here on van island.  The chineese beans were doing great until I moved them out of the greenhouse.

My peas are still uneaten and I took a picture of a bird trying out a cob birdhouse yesterday. She tried out 2 actually but I was not quick with the camera.

It has been an extremely early year here. daiseys are up, I blew a dandylion clock about 2 weeks ago, and rocket arigula ls in full bloom.

If people grow rasberrys, try growing a few varietys.  I have one that fruits twice and one that fruits between those times. (Just luck) .  there are also saskatoon berrys and logan berry crosses to try for different flavours.   For composting, I use a 2 storey compost bin.  It gives very fast throughput of material and it is easy. You do not need to "turn" your compost with this type.   And by putting a plastic compost bin higher like that, you protect from rodents and give extra heat to the first stage of composting.

Anyways, thats too much for the moment. I am sowing a row of broad beans today,  This is the first year i will do "community" gardeing. I am sowing some veggy on the city side of the fence for anybody who cares to take them. Alderman peas, broad beans rasberrys, and scorzornora with evening primrose and mallow for prettyness in a very mixed row.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

Michelle, the main issue with growing blueberries is soil acidity. They like more acid soil and if you have that then they'll likely do well without much work on your part. If not you can always amend the soil if it's just a small area. You can easily test for that with a kit from a garden store. There's also the option of looking into berry plants that would be native to your area. I think TO falls in the Carolingian forest bio-region so you can look that up to get an idea of what berry plants would be growing there if there was no city. There are quite a few nurseries in the Southern Ontario region that sell native plants so they're not hard to source.

If you want strawberries in a bed get them in this year as they take a whole year to really establish. You can however grow them in pots on a patio. You can get an actual strawberry pot that has numerous holes on the sides as well as a top. I also know people that grow them in hanging baskets.

Remind. Not quite sure yet but I'm leaning towards Red Fife. I've been using Red Fife flour for the past while and it's really yummy. Since it was originally bred in Canada it's good for our conditions and I know it grows well around here. Saltspring Island Seeds sells a few varieties that they've tested for smaller growers as well. I wish I had room to test out a couple of varieties but don't think I can manage this year. I'm slowly increasing the size of my garden each year but since I use no dig techniques it's a longer process then if I just took a tiller to it. I also live on the edge of a marsh and the water line is high in the spring to the point where it almost floods large parts of the garden area and parts of the future garden area. Instead of fighting it I'm attempting to work with it and since there's not a whole lot of information out there about gardening this way (beyond just digging ditches to stop it from happening) it's a bit of trial and error. I know from an ecological standpoint it is one of the reasons my soil is so fertile so I'm attempting to find a balance in working with this natural process.

Brian, I'm with you on stringless varieties. I don't like stringy beans. It's not such a big deal for me though because I'm growing most of my beans for dried use. I have a few bush varieties that I grow for green bean consumption.

remind remind's picture

Was wondering if you  were going to grow red fife, and suspected that you may be considering so.


There is an Ontario farmr in your area that has started to make homemade pasta for commercial sale from red fife, also grown in the area....some friends had some and they raved about it.


have not had any since I was a small child, as it went out of vogue, but I remember the hand milled breads and have not tasted bread that good in decades.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

I just saw a news bit on that farmer the other day. I haven't made pasta with it yet but plan too. I expect he gets his flour from the same place I do. Probably from Desboro farms (there was link to a video report on them on Babble somewhere) as it's becoming quite the little mecca for locally grown grains and Fife in particular, though I've been reading that since it seems to be making a comeback as people are realizing how great it is, that more farmers are starting to grow it again. It's great and you can find the Desboro flour all over the place now around here. You can even get Red Fife in bulk now at the Bulk Barn which is a fairly big chain though I don't know where it comes from. Regardless it's cool that it's going that mainstream.

It really is different taste wise and though it costs a wee bit more then regular run of the mill whole wheat it is totally worth it my opinion. I just got a bread machine the other day and made a loaf with regular whole wheat and loaf with Red Fife, the Fife bread not only baked a better loaf, crumb and size wise, but it tasted way better. It actually had taste.

Just a quick note so people are aware the main reason that it costs more isn't because it's 'gourmet' or in many cases 'organic' it's because the per acre yield is less then the wheat varieties that are commonly grown now. At one time Red Fife was one of the main wheat varieties grown in Canada but it fell out of fashion with the emphasis on creating wheat varieties that yielded more per acre.

ebodyknows ebodyknows's picture

Anyone have experience planting  saskatoons?  I have seeds but havn't done any stratification yet.

"Has anyone had any luck growing okra? Especially appreciate hearing from those at higher elevations with chilly nights. The sites of I checked state a growing period of 50-60 days, but all are US based sites and I don't know if they take overnight temperatures into account."

We grew Okra last year in a community garden in toronto.  Last year was cool, wet and clouldy, they survived but barely and didn't produce very much fruit.

Brian White

I just thought I would mention soil blockers.  They cost a fortune in the stores so I tried making my own with plastic pipes (different sizes inside each other)  It worked and I might still weld up a square "multiblocker" like the real thing.

(Just because square blocks get more economical use of space on the  growing area).

 Aparently plants raised in soil blocks do much much better than plants raised in pots!

Good video is at

For anyone who is trying to cut down on waste in gardening, the soil blockers could pretty much eliminate pots when you raise plants from seed. In view of how rootbound happens and how soil blockers prevent it, , why don't they just manufacture  "mesh"  pots?


bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Thanks ebodyknows... (for the okra bit) - was hoping someone in zone 3 on the eastern slopes or in the interior might have tried. But if it wasn't succesful there in zone 5 (6?) I guess the chances are vanishingly small here.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I love the BBC Gardening Homepage, especially Dig In. Smile   How guerrilla gardening took root is also an interesting piece.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'm thinking of using leftover veggie seeds from previous years rather than buy new ones. They've been in cold storage. Can I assume they'll work okay?

Snert Snert's picture

Some may not germinate, but them what do will be vegetables.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'll give them a try - I've spent money buying them, and there's so many - enough to do my whole garden and greenhouse - and I want to get a good return on what I paid for them. Last year's garden didn't do well, but I think that had to do more with an influx of weeds and lousy weather.


Escholtzia, or California poppies.Brilliant deep orange to saffron yellow silky flowers, on grey green ferny leaves.

This is something you may not have thought of because they are not seen in nurseries as plants.(just as seeds) They are grown from Zone 3 to 6. Do not let the name fool you. They need to be seeded As Soon as the ground cam be worked in the Spring.  Snow & freezing temps will not harm the seeds or seedlings. They bloom all Summer, are drought hardy & like full sun best. Once they are established you need not water very often. (I did not water mine at all last Summer, after their 1st month after sprouting.)

 They frequently will re-seed themselves, & get a nice early start on the growing season. They are tough as nails, like a true wild flower. They do not transplant well, so put seeds where you want them to grow.



Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I have poppies in my various wildflower gardens - they do very well, and this is Hardiness Zone 3a. The flowers that do best here are lillies and sunflowers, though. My lillies are quite spectacular every summer and fall.


I'm waiting for the crocuses and bluebells to die off before I plant anything decorative.  Not sure what survived the winter.  I plant pretty hardy perennials, and 99% tend to do well over winter, and survive hot dry periods in summer, but I'd like to have more delicate plants ... for some reason, I can't get heather to grow.  Maybe too hot and dry a summer kills it. 

Before I do the herbs and veggies, I'll need at least a week of temperate weather - like after May 2nd - but I'll probably put it off longer because of the work required to rehabilitate the soil out at the back of our property.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

A bit early for the 2013 season, , but some things to consider:

The Four Steps Required to Keep Monsanto OUT of Your Garden
Keep Monsanto OUT of Your Veggie Patch
Monsanto-Free Seed Companies
Rachel Parent ~ GMOs Kids Right To Know – JUST LABEL IT!
In Canada, there is currently a private member’s bill C-257 introduced by NDP (recently had its first reading in Parliament) to require mandatory GMO labeling RIGHT HERE IN THIS COUNTRY. All Canadians need to show support for this Bill. We need an equivalent Prop 37 marketing campaign! Email Gerry Ritz, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, to express your support of Bill C-257 at:
Sign the petition here:


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Monsanto-Free Seed Companies
I notice VESEYS is not on this list - I've just emailed them to ask for an explanation. I may be changing suppliers if I don't like their reply.  :annoyed

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Boom Boom wrote:

A bit early for the 2013 season, , but some things to consider:

My wife says I should tell you her Snowdrops have been up for a week and other things are also starting to pop up.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

The garden across the street from me had a massive work party last weekend! It's about time to start prepping, I think, if I want early spinach/peas/broccoli, etc.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Lots of snowdrops and ice here. Oh, wait...


Can we all agree that we hate Vancouverites and other assorted early spring BC types?

I thought so.  Thanks. :)

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Excuse me, we are in the deep throes of old man winter right now. The cherry blossoms aren't even out yet, even though it's already February. Solidarity with our fellow winter sufferers!

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I apologize for the fact it is 8 and partially sunny today.  It must not have been to bad a winter in TO since I haven't heard of the army being called out.


Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Poor Toronto. The city has to endure Rob Ford, and with the stigma of being the centre of the universe. Laughing

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

The -8 weather has been causing pileups on the 401. Have sympathy when we call in the army. ;)


Haha, kropotkin...touche!


Boom Boom wrote:

Monsanto-Free Seed Companies
I notice VESEYS is not on this list - I've just emailed them to ask for an explanation. I may be changing suppliers if I don't like their reply.  :annoyed

Hate to tell you, darlin'...

According to your blog link:


  1. Avoid buying from the seed companies affiliated with Monsanto. Here’s a list of these seed companies:

Veseys is not OWNED by Monsanto, but they sell Monsanto seeds.  They're not GMO seeds, but the idea is to not support any seed company that buys or sells Monsanto seeds.  Vesey's sells Seminis seeds, and this is a Monsanto company.  So, if you want to join this effort to pressure seed companies to completely disaffiliate with Monsanto, you might tell them that you won't be buying from them until they stop carrying Seminis seeds.

When I typed in "seminis" to their search engine, no hits came up.  So an added issue is that I don't know how the average customer would know whether they were getting seeds sourced from Monsanto or not when ordering from them.  That would be enough for me to avoid them and pick from the safe seed company list.


Seed Exchanges happening across Canada in 2013, throughout February and looks like a few in March.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Thanks for all that info, Michelle.


No problem.  I had insomnia. :)

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Veseys does have organics, though - their new catalogue is out:  Certified Organic Products

I've been reading and drooling through it.


What a cool thread - thanks gals and guys!


I'm going to take a trip to Richter's tomorrow, a seed distributor on the safe seed list at the Occupy Monsanto website.  It's in Goodwood, Ontario, and apparently it is reachable by GO bus from Union Station here in Toronto.  According to their website, the GO driver will let you off right in front of Richters if you ask!  That's pretty neat.  I was going to order online, but I think it will be fun to just go out there instead.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Sadly, it will be mid-June (or later)  before I can work the ground here. This is really cold country here.


Oh, I can't do anything now.  But some of the seeds I'm going to be starting indoors.

Here's my wish list so far, which may get pruned once I get there:

Clover, White

Strawberry, White Soul Seeds  

Comfrey, Common Bulk Seeds  

Richters Windowsill Garden Seed Collection  

Strawberry, Alpine Bulk Seeds  

Marshmallow, Erfurter Seeds  

Mint, Menthol Seeds  

Pepper, Thai Chile Seeds  

Pepper, Scotch Bonnet Chile Seeds  

Tomato, Black Cherry SowNatural(tm) Seeds  

Leek, American Flag Seeds  

Cucumber, Muncher SowNatural(tm) Seeds   

Cucumber, Crystal Apple Seeds  

Lettuce, Buttercrunch SowNatural(tm) Seeds  

Nasturtium, Dwarf Seeds  

Carrot, Rainbow Blend SowNatural(tm) Seeds  


The peppers in particular I need to start very soon indoors so that they'll have a long enough growing season.  I have a couple of windows in the house that I'm hoping will get enough light. :)  Anyhow, I'd better move it or I'll miss the bus!

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Scotch Bonnet peppers!!!! Surprised


As it turned out, they didn't have scotch bonnets in stock in the store.  So I got Jamaican hot peppers instead, which are similar.  I love hot peppers!