Start your seeds now

Last weekend was the 20th annual seed sale in Enderby.

It has become a very big day and it is nice to see familiar faces that return year after year. Including the food vendors, it would be safe to say that this year there were more than 75 vendors. The attendance was surely more than 800 and maybe more. People kept on coming until the closing at 3 p.m.

The fair lost a dear member with the passing of June Griswold. She had worked very hard and never hesitated to take action to protect local organic food and seed saving. We must be thankful however for the ones that took on the work load and are carrying on and made it a very successful day.

Although the snow is falling as I write this, the robins I saw for the first time this year on Feb. 23 told me that this is the time to start a lot of the seeds, as spring is just around the corner. I had some Swiss chard plants that overwintered last year and by the end of the summer, I was able to gather some seeds. As I test a lot of my seeds for germination rate, I have now on the windowsill a lot of little seedlings. Arugula, lettuce, basil, peas, carrots in a pot, cucumbers and some bush beans, tomatoes from 2003 and some peppers from 2006. How could I throw these little seeds away after they put all that energy to come up.

Some of the seeds should not be started this early unless you have fluorescent lights to grow them. Even the windowsill is not enough, as the days are still too short. Once up, most seedlings like a cooler temperature and about 16 hours of daylight. If you cannot provide this, you will have leggy seedlings. My windows are big and facing south and even with this, I have to put some of the seedlings under light. Parsley takes a long time to germinate but I find that doing it between damp shop towels and kept in a plastic bag, I save some time.

The May long weekend has always been a good date to put transplants in the ground. The last few years, the weather in June has not been perfect and some of the plants that went too early suffered. In Lumby you might still get a frost around that time. Most years, I put tomatoes in early June because I get busy with other plants and my garden is not always ready.

Hardy vegetables are the ones that can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. These can be planted four to six weeks before the average date of last frost: arugula, peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower.

Moderately-hardy vegetables can be planted two to four weeks before your expected last frost: carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, beets, potatoes, celery, swiss chard, parsley.

Frost-sensitive vegetables should be planted outdoors on or after the average last frost date: bush and pole beans, corn, tomatoes.

Vegetables which are frost-intolerant should be planted outdoors two to three weeks after average last frost: cucumbers, peppers, melons, squash and pumpkins.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.

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