The resilience of a garden

It never ceases to amaze me how our gardens work and deal with the tremendous variability in weather. Yes, we had a lot of cool weather and rain this spring, but the weather changes and things start to grow and catch up. It happens every time, without exception.

June 10th is the historical frost-free date for PEI, meaning by that date it is usually safe to plant tender annuals, such as tomatoes and peppers, outdoors. With the variability in weather there are many years when tender annuals can be transplanted before this date, however there is always the risk of frost damage.

Floating row covers can be used to provide frost protection if necessary and can be reused over many years. Temperature is not the only concern for transplants, the wind can do great harm too so it is important to leave the transplants in trays outdoors for at least a week to let them get used to the wind. Cucumbers and other melons do not transplant well so should be direct seeded if possible in early June when the soil is warm.

If you are reading this article in early June, there is still time to plant strawberries. They grow well in PEI, however one thing you need to keep in mind is that strawberries don’t produce fruit the first year so you should put them in a place in your garden that you can leave uncultivated for two or more years. There are many older varieties like Cabot, Annapolis, Kent, Sparkle, Sable, Veestar and Micmac—to name a few.

These varieties will produce fruit only when the day length is increasing but have the traditional flavours you may have experienced in the past. There are also new everbearing varieties that can grow well and produce all season long and have excellent taste. If you have room, you could plant some. They are very tasty.

Weeds are a significant issue with strawberries. It can be difficult to weed them as they produce a lot of runners which makes it difficult to use a hoe. Hand weeding is your best bet, but it’s harder on the back.

Raspberries are similar to strawberries in a lot of ways and also have new varieties available that produce during most of the season. Blackberries, haskap, currants, and gooseberries can grow well in PEI. Apricots and peaches can also be grown in sheltered areas. Don’t be afraid to try and grow some of the less traditional fruits that can grow here.

One more thing, if you planted some beans and peas earlier in May and they are growing now, you could make a second or even third planting to extend the harvest length. I’d suggest separating plantings by about three weeks. That will ensure there is a good separation between the different planting dates.

Stay safe. Happy Gardening!

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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