A new gardening season is finally here

As I walk along the south side of my house I can see lots of flowering bulbs starting to grow. Crocuses are the first ones I see blooming each year, they are small but a welcome sight. Daffodils and hyacinths grow well and are a very colourful and reliable choice. Tulips also grow well but must be nurtured and fertilized or they will gradually decline. Hmmm…I also see there are many maple seeds that blew in and have sprouted which will have to be removed while they are small. I reach down and grab some ground, can you just smell that aroma of freshly-tilled soil, the smell of springtime? This seemed like a long winter, but it is over and the next season of planting is here.

Before you plant you will want to consider some of the different types of seeds available. Let’s start with open pollinated versus hybrid varieties of vegetables. Most seed catalogues will indicate if a given variety is open pollinated or a hybrid, but often people just skip over that detail quickly. Open pollinated varieties will produce seed that, when planted the following year, will produce veggies true to the original variety. If you are interested in saving your own seed from year to year, then this type of seed is your best bet. All heirloom plants are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated plants are heirloom varieties. Clear?

On the other hand, hybrids are produced from parent plants that are crossed in a controlled way to obtain certain traits and often are superior in productivity. If you save and plant the seeds produced by a hybrid variety they will grow, however, they are unlikely to produce true to type for the variety.

Did you know that corn is pollinated by the wind? There are several different types of sweet corn. Some of the types include SH2, SY, SE but there are others, and some require isolation from other corn plants due to this type of pollination. If you are planting corn, remember that isolation includes any corn that may be growing nearby in gardens or fields. It is important to follow the directions on the label regarding isolation from other varieties, if not kept, there could be cross pollination and a resulting corn that is less sweet and may have a poor texture.

Pole beans versus bush beans. I like to use both of these in my garden because they have different characteristics. Bush beans are compact and tend to mature early, however, since they are relatively low to the ground, I have to stoop low to pick them. Due to early maturity, I always use this type of bean for my first planting.

Like their name indicates, pole beans require a support wire or netting to climb up as they grow. On the plus side, pole beans produce over a much longer harvest period and are quite easy to pick. Since they are growing vertically, they take up less space compared to bush beans. My second planting is usually pole beans and maybe a third planting of bush beans for a late harvest. With both types, it is essential that all the bean pods are harvested as soon as they are ready to be picked. If allowed to over-ripen they quickly become tough and the plant will stop producing.

Well, I think I will get some onion sets and peas and start planting my garden, once I get those maple seedlings out of my flower bed. Happy gardening. Christopher Dunbar

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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