Photo credit: joshua-lanzarini-FGvQKMP-iXY-unsplash


Looking Forward

We are almost over the ‘hump’ of the winter as far as the gardening world goes. It may not seem like it now, but soon the crisp crunch of snow will give way to the soft earth under foot and a new season of those delicious fresh veggies.

By now, I expect most people have received some seed catalogues. I just love the pictures of plants and veggies in catalogues as they are so vibrant and colourful. I can almost taste the buttery corn and beans.

Some flowers need to be seeded 12 weeks before transplanting so these would have to be planted now. There are some key challenges I have found producing seedlings in winter due to the low intensity of the sunlight and our short day length. Plants need strong sunlight, so use the best positioned south window in your home this time of year. They also need a temperature of at least 20°C, especially some heat-loving crops. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package as far as timing of seeding goes. Additionally, some seeds require sunlight or other conditions (like presoaking) to germinate. I try to follow the instructions on the package as closely as possible.

If you have seeds left from last year remember that some seeds retain viability much longer than others. Seeds such as tomatoes or carrots remain viable for several years. However, other vegetables like corn, peppers, or pelleted lettuce show a marked decline even after only one year. Do your research if you are using extra seed left over from last year to avoid disappointment, it’s not fun to wait to see your seeds sprouting and be unsuccessful in the end.

Pots of herbs planted in winter can bring summer into your kitchen Photo Credit: Christopher Dunbar

If good germination is accomplished, you still need to observe how the seedlings are growing. If the stems are long, narrow, and have somewhat small and light green leaves, there is a good chance they are not getting enough sunlight. If the plants are already in the sunniest window you have, then you may need to consider supplementing the light with an artificial source. The light that plants need must mimic that of the sun therefore specialized broad spectrum grow lights will be needed. These are quite common and are often available from many hardware stores. Also, be very careful not to add too much or too little water, especially in winter.

Even if you do not try the challenge of growing seedlings in February, it won’t be long before the other transplants will need to be seeded. So, now is certainly a good time to place your seed order and locate supplies like soil and pots and get ready. I can just smell the wonderful aroma of soil as I fill pots.

Just a reminder that anytime is a good time to plant a few seeds of some herbs in a pot and place it on a sunny window sill. If you have never tried using fresh herbs, I really encourage you to give it a try. It is very easy to do and adds such a wonderful flavour to your food. It will give you and the people you cook for a blast of summer.

Well, I guess that is all for now. I am going to refresh my cup of tea then relax beside the fireplace as I flip through some seed catalogues.

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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