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May 28, 2020, 8:05 pm Advertisments



Contributor - SUSAN JENSEN


Turn vegetable gardening into an engaging family project during time at home

Is all the gardening activity this spring inspiring you? Like everything else right now, getting seeds, etc. takes a bit of patience, but growing your own fruits and vegetables adds an interesting aspect to this time when we’re paying attention to our sources of food.

If you’re a beginner, here are the basics: find the sunniest spot available, dig some organics into the soil, plant some seeds or starts, water, and stand back. You have begun the journey of learning how to garden as you go with help of neighbors and the internet.

You may already know what you want to plant. I also recommend involving your household since everyone has favorites. Also keep in mind that timing will improve your success. Plant berries or fruit trees while it is still cool. Crops that can be planted all Spring in our climate include peas, lettuce, kale, potatoes and spinach. Wait til it warms up in late May to plant beans, carrots, squash, corn, cucumbers and tomato plants. If you have kids around, everbearing strawberries will be a hit and if you have space, how about pumpkins?

Over the course of the season, family members can help by watering, harvesting, watching for pest damage and using the internet to troubleshoot. Another way to engage them is with garden projects like fancy plant labels, fairy houses, painted rocks, decorated pots, yarn art, painted raised beds, a scarecrow or other kinds of outdoor art.

In choosing where to plant a garden, your sunniest spot available may be a patio. I think that container gardening, which can be challenging to keep watered and fertilized when we’re busy, makes a lot of sense now with more time spent at home.

If you have a yard, your sunniest area might be in front. That’s the case with me and I’m discovering that a bonus is the social aspect with so many neighbors out for walks these days. Cheerful conversation starters for the front include cherry tomatoes, corn, peppers, artichokes, brussels sprouts, asparagus, ground cherries, zucchini and edible flowers. Try sunflowers as an interesting trellis for cucumbers or plant “the 3 sisters” -- corn, beans and squash as companion plants. In any case, pass some of your time this summer making things grow!


Community gardens adopt social distancing guidelines and welcome new gardeners

Community gardens have been designated as essential services in BC. This past week, the City of Surrey sent out COVID 19 guidelines to community garden organizers so the season can go forward during this time of renewed interest in growing your own food.

Alexandra Neighborhood House has been on top of making changes for this season. Normally we’d kick off with an orientation and work party. However this year, plot assignments were done remotely and work parties were postponed. Soil delivery and water supply was arranged behind the scenes so that gardeners could get started in April. Signage at the gates includes the now familiar distancing and cleanliness guidelines and specific rules about bringing your own tools.

My friend at Dunsmuir Gardens is planting her plot as usual, but said their Annual General Meeting planned for March was cancelled and that work duties for the season are being assigned to individuals.

Many gardeners have perennial edibles and overwintered crops like broccoli, kale, and leeks that can be picked now. Now that we have some warm weather, spring crops can be started. Fast growing spring vegetables include radishes, spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula and peas. This year I am dedicating an area to potatoes which yield the most calories in the least amount of space.

Some of us are scrambling to get seeds right now. The Surrey Seed Library went forward with distribution outside of the Ocean Park Library in March, following protocols to avoid talking and contact. The next distribution is planned for April 18. Seedy Saturday usually held at Stewart Farm in April was cancelled. Availability of seeds at retail locations is hit and miss -- try Walmart, etc.

If you live on the peninsula and would like to join a garden, there are still plots available at the Crescent Park Community Garden -- you get your own raised bed for $35 per year. Email to apply. Plots that are not assigned this spring will be designated for the food bank and tended by volunteers. Some of the other local gardens I checked with have wait lists so you'd have to contact them to see if there is space available.

I have a subscription to a gardening column by local expert Linda Gilkeson. In addition to her advice on what vegetables can be started when, she reminds us to include cheerful flowers and to help new gardeners by sharing your seeds and knowledge.


Gardening in your heart already?

......Try artichokes this year


The snow has barely disappeared and it is gardening season -- at least it’s gardening season somewhere! There’s a little bit we can do around here in January -- some people sneak in some garlic or prune fruit trees. We can order seeds and plan the garden. I am ordering artichoke seeds so I can start them earely in February.

Have you seen artichokes growing? They are perennials that grow like giant thistles - like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. I started 6 plants from seeds a few years ago, planted them in full sun at the community garden, and had 30 artichokes that summer. They’re a real conversation starter! They grow about 3 feet tall and the flower buds start out big and get smaller as the season goes on, but they’re all delicious. You cut off the bud (when it looks like one you’d see in the store) then cook -- there are several ways. I steam them whole for 40+ minutes and serve them with melted butter. You’ll want to google how to eat them -- it is very fun.

Anyhow, depending on the winter, they survive here on the peninsula. The first winter they survived (and multiplied!) and I was able to divide them and give some to a friend. However last winter I lost most of them to freezing and realized it too late to start more. (I ended up buying a couple plants from a nursery and they’re not cheap.) So this year -- two things: I dug up my expensive nursery artichokes and overwintered them in peat moss. (I never do this for plants, that’s how great they are). Also, I’m starting more indoors now.

I’ve tried both popular varieties - Globe and Imperial, and didn’t see much difference. BTW, Jerusalem artichokes are different -- they’re a sunflower where you eat the tuber.

I have a friend who grows artichokes in big pots. Either way I think they’re perfect for a front yard vegetable garden, front and center in the sun.

Susan Jensen / Ocean Park


Do you know what you are looking at? I didn't until a chance meeting with Susan Jensen.

That is the dream of the White Rock Sun fulfilled.

Since the inception of Canada's FIRST Online Newspaper it has been my goal to include as many community voices as possible. When I recently met Susan for the first time the topic somehow ended up being about her community garden. My ears perked up. "Would you be at all interested in writing about gardening locally?"

Well imagine my pleasant surprise when this article on Ground Cherries turned up this week. Thank you Susan and thank you readers. If you have an idea for a story in THE SUN please let me know.

David Chesney


Seed Catalogue Alert: Ground Cherries

On December 1, I harvested the last of this summer’s ground cherry crop. I can’t say enough about this garden plant that has been producing fruit since July and keeps going until it freezes. You’ve probably seen ground cherries (Physalis species - sometimes called “gooseberries”) as a garnish on dessert plates. It’s papery husk is distinctive -- the plant is related to the Tomatillo and Chinese Lantern. The fruits inside taste like fruit punch and are amazing raw or in desserts.

These plants grow like crazy as annuals in our climate on the sunny peninsula. Start from seed indoors in early spring. Plant plenty and give some warmth so enough germinate. Once they’re growing, pot them up, and then transplant them out in a sunny spot when the weather warms up -- like tomatoes. Give them lots of space and plan to do some staking or caging or else by the end of the summer they’ll sprawl out 3 feet in all directions. They’re pest/disease resistant and require little care.

Little yellow flowers on the plant will each develop into a fruit - and they’ll keep coming on until the plant freezes. You can get a hundred or more fruits from each plant during our growing season. Pick each fruit once its husk turns yellow. The ripe fruits are about an inch in diameter, depending on the variety, and are orange. There’s no pit.

Like tomatoes and potatoes, these are a nightshade. The green, unripe fruits and leaves contain the toxic chemical solanine. I am guessing the leaves and green fruit don’t taste good anyhow.

All in all I recommend adding ground cherries to your winter seed order -- you can find them alongside the Tomatillo varieties. This year I had 3 plants -- one at the Crescent Park Community Garden, one in my front yard and one in a container. I plan to double the number next year since I hear you can freeze them.

Susan Jensen/Ocean Park





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