HELEN LANG: Bolster your soil this season

Because it is getting so warm and the soil must be really heating up, I think you could plant your corn seed now.

Last week we were out in the vegetable garden but, for a change, please take off your gumboots, put on your old shoes and head for the basement or the garage — wherever you left the hanging baskets when the season was over last year.

It’s a good idea to empty the soil into the wheelbarrow to bolster it up a bit. Add a handful of your favorite fertilizer, whether it is 6-8-6, 10-10-10, or one of many other combinations. Ask at a garden centre for suggestions for their different uses.

For example, what do you use in a hanging basket? I try to stick to using some compost or dilute animal manures mixed in with the soil. A weighted sack of old cow manure soaking in a barrel of water will provide weeks of diluted organic fertilizer. It’s somewhat odoriferous (it smells horrible) but it does work. Don’t get it on plant leaves, though, they wilt at the very thought. Another suggeston is not to use it every time you water the baskets. Once every two weeks should provide enough nourishment for almost any plant. Use plain water for the other waterings (probably every second day during summer heat when baskets in the sun dry out so quickly).

If you are using last year’s baskets, it pays to wash them out and spray them with bleach before drying them in the sun.

Sorry to be so persnickety but if you can avoid even one fungus disease or rust, or mildew, it’s worth the extra effort now.

Because it is getting so warm and the soil must be really heating up, I think you could plant your corn seed now.  I know corn needs a warm soil to germinate but getting a head start promises those succulent cobs a little earlier than usual. If you love corn on the cob as much as I do, you’ll be waiting anxiously for a day to put in the seed and I do believe now is the time.

I no longer have a car so can’t drive down the highway to observe farmers’ fields to see if they are now seeding this precious crop. Honestly, I can hardly wait! I used to grow a couple of rows when I had a vegetable garden.

You need to plant corn in a series of squares or at least two parallel rows to achieve good pollination and a bumper crop.

It is so windy on my balcony this evening the clematis is having a hard time staying in its pot. It has three large buds, one of them a whopper, that looks about ready to explode into flower.

I still long for a Jackmanii, whose profuse blooms are huge and the most wonderful blue/purple colour, but there just isn’t room for another climber, much as I long for one.

The balcony is now “between seasons” (in other words it is pretty well bare). What is out there is either dead, or dying back, and it looks pathetic. However there is some hope.

I have those giant sunflower seeds to plant,  plus two packages of nasturtium seeds and those young geraniums which will be lovely  to see in bloom. It is no competition for the Butchart Gardens, of course, but what can you expect from a twelve by four foot space, three stories up in the air?

At least I was able to get rid of the lawn mower. But I sure do miss those wonderful trees. It gives me a nice feeling to see these 40 to 50 foot tall beauties which I planted as babies 36 years ago.

There is a lovely story called “The man who planted trees.” I wanted to do the same thing, and, by George, I did!


Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.