HELEN LANG: First seeds of the season are simply wonderful

I find this exciting ... the first seeds planted this spring! The start of something wonderful!

Back home and glad to be here. It was nice to see my brother Herb recently but there is nothing quite as pleasant as sleeping in your own warm bed.

Once again I was reminded that we are further into spring than they are in Cedar (south of Nanaimo). There is nothing showing in his many big pots and certainly nothing in the open ground. Years ago, when my family lived in Qualicum Beach, my gardening mother used to bemoan the fact that spring growth in the area surrounding Victoria was ten days — at least — ahead of the same vegetation in Qualicum Beach.

She seems to have been right  as there are several yellow crocus almost in bloom on the balcony and the tulip foliage is several inches high, whereas the tulips I planted in one of my brother’s flower beds two years ago haven’t even broken the surface of the soil.

This reminds me that I promised his Man Friday Anthony, a package of Little Marvel shelling pea seeds for his small vegetable garden on the property. At the same time I’m getting one for myself and planting them tomorrow (or the next day. Soon, anyway).

The seeds have to go into one of my big five gallon pots and I’ll up-end a tomato cage and put it in as a support after planting the seeds. If I wait until the peas sprout, I’ll never get the cage between the sprouting seeds without squishing at least one hopeful pea.

I find this exciting … the first seeds planted this spring! The start of something wonderful! Whoopie!

Buying the pea seed will be a test of my will-power. When standing in front of a seed rack I’m almost overcome with desire … shall I plant carrots and maybe spinach and maybe Swiss chard as well, and what about some broad beans and some corn and … and  …

Calm yourself, silly! It’s way too early for corn and you should have planted the broad bean seed last fall if you wanted an early crop. You could try a row of carrots and one of spinach, but don’t plant the whole package, save some for a little later, just in case. Maybe you could afford a package of sweet pea seed and plant them. They smell so lovely later, while you are on your knees, weeding the Shasta daisies. Now, please tell me how THEY got in here?

It’s not even the right season for Shasta daisies. They normally bloom considerably later than sweet peas. But I suppose if you planted your sweet peas in late June, they might flower together. This is only a guess as I have never tried it!

It’s another dull, grey day, much like the weather in Cedar while I was there.

Disappointing, when the sea is so blue when the sun shines. But the visit wasn’t to see the ocean, but to see Herb, who is suffering (not patiently) from an inability to speak clearly. I think this is called aphasia and it is terribly frustrating for the sufferer. I learned a couple of new swear words from him that I’m unlikely to forget as they were shouted out in a rage, poor man!

His head is full of specialized medical knowledge that took years to acquire and now it is hidden in a tangled mess of unruly cells. What a loss of a good brain!

While there I wanted to mention that last year’s dead blooms on the hydrangeas should be removed down to the nearest growth bud, but the gardener would, I’m pretty sure, regard this as interference, so I kept my mouth firmly shut.

A kind word to readers might be in order. It’s actually past the best time to prune grapevines but if you haven’t done it already take the secateurs and lop off all long vines waving in the wind, back to a swelling growth bud, about 18 inches from the main stalk.

Don’t worry that you might take off too much and the vine will die. These things are so hardy it would take a chain saw to discourage them.

 

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