Plant winter garden now

Covered veggies will survive, even under snowcover

This is a good time to think about planting vegetables (forgive me, please) for a winter harvest. Annie from Melissa Street reminded me of this.

Up until the middle of August you can plant seeds and expect a crop before … er …the snow flies, and even then a covering with Reemay cloth will save most things, even lettuce and spinach.

I remember one year my Reemay cloth was weighted down with snow, but under the humps were lettuces, maybe a little crisp, but edible all the same. Annie also reminded me that people are really  interested in growing their own food, so a list of seeds to plant now, up until mid-August would be peas, carrots, corn salad (mache), lettuce, kohlrabi, oriental greens, overwintering onions, spinach, chard and turnips. Keep the vegetable bed watered until fall rains start. By then your seedlings should be up and growing. Don’t overdo the fertilizer until the plants are a little larger, there is bound to be nourishment left over from your earlier crops.

It is still too early to plant garlic, that comes in October, but I’ll try to remember to remind you then. Lovely to think of all those delicious fresh veggies that will appear in months to come. One thing I’m going to put in, a little later, are seeds of calendula (pot marigold) which seem to bloom here all winter, when it doesn’t get too cold. They don’t have a pleasant fragrance, but have such sunny faces you can’t help but love them.

Something I’ve mentioned before, but may be worth repeating is that you should always re-cut rose stems under water before putting the blooms into water in your vase. Why? Because an air bubble forms on the cut end and water can’t be absorbed.

Another hint is not to use animal manure when planting potatoes because it causes scab on potato skins.

At this time of year I usually manage to foist the odd recipe on my friendly readers.

This time it’s dill pickles. This is simple but the results are splendid if you like dill pickles.

Helen’s Dill Pickles

Use quart jars for these tart treats.

Using medium sized pickling cucumbers, fill jars within a 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.

Add two tablespoons pickling salt, one clove garlic, one tablespoon white sugar, cram in a lot of dill weed (approximately  a handful of crushed seed head and feathery leaves).

Pour in 3/4 cup of white or cider vinegar, and fill jar to within 1/2 inch of the top with water.

Put on jar lids, tighten screw tops and pressure cook for one minute, or using a large pot, put a rack of some sort under the jars (I’ve used a collection of table forks, making sure the jars stayed upright when placed on top.)

Water should come about half way up the jars. If using a pressure cooker follow directions about exhausting the steam, then raising the pressure to 15, cook for one minute.

Allow to partly cool in the cooker, before removing to place on a towel.

If using a big pot, bring to a boil, and cook for five minutes to seal tops. When jars are cool, test for seal by tapping the lids with the tip of a spoon. If there is a “ping” the jar is sealed, if not sealed, when cool put in the fridge and use after about a month. Or re-cook, having put on a fresh lid.

Something I was told was if you put a grape leaf in the jar before filling, your pickles will be crisper. We had a grape vine so I always used one, so didn’t do a proper test.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.