This week I had a wonderful time presenting at a sustainable garden class run by the Corporation of Delta and at Moments for Moms at South Delta Baptist church this morning. For the new gardeners who need to remember some of what we talked about this week, here it is. I talked about growing peas,broad beans and potatoes in containers and in the ground. Peas and potatoes and broad beans can all be direct sown by seed this month.
These are commonly known as English beans at farmers markets. They can be planted in late fall for an early spring crop or in March for harvest in June. So how deep do I plant a seed? Good question! Be sure to read each package for directions as the seed supplier always has great information. The norm is to plant seeds three times their depth. Broad bean seeds are large and can be planted two inches deep and 6-9” apart. Harvest when pods are full and branches begin to droop. Lets say we want to grow them in a container. You are not limited to how you grow vegetables. In a container I would only plant one seed in a five gallon pot. The plants themselves will be about three feet high and a foot wide so they need room to grow. You will harvest lots of beans from just one plant.
One of every gardeners all time favourites are peas. Peas love cool weather and they are one of the first vegetables you can plant. Before you get started its best to decide which type you will grow. I like to grow heirloom peas such as Little Marvel or Lincoln Homesteader. You may want to grow something different. Try to choose open pollinated varieties so you can collect seeds for the next season. You will need to plan how to grow your peas. They will need some kind of support. You can attach a trellis to one end of a raised bed or use some of the pea growing nets available. I like to place a four-foot 1” thick post at each end of the bed and tack up some kind of netting across the bed. Be sure to leave room in between so its easy enough to harvest your peas. Once the supports are in place its time to plant the seed. If you haven’t used innoculant before add it to the soil as you plant your peas. It will help them gather nitrogen from the atmosphere. This results in healthier plants. Plant peas about 1” deep and about 18’ apart in the ground. If you are growing peas in containers you can plant closer together. You can see by the container above that I planted three pea seedlings in the container spacing them equally apart. You can plant three pea seeds in the pot as well to have some succession planting going on. To add some colour to the container, I added three Viola plants. Both peas and Violas are cool season plants that will start to wind down about the same time.
Choose a good sized container such as a five gallon pot or larger. Fill it will some lightweight potting mix. I absolutely love the brand of soil above which can be found both at West Coast Seeds in Ladner or at Save On Foods. It is light and easy to use.
I added a support system using three bamboo stakes and topped them with a rubber topper which holds all three stakes together. No more trying to tie them together. Add a line of good string around the stakes about halfway up and be sure to gently guide your pea plants up the supports. Peas have long tendrils that tend to cling but they need a bit of help sometimes.
Potatoes are easily grown but if you are growing in the ground work the soil so it is friable and easy to plant. Potatoes planted directly in the ground are planted using seed potatoes, available at most garden centers. The hardest part is deciding which variety to grow. You will see all sorts of gadgets such as grow boxes and cylinders that will tell you how to grow more potatoes. Ignore all that. Just plant them in the ground and hill them. I am a lazy gardener and with time so precious, do it the easy old-fashioned way.
I like to plant my seeds about 12” deep in loose soil in raised beds. You can hill your potatoes as they grow but they will still produce even if you don’t. Never add lime or fresh manure to your soil when growing potatoes. They prefer our acidic soils best. Plant your potato seeds about 18” apart so they have room to grow. Most of the growth is underground. When the plants are about 12” high you can begin to mound soil around the plants. Potatoes only grow above the seeds so that’s why you hill them. As your plants mature they will flower. You can tell by the flower which potato it is. In July you will see the plants finish flowering and the foliage will start to look like ts dying. Cut back on watering now as your potatoes finish growing under the ground. I like to feel around below the ground in June for a few early potatoes. Potatoes are best harvested in July.
So you want to grow your potatoes in a container. You can but make sure your container is large. You want to start by using one that is at least 7 gallon size or larger. I grew potatoes in a five gallon pot last summer and it only yielded eight potatoes so your harvest is lower when using a small container. To grow them in a container, place a small amount of soil in the bottom and place a potato seed in the middle. Make sure there are eyes on your seed potatoes. This is where the growth begins. Cover it with just a couple of inches of soil. You will watch the plant sprout and as it grows you will add more soil. You see, the potatoes only grow above the seed and by continuing to add soil as it grows it will increase your harvest. We are trying to mimick the hilling we would do when planting in the ground.
Today at Moments for Mom’s I planted a basket container. I love this container! I lined it with a hanging basket liner which allows the water to drain easily. Hopefully as the plants grow the edges will be covered. I used two herbs in the center but could have done just one. Today I planted Parsley and Chives in the basket after adding a few inches of soil to the basket. Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin A,C and E. It is classified as an annual herb meaning it grows for one season and dies. Fortunately, often parsley will drop its seeds and will reappear in the garden the following year. Sometimes it will survive the winter if it is mild. Few insects bother parsley but it is loved by beneficial insects, the good bugs. The word parsley comes from the greek word petros meaning rock. This may refer to the herbs ability to cure kidney stones. Chives have anti fungal properties and is a useful companion plant in the garden. They help to deter aphids and fungal diseases on plants such as mildew and black spot on roses.
To make things easier, use a table or overturned plant pot to create your containers. This saves bending over to plant.
Next I added both red romaine lettuce and green leaf lettuce alternating the plants around the sides of the basket. For me, it’s also about the foliage. I want the basket to look pretty as well as be functional. As you plant each plant, grab a handful of soil to add to the sides as you go. Its easier to add soil as you go to make sure your plant roots are covered.
I squeezed in a couple of Violas for colour and the basket was done. Now its ready to be watered.
Since it is so close to Easter I thought I would place some ceramic eggs into the basket. I actually found these pretty eggs at the thrift shop.
I love adding a bit of extra whimsy to each container I make. Why not? Are you looking to learn more about vegetable gardening? Check out the Corporation of Delta’s Sustainable Garden classes here. I look forward to doing the classes and every one of them has been filled. Add yourself to the waitlist if need be. I am always willing to work a little longer to spread the passion for growing local food.
Someone asked me how many plants to place in a 12″ container. Here is a short list: