British Columbia - Indoor bounty
by Laura Langston
By nature, I'm moderately organized and relatively resourceful. So when I moved back to British Columbia after years on the Prairies, I looked forward to gardening year-round, both in the vegetable patch and the cold frame.
I'm also highly optimistic. The truth is, by the time summer gardening is over, I'm too busy dealing with what I've grown and the mess I've made to think about winter beds, never mind the cold frame.
It's usually well into fall before I start pining for the feel of dirt under my nails and the taste of fresh greens. By then, it's often too wet or too cold (or I'm too lazy) to get out and prepare the ground.
One year, frustrated that I hadn't gotten to the cold frame in time, I seeded some arugula and mizuna indoors in late October. The Christmas salads were so well received, I've done it many times since.
The trick is to select shallow-rooted greens such as arugula, mustard, cress, lettuce or spinach, then plant them in a decent soil mix. I like a blend of compost, topsoil and peat moss. Window boxes are ideal, but you could also use garden pots, deep trays or wooden boxes. Make sure your container is at least 15 centimetres deep.
I start the seeds in a warm place, which for me is indoors, then move them to a cool spot once they've sprouted—the south window in my unheated front porch. Western exposure also works well, as does a strong fluorescent or ultraviolet light. Cool night temperatures—about 10 to 15'C—are critically important for healthy growth. Failing a front porch, consider a bright basement window or unheated room.
Turn the container occasionally for equal exposure to the light; water regularly and mist if your location is dry. Finally, sow new seeds every few weeks over a six-week period if you want a staggered harvest. Most baby greens are ready to harvest in about eight weeks.
Throw out dated seeds and make a list of what you'll need for spring. Seedy Saturdays, where you can trade seeds or access hard-to-find, open-pollinated varieties, are held in many British Columbia communities in February and March.
Time on your hands? Volunteer at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. Call the Hort Line, (604) 822-5858, Tuesdays or Wednesdays noon to 3 p.m.
The B.C. Council of Garden Clubs is an umbrella organization for more than 100 garden clubs in the province. Call Lorna Herchenson at (604) 929-5382 or e-mail her at email@example.com
For comprehensive, year-round information about gardening in the Pacific Northwest, visit Slugs and Salal at www.slugsandsalal.com