Guest Column: This is what a Master gardener has done so far this spring

Darlene Romanko is a Master Gardener whose expertise is in education, science, ethics, the healing arts and environmental policy. In addition to running the community garden at the Peachland Wellness Centre, she also serves on two local committees concerned with climate change and water quality. She’s been recognized as the Green Citizen of the Year by the District of Peachland, and owns the Sancti Wellness Studio here in town. 

Encouraged by the circle of life and light now that spring is here? Yes, it’s a wonderful time to be in the garden.

Here in my Peachland garden called Sancti, I spend a good few hours daily playing, at one with the birds and the bees.

Sancti’s gardens are about 1/4 acre of domestic planting and ¼ left to other nature.

The wild area is blooming with the white flowers of the Saskatoon bush and the golden flowers of Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

The Apricot, Cherry, and Peach trees are blooming and the Plum tree will bloom soon.

Yellow daffodils, purple grape hyacinth, and red tulips sway in the breeze. I like early spring to late fall flowers to help feed pollinators. In turn, they help feed me by pollinating the plants that need them. 

 So what type of playing have I been doing in the garden this spring?

In February, I pruned my fruit trees, grapes and blackberries.

The willow and chokecherry also got a good 1/3 of the growth pruned off. The roses have been pruned to about six inches, taking out the dead, diseased and dying branches first. Shaping the rose and ensuring that air gets into the center.

 In March, I begin to clip down last summer’s perennial flowers as their seeds provide winter food for the birds.

The chopped up clippings go into a pile for compost that gets watered when I water other plants.  

The compost piles get turned weekly. This way, I get mulch for the perennial beds to cool roots and save water in July when the heat hits the garden.

By the end of March I’m on the hunt for worms.

 Worms? Yes, I leave my red wiggler worms outside in the winter in bins under the lilacs near the garden.

Some freeze, others live and some wiggle out and hide under the bins.

When the sun is warm in early spring it’s time to set out to recapture the escapees.

Returned worms feed in the bins on the kitchen scraps that I’ve been collecting throughout the winter.

Worms fed weekly by me through the growing season gives me enough vermicompost (worm poop) to feed my growing plants. 

Their vermicompost is like garden gold.

March and April are all about enriching the soil.  I use the vermicompost castings to top dress the rhubarb and the whole vegetable garden.

Add the leaf compost (leaves I piled and watered in the fall to decompose over winter) and vermicompost around the perennials as a tonic.

I remove some of the compost that I put around the roses last fall and check the roses for new growth

 This April has been dry and I have a 5000 gallon cistern that collects rain/snow water.

Every spring all beds and trees get a good deep watering.

How much water you ask? I still hand water my 1/4 acre, so I pay a lot of attention to the right amount of water at the right time of year.

I dig a hole in the garden near the shrubs and use my sprinkler hose to fill it with water, timing how long it takes to sink into the ground.

It takes about an hour of sprinkler water to sink a foot deep into the ground to get to the roots. I also use a water meter. 

March and April are also about weeding. A weed is a plant where you don’t want it in the garden. Dandelions are welcomed in the field adjacent to my

vegetable garden but not in the vegetable garden. These early sunny flowers bring in pollinators by the thousands – a welcomed sight by my fruit trees as they help pollinate my fruit trees too.

It is a good time to clean up your weeds and grass in your beds. Getting them when they are small makes the job easier for you. It’s also a good time to move flowers and strawberries back to beds you want them in.

 April is also time to sow seeds in the vegetable garden. I plant what I like to eat including herbs for seasoning my cooking.

Cold crops planted include arugula, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, kale, lettuce, onion, peas, potato, radish, spinach, swiss chard, strawberries (transplants) and turnip. Herbs include anise, chamomile, chives, dill, lavender oregano, tarragon, thyme.  I will plant the basil later as it’s a hot crop.  

As an aromatherapist, I love lavender and make distillations, so there is lots of lavender to transplant in the spring.

I have started some hot crops like sweet peppers and tomatoes in the house and as the weather is nice the little plants get to go outside to get used to the sun and wind until they go in the garden in May.

 Like most things, the garden is like the seasons of your life. Mother nature brings forth the beauty of light to help us grow.

What have you been doing in your garden this spring?

Written by Kristen Friesen

April 24, 2020

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