Kale - “Dwarf curlies”

Duchess of Dirt: Get those spring seeds under soil

Leslie Cox

Special to The Record

If you have not already started, it is time to get a few seeds under a layer of soil. Peas, broad beans, radishes, and pac choi could already have be direct seeded into the garden by now. (The latter two benefit from a covering of spun cotton row cover.)

Starting anytime soon, you can seed kale, arugula, spinach, collards, and corn salad.

Mind you, direct seeding into the garden can only happen if your soil is not too soggy. This is determined by squeezing a handful of soil in your fist. If it forms a clump in your palm, wait for the ground to dry out. If the clump in your palm is loose and falls apart you can start working in your beds.

In the vegetable garden: amend your soil with compost – very important! You can only grow healthy crops by first feeding your soil.

Soil pH must also be addressed. If it is out of whack, plants have more difficulty accessing some necessary nutrients, such as calcium. Most vegetables prefer a pH range of 6.5 to 6.8.

Sending a soil sample to a lab for analysis will provide accurate results. However, it is fairly safe to assume our soils lean toward the acidic side of 6.0, and lower, in the Pacific Northwest. Adding dolomite lime will boost the pH upwards.

Ideally, lime should be applied two weeks before planting but schedules are often frantically busy. The weather does not always cooperate either. If you are behind the eight ball and seeding right after applying the lime, be sure it is worked into the soil. Lime will burn seeds and tender roots.

(Note: Do not lime where you are planting potatoes, rhubarb, and blueberries. They like acid soil.)

If your garden is too wet to direct seed, get a jump on spring by seeding indoors. I already have kale, arugula, onions, Swiss chard, spinach, and three types of lettuces sprouted under my grow lights.

Drop everything right now if you have not planted any garlic yet! There is a very tiny window open to get some in the ground. Do not plant the stuff from the grocery store. Check out the farmers’ market for the real thing. Or check the vendors at Seedy Saturday this weekend. There may be garlic for sale –  and certainly seeds!

You will also want to get the “dirt” on soil preparation at one of my workshops that day. Find out my tips and bring your questions!



Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.


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