Burnett: There’s plenty for those with green thumbs to do in the garden at this time of year

Time to get the garden ready for the coming warmer weather.

This cool weather is keeping some gardeners from doing some important early season purchasing.

Even though the weather is not as comfortable as it could be, there are things that should be done cool weather or not.

The garden centres are now stocked up on Dahlia roots, begonia tubers, lily bulbs, Walla Walla onions, garlic and of course seeds. Some of these things will deteriorate on the shelf if they are not purchased early and planted in the ground.

Lily bulbs in particular should be purchased and planted right away. The best time and one could argue the right time to plant lily bulbs is in October however most garden centres do not include them in their fall program because the mainstream wholesalers cannot get them ready for market in time.

Instead they are processed in the fall and stored over winter in a controlled environment for distribution in the spring. The problem is when they come out of the controlled environment, the deterioration begins immediately so the sooner they are purchased and planted the better.

Lilies do very well here in the Okanagan especially the Asiatic varieties. In fact an Asiatic lily bulb planted this season will bloom year after year and even multiply for you.

The Oriental varieties such as Stargazer are a bit more finicky to grow. They need an acid environment and for the most part we have the opposite conditions.

Applying some Tiger 90 granulated sulphur each year will do the trick to acidify the soil.

Another one you want to get in early is Walla Walla onions. After all the plants you see in the garden centres have just been dug out of a field this spring after having been planted in August of last year by seed. The faster they get back in the ground the better. Walla Walla Spanish onions have been a favourite summer barbeque compliment forever however they are not good keepers so plant accordingly.

If you wish to have some winter keepers as well then plant some Stuttgart onion sets which are also at the garden centres now.

As far as seeds go there are many that can be planted this early.

Peas, of course, can go in right away, and carrots as well. Also all the cold crops and salad greens should be sown early and this should be repeated each month right through the season to have fresh produce coming on all the time.

One good thing to remember though never do your shopping for garden seeds on an empty stomach or you are bound to over buy. Those pictures of juicy vegetables are just too tempting when you’re hungry. Also a tip for men—never plant more garden than your wife will look after. I have seen far too often guys planting a huge garden and then leaving it to look after itself while they pursue other more recreational spring and summer activities like golf.

Don Burnett is a local gardening expert.


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