June 2015: what to plant

The urban vegetable garden, May 2015.

I’ve been away from my garden for two and a half weeks, and it’s tearing me apart. Late spring is prime time in the garden and here I am, missing key planting dates. Don’t get me wrong — life is great. It’s just been really busy.

May was full of travel, with a trip to BC’s wine country in Osoyoos and Oliver where Jason and I ran the Half-Corked marathon. It was a ridiculous affair, with an emphasis more on carbo-loading (they feed you a huge pasta dinner the night before, and there are wine-tasting and snack stations every kilometer or so during the run itself, not to mention lunch and more wine tasting when you’re done) than on the actual running. And it was HOT — 33 degrees celsius. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that many of our fellow runners were wearing heavy, sweaty costumes.

Before and after the run, we did manage to check out some of the growing techniques used in the Okanagan, Canada’s only desert and the source of much of Western Canada’s fruit and wine. In this mediterranean climate, cherries, peaches and other stone fruit flourish, along with peppers, tomatoes, apples and of course, grapes. I also spotted a few almond, olive and citrus trees, which, although they don’t seem to be used in commercial production, were flourishing. Speaking of citrus, we stopped at a nursery in hopes of buying a meyer lemon tree — Jason and I are obsessed with trying to grow this relatively cold-tolerant variety in Vancouver — but ended up with a bunch of strawberry and melon seedlings instead.

As soon as we’d returned from BC’s southern border, it was time to turn around and head far north to Cortes Island, BC, a remote coastal island. We spent the week at one of my favourite places on earth: Hollyhock, Canada’s lifelong learning centre, home of one of the most productive and beautiful gardens on earth. I was lucky enough to spend the trip studying under their garden Manager, Holly Mackay. I’m incredibly inspired and can’t wait to bring some of Hollyhock’s practices into my own space.

Which brings me to my own garden. We just got back home, and since my garden is on the other side of town and I have a busy work week, I won’t get to the backyard farm until the weekend rolls around. I have no idea what state it’ll be in, but I’m guessing that it’ll be pretty overgrown and in need of serious harvesting.

Rebecca-Cuttler-Olive-Tree
Checking out an olive tree in at a nursery in the Okanagan. Oh, I wish I could grow these at home!

JUNE TASK LIST

Saturday is going to be a big day in the garden, and June is a big gardening month in general. Here’s my list of crucial garden tasks. Your dates might be different from mine, depending on where you live.

  • Plant cucurbit seedlings. My pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini seedlings went into the ground a couple of weeks ago, but the watermelon and cantaloupe starts we bought in the Okanagan have been languishing in their little pots for way too long now.  If you haven’t done so already, plant your cucurbit-family seedlings (squashes, pumpkins, zucchinis, cucumbers and melons) now, choosing a place with compost-rich soil and plenty of space for them to sprawl. Melons are best treated as an experimental crop in Vancouver — we’ll see how they do!
  • Plant corn and bean seeds. The soil is nice and warm now (especially with the hot year we’re having), and it’s time to get your corn and beans into the ground. Try putting them in the same bed as your cucurbits for a classic companion planting combination.
  • Plant herb seedlings. The parsley I sowed in early May is now itching to get into the ground. In our family, parsley is a mainstay crop because it grows all year long (even in the dead of winter) and provides a surprisingly large harvest, so we always grow a lot of it. I’ll also be planting the strawberry starts we bought (a bit late for those — they’re already fruiting), along with some badly neglected chamomile and alyssum that I totally forgot to ask our neighbours to water during our travels.
  • Keep planting lettuce, carrots, beets and arugula. Plant a small block of these crops every two weeks, and you’ll have a harvest all year long. At this hot time of year, be sure to keep them well-watered. Some lettuce varieties do better than others in the heat. Here are Hollyhock’s favourite summer lettuce varieties: Nevada, Sierra, Magenta and Marvel.
  • Start thinking about your winter garden. Want to keep eating from your garden all year, even in January? Winter gardens actually start in the summer, and June is the time to seed slow-growing cold weather crops like parsnips, celeriac and leeks.
The Hollyhock garden was my classroom for a week. I am so lucky!
The Hollyhock garden was my classroom earlier this month.

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