Ucluelet Local Food Society president Jeanne Keith Ferris, right, helps beginner gardener Britny Scheuermann ready her garden plot for planting last week. (Nora O’Malley photo)

COLUMN: Gardening is balm for your soul

Some expert tips to help build your green-thumb this year

Connie Kuramoto and Jeanne Keith-Ferris

Special to the Westerly

If social distancing is adding stress to your life, a wonderful balm for your soul is to grab some seeds, soil and get started growing a veggie garden.

Home gardening does not have to be daunting, it just takes a commitment to begin. Whether you have a small apartment, or access to a yard, understanding basic principles will bring you gardening success. Involve the kids and have fun together!

In the coming articles we will talk about all aspects of gardening, help you build your green-thumb skills, and offer some easy food preservation ideas.

There has never been a better time to start growing food.

What can you grow?

Even if you only have room for a few containers, you will soon see that you can supplement your diet with vibrant fresh food. We are lucky on the west coast. Although tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant may struggle, greens of all kinds, and any member of the cabbage family, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale thrives. Root vegetables like beets, carrots, potatoes, and radishes also tend to do well, and over a much longer season than any other part of the Island.

Let’s get started!

Local garden centres are still open for supplies but it is advised you call ahead to enquire regarding their shopping restrictions. Begin with this simple project.You will need containers. If you don’t have any pots, try using recycled yogurt containers, or transparent clamshell containers. Secondly you will need to purchase some seed starter mix, because outside soil just doesn’t work well in pots. Next comes the seeds. Seed varieties may be in short supply at garden centres right now, so enquire among gardening neighbours if they have any extra seeds, or order on line.

Start with lettuce, or mixed greens. Grand Rapids is my favourite lettuce for growing indoors, but any one will do. Punch holes in the bottom of your container and find a dish to put under it to catch the water.

Prop the container up off the dish so it can drain. Then fill the container half way with your starter mix. Dampen the soil with water. Sprinkle seeds on the surface of the soil, then lightly cover with more starter mix.

Place the container in a warm place. It does not need light until the seeds sprout. After they do, put the container in as bright a light as possible. You can even put it outside in a protected area. When the leaves of the plants touch, harvest young greens to thin them out. Keep a bowl of water handy, and put them straight into the water, then into your salad. Keep eating, and keep refilling containers, and seeding.

It really is that simple to get fresh salad greens!

Connie Kuramoto is an Organic Master Gardener and Jeanne Keith-Ferris is the president of the Ucluelet Local Food Society.

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