COLUMN: Gardening success all about timing

NANAIMO – The May flowers and showers signal the start of another vegetable gardening season in the Harbour City.

The May flowers and showers signal the start of another vegetable gardening season in the Harbour City.

This year I am planting the usual lettuce, carrots, beets, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas and beans in the backyard, alongside the herbs and flowers.

For those who haven’t tried growing their own food, the superior taste of home-harvested produce is well worth the effort.

The reason your backyard produce often tastes better than the stuff you buy at the grocery store is because when it is harvested, some produce begins to lose its taste quite quickly. For example, the sugar content of some varieties of corn begins to decline after harvest.

Growing your own food also means less waste. You can harvest just a few leaves of lettuce – enough for your dinner – rather than picking the whole plant and having half of it wilt in the fridge.

But while many articles circulating out there talk about how easy it is to grow your own vegetables – don’t get me wrong, it can be – there are some things people need to think about before getting those hands dirty.

So this column is devoted to passing on some tips about growing your own food – from one gardening newcomer who fumbled her way through the process – and sometimes failed miserably – to another.

Since all of this information was learned the hard way, perhaps it can save someone a bit of wasted effort.

The biggest thing is to have a plan – you should know what you want to plant and where.

Every year, I start thinking about the garden in February and I decide what to grow based on what I like to eat and what has worked well in previous years with the space I have.

If your yard gets a lot of sun, then heat-loving plants are a go; if not, tomatoes and other sun-loving vegetables might not do well.

There are some plants that get along well together like tomatoes and basil; others should not be planted near each other, such as onions and peas.

I have made this mistake in the past and as a result, things don’t grow as well as they should and I haven’t gotten the harvest I was looking forward to.

West Coast Seeds has an excellent summary of companion planting that can be read at

The most important part of the plan is the schedule, a rough outline that takes into account the weather.

Timing is everything.

I rushed out to plant carrots and beets last week – about two weeks ahead of when I was thinking of planting – to take advantage of the rain promised in the forecast. Carrot seeds can take longer than two weeks to germinate and it is hard to keep that top layer of soil moist at all times, which is what the seeds require.

Another mistake I make constantly is planting corn too late – the plants don’t have enough time to make the corn before fall sets in – or planting things too early. I wasted a batch of lettuce seeds by planting them just before a cold spell earlier this spring.

And as for the growing medium, light soil is better for growing root vegetables – I try to work all of the chunks out of the soil with my hands and dig deep to make it easier for my carrots to grow down.

Pick as many rocks out of your garden as you can, although they seem to multiply in the rain.

Lighten up a clay-based soil with organic materials like compost and applying fertilizer of some sort is important.

And final tip of the day – on the subject of pests – I deter cats from digging by placing a square of chicken wire or similar material over plants while they are small.

As plants grow and expand across the dirt and your garden starts looking less like a litter box, our feline friends are not so attracted to it any more.

Just Posted

Beef to the lady who went onto my property then proceeded to take my large plant from my home. I found out and asked for it returned. You said I was dramatic? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Beefs & Bouquets, June 16

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts’s body was discovered near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Lotto Max player in Nanaimo wins $500,000

Campbell River lotto player wins $1 million in the Tuesday, June 15 draw

An artist’s rendering of a proposed student housing complex at 326 Wakesiah Ave. (WA Architects Ltd. image)
Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Lotto Max player in Nanaimo wins $500,000

Campbell River lotto player wins $1 million in the Tuesday, June 15 draw

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New residential school healing centre to be built near Duncan

$5-million Indigenous treatment centre will help survivors of residential schools heal

Most Read