What to grow and where to start

With the interest in home grown food sweeping Vancouver Island, there is a corresponding desire for beginners to just jump in and join the parade

With the interest in home grown food sweeping Vancouver Island, there is a corresponding desire for beginners to just jump in and join the parade.

The gardening guide I rely on is the  West Coast Seeds Catalogue. You can order it online or the one nursery here that carries it is Campbell River Garden Centre. The seed company makes it so easy for neophyte gardeners to be successful right from the start.

The vegetable planning chart for coastal B.C. takes away all the anxiety of what to plant and when to start. For instance you could be starting your basil indoors now and keep it in potting soil on the kitchen windowsill then place it outdoors in June.

The biggest mistake the newbie gardeners can make is charting out too much space.  That’s why it is strongly recommended to start out with filling a few pots on the patio or small containers on the window sill.

Another hugely popular concept is Square Foot Gardening.

The idea was originated by Mel Bartholomew. If you follow his plan it allows you to grow 100 percent of your harvest in only 20 percent of the space.  The best part is there’s no digging. Just build a 4 foot by 4 foot bottomless box. Lay it down on the existing soil, remove grass and weeds and fill the boxes with a high quality soil mix.

For a family of four he says you’ll need a total of four boxes. He claims that if you follow his directions you’ll have the most sensational gardening experience of your life.

His book is available in the library or go online to his site The Official Site  of Square Foot Gardening.

For readers asking me to repeat  recipes and ideas for small space gardening please go to my blog at Campbell River Urban Gardener.

All my columns for the past two years are archived in the column to the right of the screen on the opening page. So many readers have exclaimed over the recipe for cooking kale. In fact, you can use the same process on coarse outer leaves left over after preparing beet leaves, broccoli buds and cabbage heads.

Here’s another idea for turning the much maligned beet root into a delicious treat.  This lonely veg is a powerhouse of nutritional value but it gets passed by when busy people are shopping and planning  the evening meal. It just takes too long to cook…unless you try my way of producing a succulent steamed beet in 10 minutes.

Take a half dozen medium size beets and cut them crosswise in circles about half an inch thick or less. Melt a good knob of butter and mix with olive oil in a thick bottomed frying pan on medium heat.

Cover with a lid and and 10 minutes later you’ll be serving shiny red, juicy, mouth watering beets and with no loss of nutrition as they cook in their own juice.

Morgan Ostler is a former journalist and city councillor and avid local food fanatic.