Veggie gardening continues to grow in popularity in Okanagan homes
A cold start to the gardening season hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of people wanting to grow their own food.
“Vegetable gardening in general has been on the incline for quite a few years now,” Kirsten Segler, who is a third generation member of the Segler family that owns the popular Greenery Garden Centre in Kelowna, told iNFOnews.ca.
“This has to do with a lot of factors. People wanting to be more organic, because they know what they’re doing with their food. Not as much food is being shipped in and the cost of food is going up.”
He sees a bit of a generational gap with the younger generation being more concerned about food prices.
“I think a lot of our older clientele are well enough off, money-wise, so it may not be as noticeable with them. They’re more the people who like the vegetable gardening anyways. It’s something that’s been in their lifestyle.”
With young families, Segler is seeing a gender difference with the men tending to be keen on hot peppers and unique tomato varieties while women lean towards herbs and other veggies.
And, while there is still snow on the ground in some backyards and certainly frost in other areas, that doesn’t mean it’s too early to get some crops in.
“There are a lot of cool seasonal plants that can take a fair bit of frost,” Segler said. “Pansies can take up to -10 Celsius. If you come in, you’ll see a lot of fragrance and flowers blooming. These are plants that can take up to -5 C and, some of them, more.”
In the worst-case scenario, plants can be covered at night.
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On the veggie side, there are a lot of hardy crops that can be planted once the soil is thawed enough to work.
These include onion, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, beets, chard, arugula and peas along with hardy herbs like parsley, cilantro and chives.
Temperatures are forecast to climb above 10 C this weekend with overnight lows getting to be above freezing. For many veggies, however, it’s best to wait awhile before planting outdoors.
“Our climate is mild but we would recommend waiting until May for things like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, at the very earliest,” Segler said.
Some people are buying tomatoes now but only if they have greenhouses. Trying to grow them in a kitchen window is not a good idea since there is very little sun and warm indoor temperatures lead to “extreme stretching” and weak plants.
“The old tradition, even in the Okanagan, was the May long weekend,” Segler said. “That has definitely changed. Everyone is roaring at the bit in the third week of April.
We’re super busy at that time. Some things we’re sold out of in the third week of May. That’s the issue. People realize that so they go: ‘I’m buying early and I’m moving things in and out in trays – garage at night, outside in the day.”
These days the business drops off dramatically in late May and closes before the end of June.
There’s another way to beat the cold and get an early start to the season – container gardening.
“Many people have small yards and all the newer houses have barely any garden space so, even veggie gardening can be container gardening,” Segler said. “That was a huge trend with COVID. People were just putting them on their decks and everywhere. Now it’s happening because of the cost of food and veggies. Most people would have those raised beds and planters from when COVID hit, even if they didn’t reuse them last year or the year before. They might be saying: ‘Let’s get this thing fired up again and get the veggies going.’”
For more about The Greenery, go here.
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