If you’ve had a frustrating spring with all this rain and insufficient heat, don’t despair. You can still have a garden this summer. Here are some resources to help you – especially those of you in Montreal, Quebec, and eastern Ontario, where most of these resources can be reached.
If you’re francophone or able to read French, download the Guide potager urbain, written by the couple from Drummondville who were given a legal hassle in 2012 about having a front yard full of vegetables. This 240-page e-book is a handy guide to having a very attractive and productive garden.
While deciding what it is you want in your garden, double-check your zone (Montrealers: we are in Zone 5). See if it’s something that can be planted in the middle of June for a harvest in a short timeframe, up until October. Here are the next steps:Vegetable seedlings are now well past their prime at the greenhouses where they’re sold. You’ll be able to buy a few on sale. Get them into the ground or into wicking or standard pots as quickly as possible. Make sure that compost and peat are part of the soil mix, and water them every day if the rain doesn’t come.
- Plant all fruits (tomatoes, squashes and melons, etc) in the sunniest parts of your yard.
- Plant beans that have fewer than 75 days to maturity. Soak them first for 48 hours, between moist paper towels, to get them to sprout. It is better to plant sprouts to avoid disappointment, waiting to no avail. Many gardeners already experienced this from planting beans this spring!) Don’t be shy about crowding them – beans can take multiple plants per square foot.
- Got any potatoes with eyes developing? Start a potato heap/tower. You may be able to get a bunch of baby potatoes for the autumn. This is worthwhile if you remember to eat them fresh as in straight out of the ground and into a pot. The flavour is different than what you get at the store.
- Stock up on spinach, swiss chard, and peas. Plant them even into late July for an autumn harvest. They are cool-weather vegetables. Carrots of certain types can also handle this treatment; make sure they’ve got well-fertilized sandy soil.
- Plant biennials and perennials now to enjoy what you can of their foliage for this year. Know that you’re establishing their root systems so they come up beautifully next spring.
- Finally, I can’t leave out the wonderful garden-sharing website PlantCatching that I first profiled in May 2012. Some gardeners may have excess seedlings that they’d rather see live elsewhere than go on the compost heap!
For the wild/shaded part of your garden, take a look at native garden nurseries and find plants that will help out this year’s native pollinators. The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a whole section of their website dedicated to wildlife gardening, and their page on native plant suppliers is here (it is also available in French by clicking the language selector at the top of the page). In Quebec, the native nurseries I already know of are Pepinière rustique and Horticulture Indigo, however their stores are online only, in French. One that is open to the public six days a week is Pepinière Gaucher, in Brigham, QC. It’s worth it to go to the Eastern Townships to visit the nursery this time of year, and go berry-picking at the same time (strawberries, raspberries and currants)!
In Ontario, there are many native plant nurseries, and the benefits are well-described at Native Plant Nurseries, in Zephyr, ON. One closer to Peterborough is the Gamiing Nature Centre, where they have workshops in June and August. The City of Ottawa has a handy list of native species – more information here. Ottawa river valley native plants are available at Connaught Nursery.
Happy gardening! With the holidays coming up and the hope for better weather, may you make the most of it.
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Also published on Medium.