A Gardener’s Diary: Dahlias get their winter rest

A couple of weeks ago, I received a book as a gift from Oolichan Books of Fernie. This is a new garden book that was released last month, Down to Earth: Cold-climate gardens and their keepers by Jennifer Heath and Helen McAllister. This is also the first garden book that I read from beginning to  end in a short time.

This is not a book to teach you the basics of gardening but more like what some of the growers of the Elk Valley are doing in order to grow their own food. They have a very short growing season and use a lot of ingenuity in order to harvest some of the crops. From what I read in the book, the frost-free period in the Elk Valley averages between 60 to 100 days with variations created by microclimatic influences.

I found this book very inspiring and as I was reading it during our very cold spell, I was wishing for springtime so I could go plant my seeds. The book is not very big, 192 pages and paperback. The pictures are just beautiful. There is one with a bowl of raspberries that you can almost taste just by looking at it. It touches just about everything about gardening. There are also recipes from the harvest. It also gives a list of edible flowers and how to use them to make herbal salve and oil for massage, to relieve dry skin and promote healing.

I checked with some bookstores and if anyone would like to buy it for a Christmas gift or just to enjoy themselves, it can be ordered and would take a couple of weeks. I enjoyed it very much and managed to learn a few things in the process.

I shredded more than a dozen bags of leaves this year and used them to protect my roses. I also covered most of the garden and raised beds with some of them. All the dead plants I cut off so far have been shredded and are being composted. With a couple more days without snow, I will be able to finish everything in the garden for this year. This is as up to date as I have ever been at this time of the year.

I got my dahlias also stored in containers but this year instead of peat moss I am using my shredded leaves. I don’t know if it will work but I will check on them every few weeks. I have lots of tulips in pots and I have them in my cold frames on a bed of leaves and completely covered with more leaves.

I had some lettuce seeds started in six packs. I never got around to transplanting them into the cold frames so I left them in the greenhouse. During the cold nights it went down to minus 11 C and yet they are still alive and doing well. All the herbs I took in the house are looking good and it is nice to snip a few basil leaves or parsley when needed. The only vegetables left in the garden are my parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. They will be fine in the spring if I don’t get to them now. I have a few tomatoes still ripening slowly. The small green ones, I use in stir-fry. It has been a fantastic gardening season.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in Vernon, B.C., and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.

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