Submitted by Donna Whitham, registered dietitian

Spring is here and it’s time to start thinking about planting your vegetable gardens.

The word “April” actually comes from the Latin word aperio, which means to open or bud. That perfectly describes what’s happening in nature right now: trees, shrubs, and flowers, are beginning to blossom.

Historically, our ancestors saw this as nature’s signal to start sowing seeds. Scientifically, this relationship between natural phenomena is known as Phenology. For example, the blooming of Forsythia, Crocus and Snow Drop flowers are a cue to plant the vegetables radishes, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli and spinach. The Farmer’s Almanac website and the Métis Nation British Columbia Home Garden Program Gardening Manual are great resources that provide more examples of planning and prepping your garden while learning culture.

Even before you start digging up your outdoor plot, you can get started indoors. Some herbs and leaf lettuces do well in pots and can be grown from seed or small seeding plants. You can start these inside the house or in pots on covered decks. Consider planting perennial herbs like rosemary and thyme which you can harvest all year round. Chives, fennel, mint and oregano are also good options as they lie dormant in the winter and come back to life once the weather warms.

Now is a great time to plant loose-leaf lettuce, spinach and butter head lettuce. You can pinch off a few leaves at a time or your greens can be clipped off about an inch from the ground. The stumps will regenerate to give you a second cutting a few weeks later.

If you are short on space, as many of us are, growing vegetables in a variety of different pots can produce a nice little harvest. If you need more help deciding what to grow and how to grow it, drop into your local garden centre where an expert gardener can help you plan for your harvest.

Here in the Lower Mainland the growing season for fresh fruit and vegetables is just beginning. This is a great time to think about growing some of your own food this year. Here are vegetables and fruits that can be started in April and May:

 Start inside or undercover  Plant outside
  • Green Beans
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Okra
  • Bell Peppers
  • Pumpkins and Squash
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomato Plants
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes

If you’re not ready to grow food yourself, consider switching your produce shopping to a local farmers’ market. This way you get to meet and support local farmers, buy local nutritious food and spent time with others in your community interested in healthy eating. Here are a few examples of farmers markets in the Fraser Valley starting up in May or June:

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets has more information about Farmers’ Markets throughout B.C. -- they make great summer road trips. Happy planting!

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