Vegetables like spinach and lettuce grow particularly well in the Cariboo climate. (Submitted photo)

Cariboo gardening tips to get the season started

‘I’m encouraging everyone to start a garden this year’

In times like these gardening, for food or leisure, is an important practice to maintain in the opinion of David Laing of the People Power Society for Healthy Communities farm.

Laing works as a market gardener near 100 Mile House and grows everything without the use of pesticides, herbicides or any chemicals whatsoever. While they don’t yet have organic certification, he said they’re working towards getting that recognized. 100 Mile House residents may know him best from Laing’s frequent presence at local farmers’ markets as well as their deal with the 100 Mile Food Bank.

“I get a lot of healing working in the soil, working in the land, it’s a very good escape and a good place to channel your energy, it’s a therapy for me,” Laing said.

In the climate of the South Cariboo, Laing said he grows everything that he can with the most successful crops consisting of lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage, leeks, pumpkins, squash and onions. As a general rule Laing said that pretty well any root crops grow well in the Cariboo. For vegetables that require a greenhouse, they grow some tomatoes, peppers, beans and cucumbers.

“I really feel, this year especially, that having a home garden is incredibly important. I’m encouraging everyone to start a garden this year,” Laing said. “If you have some space in your front or back yard and you want to get started, this is the perfect year to do that.”

In Laing’s opinion, there are so many benefits to having your own garden, not the least of which is the practical one of having your own source of fresh food. Given the current health crisis with COVID-19, being as self-sufficient as we can has become all the more important, Laing said, as it helps lessen the strain on the global food economy.

If people wish to get into gardening this year and start growing plants indoors, he would advise that they start soon, if not now, to make the most of the growing season. Failing that, Laing said you can buy your plants from local producers if you don’t want or are unable to start them yourself.

While there’s still snow outside, Laing himself said that just this week he started planting his tomatoes, peppers and onions in their greenhouse. If you don’t have a greenhouse, he said a sunny spot within your home will also do the trick.

Towards the end of April, Laing said that prospective producers will want to start their brassicas plants, such as lettuce and cabbage. Planting in the actual soil outside is usually best done during the May long weekend, he added, to avoid running a high risk of a hard frost wiping out your crop.

As far as good vegetables for a first-time gardener to try growing, Laing said it really depends on what each individual is working with. If, say, you have a shady backyard that only gets three to four hours of direct sunlight, growing anything that is “sun-loving” won’t be successful. What will do well in conditions like that, however, will be lettuce, spinach, beets, potatoes, onions and anything in the brassicas family.

“It really depends on what you’re working within your own yard, or wherever it is you’re growing,” Laing said.

His greatest tip for those looking to start this year, however, is to work with nature rather than against nature.

“Trying to work against nature is going to be a real uphill battle from the start. You want to work with the season, you want to see what’s happening with the weather,” Laing said.

Two years back, Laing said they were having miserable weather at the start of the season but that he pushed for planting his squash crop despite that. Not long after, they had three days of hard frost and they lost the entire crop as a result. His big takeaway since is that you can’t force these things and just “do what Mother Nature says.”

While some people have a green thumb, so to speak, and a natural knack for growing food, Laing said, he firmly believes that everyone is capable of gardening, even a little. It’s simply a matter of paying attention to the conditions you’re working with and understanding the needs of your plants which includes good soil, adequate sunlight and water, they should thrive.

Laing is giving out daily gardening tips via video on his own Facebook profile online and he said people are welcome to check him out at simply David Laing. He encourages everyone to join him in producing their own food locally to ensure that the Cariboo will be well-fed, whatever comes in the next few months.

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