Spring gardening questions answered

Question:

Will it be all right to plant garlic cloves (to become garlic bulbs) next to strawberry, green beans, tomatoes, roses, primulas, day lilies, cornflowers, irises, oriental poppies or chives?

- K., Coquitlam

Answer:

Garlic cloves will fit in well with all the plants you mention and may protect some against aphids and slugs. The garlic bed in my garden is the only place where slugs never venture!

But garlic needs a sunny spot to produce well. If it's barely surviving in semi-shade, it can still deter pests from attacking neighbouring plants. But if you want to harvest really good, large garlic clusters, it should be planted in a sunny spot.

I might mention I've found garlic a good companion for carrots. They don't shade or crowd each other's space, and the garlic smell seems to deter the carrot rust fly.

? Question:

Could you please advise me if buying the compost for my lawn and gardens sold by the City of Vancouver is good? If not, what would you suggest?

Bill Stott, Vancouver

Answer:

Compost from the City of Vancouver is an excellent material. Its big advantage is that the process used to make it develops more heat than most gardeners can achieve with home composting. This means city compost is well broken down and weed-free.

But it's not 100 per cent organic. City compost is made out of green waste from city streets and gardens where not all gardeners are organic.

Another point is that the process can't separate out very small pieces of extraneous material. So you may find a few tiny pieces of plastic, landscape fabric and so on.

If you need completely organic compost in your garden, you might consider Sea Soil.

This is a very nutritious fish and compost mix that's available by the bag at most garden centres.

Organic manure is also available at some garden centres.

? Question:

I have some snow peas from last year's harvest.

I started to soak them in mid-February, and they are beginning to sprout.

Should I put them in potting soil until they develop leaves or leave them in the water until I can plant outside in the garden? When should I plant them outside?

- Ay-Hwa, Port

Coquitlam

Answer:

You should plant them outside right away because peas sprout best in cool conditions.

Don't leave them in water. They'll grow briefly and then rot.

Further e-mail:

I did not know seeds would rot if left in water. I presume this applies to all other seeds including beans, even when they have not sprouted.

Ay-Hwa

Answer:

Eventually they'll rot, sprouted or unsprouted.

The length of time a seed can be left in water varies for different species.

Vegetable seeds should never be soaked for more than 48 hours, and for pea and bean seeds, 24 hours is plenty. Many gardeners prefer 12 hours.

But some shrub and tree seeds can be left for several days.

Seeds that have sprouted and are left in water will grow for a short time then die. If seed is soaked too long, the plants can have problems adapting to soil. This also can happen to cuttings sprouted in water.

But soakings can benefit dried-out bulbs and tubers (snowdrops and anemones are likely candidates). These can be encouraged to sprout if they're soaked in water for a few hours and immediately planted.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her by email, amarrison@shaw.ca.

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