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  • Writer's pictureBeatriz Lema Marqués

Get the Dirt w/ Sarah Platenius

1. How long have you been gardening on the West Coast?

I started working in gardens on the West Coast in the 90's.

2. What's growing in your garden at the moment?

Mostly this time of year we are growing in our greenhouse - random lettuce, mustard and kale varieties from seed we've collected from the garden last fall.

This year we overwintered a fruiting lime, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides), lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) and California sage (Salvia apiana) in our unheated greenhouse.

We also kept a few pots of our favourite perennial cut flowers in the greenhouse this winter - they are stronger than ever after surviving the cold and we will be plugging these into sunny spots in the garden.

We did an early round of cut flower seedlings in the greenhouse which were slow to sprout but are showing progress now. Some varieties needed a cold flash so rather than two steps of placing them in a fridge I prefer the one step, starting them right in the greenhouse (this is obviously a less controlled application of cold but follows nature's cycle).

All the perennials, shrubs and trees are budding as usual despite the brief blast of snow in April. To name a few: hazelnut, apple, cherry and plum trees; gooseberry and blueberry shrubs; delphinium, peony, flox, lavender, rosemary, chamomile.

I was surprised that many kale varieties managed through the winter -- both partially covered and uncovered.

Delphinium seedling varieties are doing quite well in the greenhouse plus perennials in the garden bed are all growing right now.

3. What are you planning on planting in the following weeks/month?

We just started bringing our greenhouse kale out into the garden and will be bringing out other greens in the coming weeks. By May 24, we will have quite a few of our cut flower varieties outside and more flower starts in the garden to bring out by June. Soon we will seed things like carrots, parsley, swiss chard, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. We will plant dahlia and potato tubers soon.

4. What have you been preparing or doing in the garden lately? And what will you have to do next?

We just removed the straw mulch that was applied last fall. This is always fun because we get to see what survived, thrived or died. Removing the straw initiates work in the compost piles, or worm farms as we like to call them. We are in the process of 'harvesting' the finished compost pile and spreading it through various beds on a triage basis. At the same time we are layering the spent October straw with worm-infused compost and cardboard. This fresh compost bed will be enriched with kitchen compost, endlessly tweaked and divided, and -- if the microbes and invertebrates are happy and onboard -- finished off.

5. What's your favourite thing to grow and why?

For me, favourites come and go, I love happy accidents like the arrival of amaranth from some potted gift from a friend and it's stuck around year after year. For food, I'd say broccoli because there is nothing better than garden grown, sweet and crisp plus it is a huge pollinator attractant when I let some of the heads go to flower for the seed harvest. But if we're talking flowers, then lately, I confess my current affair with the Delphinium genus. Their new leaves are delicate and diverse--their flowers are a spectrum of color, shape and stature so varied and hardy. I haven't met a Delphinium that I haven't liked.

6. What do you love most about gardening?

Listening to the stories a garden has to tell. Each chapter, from soil to seed, has me on the edge of my seat. I love how nature welcomes me into this story. Collaborating with John (who is an amazing ecologist) adds a great dimension to my experience, and seeing the curiosity through my teens eyes brings me great joy. Tapping into our regional, planetary and solar system through the garden is pure awe.

Photo credit: Shelby Mckinnon

Get the Dirt is a series of interviews with west coast gardeners meant to educate, inspire, & celebrate community-based food cultivation.

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