Answers to Betsy & Heather’s questions

– Posted in: Plant info, Seeds and Seed Starting, Vegetables, Weather

Hi gals, isn’t it fun to dream of gardening when it’s raining too much to set foot in the garden? And, yes, Betsy, this is not the end of winter. In Boundary County we can have snow & freezes every month of the year so it’s not over yet. It’s a very rare Farmers’ Market that doesn’t see snow in May, & my last freeze date is about June 10th. Probably closer to May 30 for Heather.

Veggie sowing–carrots, parsnips, radishes, celery root & parsley root all like to be direct sown, as well as dill, borage, coriander. You’d lose far more than you’d gain. Peas mid-late March to April, beans & corn after the first of June when the soil is really warm. I usually hazard some sweet peas mid March but they don’t always come up. Spinach you can direct sow the soonest as it likes cold days and not heat.

The indoor crowd includes tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos etc. now(ish), vine crops (melon-cucumber-squash tribe) toward the end of April. In Boundary County our growing season varies from 100 to 115 frost free days (maybe!) and so I’d choose the earliest varieties or at least those to mature in around 100 days, no more, until you see what ‘makes’ for you. I can never get Limas to set more than a few pods, sadly. But filet & romano beans–bumper crops. Zucchini and summer squash do well, and most early winter squash like Kuri, Acorn, etc. Tomato varieties I have had good luck with here include Oregon Spring, DelBarao, Stupice, Mikarda Sweet and Brandywine (some years) and even Black Krim. Most cherry & plum/pear types mature easily, as do the smaller paste and small slicers. Bill McDorman’s Seeds Trust has a very good selection of heirloom/op/etc. tomato seeds for cold climates–he’s in Sun Valley, Id. and collects Siberian varieties. Lots of good cold climate veggie advice there too.

As to roses–as soon as the ground can be worked without making it stick together, plant your roses. The prefer to not even know they’ve been moved, so before they leaf out is best unless they are potted. The roses you brought with you–wait until all the others have leafed to declare them dead, sometimes it takes a while. But–if they’re teas or have China blood in them, you may well lose them. I’m devoted to species and antiques, and not only for fragrance. The Rugosas, Gallicas, Damasks, Centifolias and most species are wonderfully hardy, requiring no coddling at all, and not succumbing to black spot. And, while you’re buying, be sure the roses are on their own roots. That way, when a few years of -30 in a row come, you won’t end up with all gangly non-flowering shoots from the rootstock. If you feel you must buy a grafted rose (and I nearly think they should be outlawed), be sure to plant the graft union at least 2-3″ below the ground level so roots can form on the rose you bought, not just its rootstock. The nursery or box will say at or above ground level, but that’s not for our climate. And if you get told not to bury the graft on roses, don’t listen to anything else that person tells you garden-wise, they haven’t been gardening here long enough to know what they’re talking about.
(Stepping down off my soap box) I remain,
Your Northern Correspondent

In case you are scratching your head, this is a response to comments that were posted here.

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

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Judith November 21, 2006, 9:47 pm

Hi Felicia, No, don’t plant the celeriac, it would likely not take and if it did it would only bolt–it’s a biennial and not celery, at any rate. It is a cousin which produces a tasty globular root and rather pungent foliage. Celery you can though start from seed and grow as discussed above–it loves rich mucky soil and will have thick fibrous roots, not the taprooty/globe shaped roots of celeriac. Cook up the celeriac for your winter entertaining–it’s good mashed in with potatoes, or as the Victory Seed site says,

“once the cream-white flesh is removed from its fibrous skin, it is crisp, smooth textured and mild.

It has a pleasant flavor of parsley and celery. Commonly enjoyed as a first course at French bistros, it is served shredded and topped with a mustard / mayonnaise dressing. It is also useful as a flavoring in soups and purees. Additionally, try them mixed with mashed potatoes, sliced thin and baked au gratin, or sautéed. If your doctor allows, deep fried chips are a special treat.”


FELICIA November 21, 2006, 7:11 pm

Sorry, lol This is Felicia again this root is the size of a soft ball.. what should/could i do..? to grow celery now
for summer

FELICIA November 21, 2006, 7:06 pm

YES, Hi i just want to know, I bought a celery root @ grocery store in nov, can i take it out to my garden and plant it deep and expect it to grow celery in summer?? Thanks felicia I live in Eastern Wash>.

Judith September 3, 2006, 1:32 pm

Hi Mark,
Heather winters here and in Creston BC (Calluna vulgaris)–it is used as a low edging/groundcover and appreciates winter snow cover. Without snowcover or in damp soils it gets tatty looking here in a hard winter. Our lows go to -20 to -30F, and I think if you have reliable snowcover and can provide acidic soil you have a good chance, I think it is good to -40 or so.

Mark September 3, 2006, 12:12 pm

I live here in Alberta and want to plant some suitable perrannials. I was wondering if Heather will winter here. I know it lasts, obviously, through the winters in the British Isles, but they can seem balmy compares with our -40 in January.

Judy Miller March 3, 2006, 12:50 pm


Celeriac and parsley root both dislike being transplanted, but are indeed too long a climate crop for me unless started indoors early.

My compromise is to sow them thinly in large cells (like 6 packs) and then to try to transplant them as soon as possible with the lettuces. They will have cramped, coiled roots from being in the cells (they are utter taprooters) and the resulting crop will be a bit stunted size-wise & twisted to at least some degree, esp. parsley root, but still tasty.

If you could find some of the skinny, deep-celled tubes used to grow tree stock and use them, the results would be even better. They transplant better from cells than they would being teased apart from a tray.

If one gardened in the ground in a greenhouse, or used a row-long mini-hoop, I think you could sow direct here (z4) and get away with it.

Carrots, on the other hand, would react like parsley root does, but there’s no need to start them inside to get a good crop, so sowing them direct please them as well as the gardener.

And, yes, I’d sow them as soon as possible, they really need the lead time.

And if anyone is wondering, they are definitely worth the little trouble to do this. Celeriac has that celery taste with a nutty hint, and keeps much much better in the fridge than celery. And parsley root is wonderful–aromatic, herby, with a deep autumnal flavor. (My mouth is watering just thinking of them!)

Good luck!

Michele Owens March 3, 2006, 11:39 am


Celery root likes to be direct sown? Interesting information. When I’ve bought it before, the seed package has always said to start it indoors. A frustrating experience. The little plants always kicked the bucket as soon as I set them out.

I ordered seeds again, mainly because I love to EAT celeriac. Should I sow them soon? I garden in Zone 4 in upstate New York.


Judy Miller March 2, 2006, 6:20 pm

It’s simple. As you’d never put any fat or meat in a compost pile, anyway, the only changes you need to make are:
1.) Don’t put lots of fruit waste (peels, etc. from canning for example) in the pile, esp. late summer-fall, and
2) Don’t use fish-fertilizer or kelp things in it. I had 75 pots of eremurus de-potted and snuffled all around the yard because I had used kelp meal in the mix–smelled just too,too inviting to someone of the Ursine persuasion. (That sent me out the door hollering at him that night, all right!–till I thought about what I was doing.)

–do bury any fruit waste in the center of the pile, an apple core or a few peach pits aren’t a problem but a bucket of windfall apples–you’d be asking for trouble. As they can take apart anything you can put together, just don’t put treats out there!

Take windfalls or canning waste to a lidded dumpster, or feed piecemeal to the horses.

Betsy March 2, 2006, 4:35 pm

I have another question, I searched this and other sites and can’t find an answer. How do you compost in a bear-frequented area? Thanks! -Betsy

Betsy March 1, 2006, 8:49 pm

Hello again, Judy! You will certainly see me at the farmer’s market. We kept going to the Sandpoint one last year, and so many times said, “DUH! Why aren’t we going to the Bonner’s one, too??” I just had a ball ordering seeds at Seeds Trust, thanks again! And about Lavender, can I get seeds from you, and when can I plant it? I have been very afraid of starting a garden, it is so weird!(like I’m going to fail or something!) But your advice has helped and now that I ordered seeds I am more excited than afraid. -Betsy

Judy Miller March 1, 2006, 5:28 pm

Glad to help. Thank you for the kind comments about the site; I want it to be full of information and the love of plants.
Yes, I do the Bonners Ferry market (I was one of the managers for 5 years) and am busily dreaming up new things for the market for spring, along with new plant varieties. We meet in the city parking lot from 8-1 on Saturdays from May to October. If you’re up our way, stop at my booth and introduce yourself.

And, do try growing lavender, you’ll love it and it is easy–just wants a nice well drained site with lots of sun. Honeybees love it (they sleep on the flowers) and deer don’t, and it smells like heaven.

Betsy March 1, 2006, 4:03 pm

Thank you so much, Judy, I am printing that out as we speak—so much good info that I just had no clue about! I was just on your website and I am very impressed with your business. Do you do the Bonners farmer’s market? I would love to try lavender! Have a great day. -Betsy

Judy Miller March 1, 2006, 1:22 pm

Yes, we’re where Montana, Idaho, Washington, BC & Alberta meet. The two nearest larger towns (doesn’t take much!), over 3000 people, are Creston BC and Sandpoint–equidistant. Creston has lots of lovely gardens, an enthusiastic roadside farmstand culture, and great bakeries. (I’ve got my priorities straight!)

Alice Nelson March 1, 2006, 9:31 am

I take it boundary country is on the border of Canada?