It`s Spring, time to get outdoors!

by Yvonne Dean
After spending the winter confined to quarters with a broken ankle and broken foot, I don`t think anyone is more ready for Spring`s arrival than I am! Here on the lower mainland, Spring is tentatively allowing brief glimpses of what is yet to come.

I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get out into my garden. The weather hasn`t been conducive to spending much time there yet but I have bits cleaned up and can`t wait to plant my veggies. It seems like such a long time since we were able to go out and pick a salad for supper. There is nothing quite like fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers with a little balsamic vinegar!

One of my favourite places to buy seeds is West Coast Seeds in Richmond, BC. Their varieties are specifically designed for our damp West Coast climate and many are resistant to the diseases that the damp weather so often brings.  Oregon Spring has always been a stand-by for tomato plants but this year I`ve added one called `Manitoba`. This one probably attracted me since we lived in that province for a few years and still is one of our favourite places to visit. It is a short season, determinate variety that promises a good crop of medium sized fruit.

But I digress as I so often do. The spring bulbs are up and flowering and reassuring us that warmer weather is on the way. The lillies and hostas are poking through the soil, doing their best in spite of the cool weather. It is only now that it is drying up enough to till the gardens.

Something that I have preached to everyone for years, is to wear gloves when you garden. This was brought home to me in a big way this past week when I discovered shards of broken glass under the soil`s surface in one of the flower beds. We had rented our home out while we tried out condo living (that didn`t work out!) and I was dismayed to find the gardens weren`t looked after quite the way I would when we moved back in. However, the point I am trying to make is that you never know what lurks beneath the soil, and I don`t just mean sharp objects. There are a multitude of soil-borne diseases waiting to invade cuts and scrapes.  There are parasitic diseases, fungal and bacterial diseases such as anthrax and botulism. Not enough  to make you don gloves? Then how about picking up such charming creatures as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and toxoplasmosis. Not convinced yet? The list goes on - Legionnaire's disease, meningitis and tetanus may also be carried in the soil. Many of these are potentially deadly and the easiest way to protect yourself is with gloves. Do yourself a favour and get a good pair of leather gloves with a sturdy gauntlet. I wore welder's gloves for years and they served me well, especially when dealing with thorny plants like roses, barberry and holly. Unfortunately for women, it's hard to find a pair small enough but most garden centres carry good quality gloves ina  variety of sizes.

There are so many good things that come from beautiful black earth that it seems inconceivable that it may also harm us. Stay safe this spring and happy gardening!

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