With the end of winter, a new excitement always stirs within. As milder weather hits, I always look forward to blossoming spring days as crocuses pop through the thawing ground and grass begins to turn green again. It's the time of year where people sketch out the garden plan, whether it's vegetable or flower, and put in their seed orders to local suppliers. I, too, look forward to the blooms of my labour in my garden, like the peonies from the bulbs I planted in my garden when we first moved into our home, to the bundles of fresh-cut stems topped with bright, delicate petals.
My love of flowers can lead me to want every variety in my garden, but there is a science to tending to your blossoms. But sometimes, the best-laid plans can still end in withered leaves and fallen petals.
In order to tend to my garden, I needed to ask the question, how? Thankfully, I knew just who to ask. Stephanie Dewar and I have been friends for years now, and I'm always in awe of her green thumb. Lily and I recently visited the farm and got to see all the sprouts of lettuce, peas, and onions popping through in their trays. We may have gotten our hands dirty too! In her life, Steph's worked on several farms of all different varieties in P.E.I., Nova Scotia, and Ontario. In August 2019, she purchased and opened up her farm - Morning Dew Gardens in Cornwall. Featuring vegetables and a flower u-pick, her rows were filled with cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons, feverfew, strawflower, and so much more.
"Working on different farms helped me figure out what I liked and what I didn't. When I first started, I was planting vegetables and flowers for fun and to see where the soil was good. Then I opened up a little microfarm."
Steph knew she didn't want the operation to be too big, so she opened for three days a week in the summertime where people could drive up, walk through the flowers and enjoy their freshly cut bouquets.
Through Morning Dew Gardens, she also offers seed starting of mixed trays of flowers.
"Zinnias are the most fool-proof. And there are so many options. Every year I go a little crazy with the seed catalogue. But I always try for a whole mix of colour with flowers like sunflowers and carnations and then fill in the bouquet with feverfew, cosmos, poppies, asters, strawflower, and nigella."
And while you might think you need a load of tools to get your seeds started indoors, all it takes are seeds (order them early to avoid them being sold out, she advised), potting soil, a warm sunny spot, water, and your hands. If you're starting them outside, make sure you have a sunny place to put your raised beds.
"It is going to get messy, so just embrace it," she said with a chuckle.
For vegetables, she recommends growing Island classics like beans, peas, carrots, beets, and lettuce for her vegetables. Add cucumber and zucchini into the mix if you have the room.
"Read the catalogue and the pack for how much space you'll need. Also, plant what you want to eat and manage because it does require maintenance."
For Steph, it's all about being outside and enjoying the work.
"I like seeing everything grow and seeing people out and enjoying it too. It's really fun to see everyone excited about it - it's about the philosophy of sharing things you're interested in."
When visitors come to the garden, she loves to get kids involved.
"Getting them started from Step 1 can get them really excited for the end result — tasting things fresh from the garden after picking them. Hands-on learning is the best education you can get, and all you have to do is talk to someone on P.E.I. and you'll see there's so much more you could learn than in a book."
Tips from a Green Thumb:
Plant what you have room for, making sure to read the catalogue and packages of your seeds.
For pest control, try using a physical barrier like row covers or an all-natural spray recipe that you can find online.
Be aware of the weather - don’t think you have to start super early or follow the old ideas of a new moon in June. Don’t jump the gun.