It’s 2016. We have signed the lease, built our community garden with its wildlife-proof fence, a greenhouse and a shed, and the Canmore Community Gardening Society has entered its “maintenance phase”. We have completed our big tasks. Now we need to keep things rolling along to ensure we continue to have access to our community garden. Even though we have no more major projects in our near future, we still need Garden Members to join the Board and keep things functioning smoothly. Ideally we should have at least ten Members on our Board. We currently have five. That means we would love to add at least five new Board Members this spring, both Communal and Plot gardeners. Your contribution is vital to keeping the Canmore Community Gardening Society a vibrant, healthy organization, and to keeping our community garden open and operating.
What do Board Members do? The quick answer is we meet regularly to make decisions about the Society and its projects, the main project being the community garden. The longer answer is we endeavour to provide good governance and leadership for the organization. We are also a managing board so we identify and follow through on all issues that come up as well as organizing events, meetings, and registration. This is not to say that Board Members do everything themselves. Ideally, the Board will identify items that need to happen and then delegate many of these tasks to volunteers. Management items the Board works on and oversees on include:
- Registration of new Members and registration of the Season’s Community Gardeners, collecting payment
- Taking inventory and ordering supplies, Communal Garden seeds, compost…
- Ensuring communication between the Plot Gardeners and the Garden Co-ordinator and Board
- Ensuring communication between Communal Garden teams, and between the teams and the Garden Co-ordinator and Board
- Co-ordinating volunteers and work teams, ensuring jobs get done
- Organizing the Opening and closing Work Parties, and the Annual General Meeting
- Troubleshooting disease and pests
- Monitoring the Garden to ensure that policies are followed.
- Identifying projects that are in keeping with CCGS goals of promoting community and gardening knowledge, like workshops, off-season events(guest speakers, movie nights)
- Applying for grants
- Hiring, training and supervising summer employees
- Maintenance of website, blog, Facebook page
The Board includes Members-At-Large and three executive positions:
- President: The President is responsible for preparing the agendas and chairing both the Board meetings and the Annual General Meeting. She/He also writes the President’s Report to present at the AGM. That is the President’s official job. The President also usually provides leadership to the organization and liaises with the community, government and other organizations as needed. The position of President is vacant and hopefully will be filled at the AGM.
- Secretary: The Secretary is responsible to take the minutes at the meetings, keep the CCGS’s official minutes and documents, maintain Membership records and oversee registration. The position of Secretary is currently filled.
- Treasurer: The Treasurer is responsible for keeping track of and reporting to the Board on the CCGS’s finances, compiles the budget, arranges for the audit and presents the Treasurer’s Report at the AGM. Because we do not have a budget for staff, the Treasurer also looks after the bookkeeping, banking and payroll, and filing the corporate Annual Return. The position of Treasurer is currently filled.
Benefits of being on The Board:
- Get to know like-minded people in your community by working with them.
- Have a say in how things are done and the satisfaction of keeping your community garden running well.
- Ensure the projects and programs you would like to see in the community garden happen.
- Gain experience. CCGS sends Board Members to Board development seminars and workshops when available.
If you are interested in finding out more about joining the Canmore Community Gardening Board, you are invited to attend the next Board meeting (our last one before the AGM) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 at 7pm. Please email us if you have any questions.
As you may know, the crops in the Canmore community garden have been experiencing some damage this season due to voles. This is not unique to the community garden as these ‘pests’ are all over Canmore this summer in many yards and gardens. A bit of reading portrays them as anything from key elements in a balanced eco system to destructive pests that can do extensive damage to trees, shrubs, lawns and gardens.
Voles are small rodents similar to mice. There are many species of voles but it is most likely we have Southern Red-Backed voles in the community garden.
According to an article from Colorado State University “voles are active day and night throughout the year and do not hibernate. They usually live between two and six months. Their home ranges usually are less than one-fourth acre and vary with season, food supply and population density. Voles construct many surface runways and underground tunnels with numerous burrow entrances. A single burrow may contain several adults and young.
Population densities of voles vary from species to species. Large population fluctuations that range from 14 to 500 voles per acre are common. Their numbers generally peak every three to five years. Population is influenced by dispersal, food quality, climate, predation, physiological stress, and genetics.
Voles have three to six young per litter and three to 12 litters per year. Their gestation period ranges from 20 to 23 days and they breed almost year around, although most reproduction occurs in spring, summer and fall. Females may become pregnant at three weeks of age.
Voles can cause extensive damage to forests, orchards and ornamental plants by girdling trees and shrubs. The greatest damage seems to coincide with years of heavy snowfall.
Damage to crops, such as alfalfa, clover, potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips is common and most evident when voles are at high population levels. Voles often damage lawns and golf courses by constructing runways and burrow systems.”
Voles do have natural predators, for example hawks, coyotes and in urban areas, cats. Other methods to prevent and control damage are numerous: habitat management, exclusion, repellents, trapping, and poison grain baits. In general repellents are not considered very effective in the case of voles. Exclusion would involve installing specialized fencing which would be challenging and expensive in a space as large as the community garden. Poison bates have been ruled out by CCGS as not appropriate in the case of a community garden. Traps are currently being experimented with but going forward habitat management will be best defense, so elimination of weed ground cover and tall grasses by frequent and close mowing and keeping the garden tidy will eliminate some of the available habitat and will reduce their numbers. It is also recommended not to use mulch or straw which also provides the cover voles seek out.
ATTENTION COMMUNAL GARDENERS!!! If you would like to get involved in the management of the Communal Garden, we are currently looking for Members to sit on the Communal Garden Committee. If you are interested or would like more information please send us an email.
CCGS Communal Garden Committee
List of Responsibilities and Tasks
Reports to: Board
# of Members: unlimited. Encourage a Member from each Communal Garden Team and one Board Member. Any Communal Gardener who is interested in getting involved may join.
Timeline: Year-round – 3 to 5 meetings
Job: Manage Communal Garden concerns including –
- Plan Teams, assign garden beds and crops
- Work with Registration to assign Members to Teams
- Plan and purchase seed and supplies within set budget
- Co-ordinate seed starting, start purchases
- Research and advise Board regarding Communal Garden Budget and advise on options to raise additional funds if needed
- Manage seed stock throughout season
- Establish effective communication system among Communal Garden Members
- Liaise with Board and Garden Ambassador
- Manage seed collect saving
Many of our gardeners might be wondering why we had our AGM and opened up registration for the season in February already this year. Here is your answer: It’s time to start planning your garden in earnest! Why? Because it’s time to order and start seed for some of the veggies you are going to want to grow this summer, and when possible it is best to start your own seed.
It is less expensive, you have access to a much larger selection of varieties which means not only can you pick and choose interesting varities but you can pick and choose specifically for our Bow Valley needs, and most importantly you know where your little plants have been and that they haven’t been exposed to chemicals you don’t want to introduce into your garden, and especially our community garden. So yes, you have to find some space for a tray, which might be tricky if you live in a tiny little apartment, but get creative! Clear off a shelf on your bookcase, or an end table, or the top of your dresser like I did. You will need to invest in some lights, but that doesn’t have to be complicated. Lee Valley and several other seed companies have light setups you can order specifically for seed starting if you want to make an investment. On the other hand, I bought fluorescent bulbs (the expensive ones that are sold specifically for plants are great but regular fluorescents will work too) and popped them into utility clip fixtures that I already had. I have my lights plugged into a timer but you can just as easily turn them on when you get up in the morning and off when you go to bed. As for trays, Sunnyside sells the black plastic seed starting trays for $2.50; you don’t need the lid. They are great because they have the channels that distribute water throughout for bottom watering but you can also use any waterproof plastic or Styrofoam trays you have lying around. As for pots, make them out of newspaper. It is free and abundantly available, it breathes, it wicks up water very efficiently and you pop the whole thing into the ground when it is time to plant so you have minimal root disturbance. Here is an excellent blog on seed starting:
I want to talk about why it’s important to know where your little starts have been. Recently we have become painfully aware of the damage the insecticide family neonicotinoids have been causing in the environment and how widespread their use is. It is a systemic pesticide that gets into all the cells of the plant, and into the soil around the plant as well and it takes years to clear out of your garden, and while it may do a good job killing pests, it does not discriminate between good and bad insects. It is deadly to our bees and other pollinators. So obviously we want to avoid this chemical. The problem is unless you are buying certified organic plants, or plants that were grown by the seller who can tell you where it’s been and what they used on it, there is no way to know for sure if your plants have been treated with neonics or not. This goes for veggie starts as well as annuals and landscaping plants. I emailed Sunnyside last summer to ask if their plants had been treated with neonicotinoids, and here is the reply I received:
I can not positively say if all the plants we receive have been treated with chemicals as they come from various suppliers. We do know that some suppliers do use biologicals for pest management instead.
To be on the safe side assume yes.
Have a great day”
I’m not saying that all plants sold at nurseries are treated with this stuff, just that it is hard to know for sure so best to just buy your own untreated seed and start your own plants.
Here is a neat tool to help you plan: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/e-pdgseedstart.aspx
The following nurseries start their own plants from seed and do not use neonicotinoids:
Wild About Flowers www.wildaboutflowers.ca
Bow Point Nursery http://www.bowpointnursery.com/
Vale’s Greenhouse http://www.valesgreenhouse.com/
Winderberry Nursery http://winderberry.ca/
Mountain Lady’s Greenhouse here in town does carry organic veggie and herb starts, just make sure to double-check what you are getting before you buy it. And while you’re there, let them know you want to buy plants that are guaranteed to have not been treated with neonicotinoids.
For more information on neonics: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/07/its-time-to-save-the-bees-and-ban-neonic-pesticides/
Here is a partial list of seed varieties that are owned by Monsanto that was recently compiled by Rosemary. They are not GMO, however when you buy these varieties you are sending your money to Monsanto so if you intend to boycott Monsanto as much as possible it is best to avoid these. Here are Rosemary’s notes:
Recently, I’ve discovered that the “Safe Seed Pledge” taken by many garden vegetable seed companies only means those seed companies will not sell GMO seeds. It does not mean they are not selling seeds from the aggro-industry giants. Monsanto is likely the largest and best known of these companies. At this time I will not comment further on Monsanto…
Over the last day or so, I’ve researched and created a list of all the vegetable seed varieties I could find which are owned by Monsanto and it’s subsidiaries/brands (Seminis and DeRuiter ) and which are sold in North America. I was dismayed to see a great many names of vegetable varieties I had considered “classics” such as Big Beef, Better Boy and Patio tomatoes as well as Sweet Slice cucumber and Gold Rush zucchini. This list does not include grains, dried peas & beans/soybeans, nor corn grown for reasons other than table corn (sweet corn). Monsanto owns over 2000 seed varieties, most of which are not presently for sale in North America so if you travel elsewhere, you will find a very different set of Monsanto owned seeds.
Please note that very, very few of the varieties on this list are GMO. Most are just the product of selective breeding (just as farmers have done for thousands of years). I’m circulating the list so that you can make informed seed purchases.
Please feel free to circulate this list so other gardeners can also make informed choices.”
(Does not include dried)
Stringless Beauty Lake 7
Sweet Sucess PS
Honey Dew Green Flesh
Green Banner (green
Long Day Spanish
Short Day Granex
Burpee’s Big Boy
Husky Cherry Red
Pik Ripe 748
Sweet Baby Girl
Patty Green Tint
Squash – Pumpkin
Big Bertha PS
Cayenne Large Red Thick
Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot
Rio de Oro
Santa Fe Grande
Beans and Squash Report 2014
What we grew: Summer squash: Amatista Grey (mildew resistant), Gold Rush, White Courgette. We decided last year to no longer plant winter squash as the season is too short here.
Beans: Bush: Tema, Royal Burgundy, other odds and ends. Pole: Purple Peacock. We also grew a few Red Celery plants with the bush beans as they are recommended as a companion.
Timing and planting: Squash seeds were started at home in 3-4” pots by team members the last week of April, moved to the site under the covers mid-may and planted out May 23, under the covers. Recommend this schedule (depending on weather)space plants minimum 20 inches apart. You need to start 30-40 plugs, one seed per plug is fine and it’s OK if some don’t germinate. Goal is 20-25 plants. When planting, pick off any flowers (they can be eaten) to encourage the plants to grow bigger before starting to set fruit. Milestones: Started to see fruit forming July 13.
Bush beans were direct-sown May 31, under covers. Pole beans were direct sown June 11, after the last frost, in an uncovered bed. Recommendation: if the weather is nice, plant the bean seed by the 3rd week of May, spacing the seed 3-4 across the bed. They germinate well and blank spaces can be filled in later. Milestones: bush bean plants emerged June 11 (10 days) First blossoms July 13.
Celery: plants were started in March and planted out June 16 (could have been done earlier). Recommend plants to be started much earlier, maybe by the 1st week of February. Other than never catching up in size, the plants grew very well and healthy.
Growing/harvest timing: the 1st summer squash are usually ready to start harvesting the 1st week of August, when they are at least 5-6 inches long and the blossom has fallen off. They will continue to produce into October if the weather permits. The 1st bush beans will also be ready to start picking early August, when they get to about 4”long. They will produce into September but are usually done by the end of September. Squash and beans can both get much larger and still be delicious, and Members should be instructed to harvest the very largest they can find to a minimum size of 5” for zukes and 4” for beans. UNTIL a hard killing frost is forecast (or snowstorm) at which time everyone needs to get down to the garden and pick EVERYTHING before the plants get killed and food ruined.
Soil additives: No soil or amendments were added this year, except eggshell powder was added to the holes when transplanting the squash, and in June a Gaia fertilizer application (4-4-4) was applied to all the Communal beds. Recommend adding dolomite lime to the beds to increase calcium supply and avoid blossom end rot in the squash. Recommend adding more soil/compost for volume to the covered beds.
Covers: Beds had covers put on at the Opening work party May 11, to allow the soil to start heating up as beans and squash both need warm soil temperatures. If the weather is nice this can be done as early as the start of May. Note a thick heavy snowfall will collapse the covers so watch the forecast, no point doing anything if there is snow predicted. Covers need to be secured taught to prevent sagging to work effectively, if there is a frost, any part of the plant that is touching the plastic will die back. We left the covers on until the last week of June, taking them off during the day when necessary if the day was warm but then replacing to keep the temperature warmer over night. At the end of June we left them off but stayed on standby in case there was a frost warning in which case we would have had to go down and put the covers on for the night. The zucchini plants did not grow as large or produce as much fruit this year as they have in the past when covered more diligently all summer. Wondering if the cold nights in July and August contributed to this, but also suspect it was the varieties we chose to plant this year, selecting mildew-resistance over productivity. Soaker hoses were laid in the hoop beds to make it easier to water with the covers on.
Pests and Diseases: May-June, we had some cutworms. The squash plants were large enough by the time they were planted that they were not affected. The celery was not affected. We lost a few bush beans but not a big deal. We sprinkled cornmeal around the plants and this worked really well.
In past years we have had a problem with powdery mildew on the squash leaves. This was one of the reasons for leaving the beds uncovered all summer, to allow more air circulation. Measures to reduce mildew include staying on top of the weeding and leaving the covers off as much as possible to promote air circulation, laying 2 soaker hoses along the length of the bed with the holes down to reduce the amount of water landing on the leaves, and rotating the beds. 2015 the beans should be grown in the South bed (closest to the front gate) and the squash should be grown in the North bed. Mildew was not a problem for us this year. If it does appear it can be cured easily by spraying with a 50/50 solution of cow’s milk and water on a sunny day. The protein reacts with the sunlight to kill the mildew. It works really well. Note- in past years when we did have mildew, it did not affect the health of the plants or fruit production – it was just kind of gross. Mildew usually appears early to mid July.
The slugs were awful this year! They were prolific throughout the garden, but they love beans in particular (squash was not affected) and at least part of the reason we had them so bad this year was because the plants were too close and we as a team were very horrible at weeding so the bush bean bed, in spite of not being covered in july and August, was damp and humid with minimal air circulation and the slugs just loved it. Despite the slugs eating their fair share, the bush bean crop was abundant and delicious. Advice: plants no more than 4 across (8inches apart), stay on top of the weeds, set out and maintain beer traps early in the season (it would be nice to find a way to NOT kill the black ground beetles though; they EAT slugs!) research ways to attract preditors of slugs into the bean bed. There is also pick’n’squish, bait with a board or rhubarb leaf… Pouring salt on them is not recommended as the salt will contaminate the soil. August was Slug Season.
We had bad blossom end rot this year in spite of the eggshell in the hole. Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency which might be due to lack of supply but may also be due to inability to absorb. This year when we saw the rot again we made a solution of calcium in an easy-to-absorb form (not eggshell) (Tums solution) and sprayed it on the leaves, in the hopes the plant would absorb some calcium quickly and the new fruits would not have the rot. Plants can absorb nutrients through their leaves the same way we can absorb mineral spirits and nicotine through our skin. This needs to be done after peak sun hours, late afternoon or evening. Recommend dolomite lime to be added to the soil to ensure a ready supply of calcium to the plants, and consistent but not over – watering to ensure healthy roots that can absorb the nutrients needed. Once the plants start to set fruit, end of July into August, you will see if there is blossom end rot by looking at the forming fruits. It cannot be reversed in fruits where it already exists but it can be avoided in new fruits on the same plant if you can get calcium into the plant. Tomatoes had the same problem.
There was also some kind of leaf-cutter insect that took sections of squash leaves, very symmetrically. Not sure what it was or how to prevent it.
There is an ant nest toward the middle of the South Bed, and another at one end of the pole bean bed. Ants don’t really do anything bad though (unless they are leaf-cutter ants?!) Tiny little black ants. They may be farming aphids somewhere but I didn’t really notice it, mostly just a be-aware thing as it’s kind of gross to look down and your hand is swarmed with little ants.
Seed: Bush Beans – we have plenty of Tema and Royal Burgundy for 2015. Pole beans were a failed experiment, they grew and were beautiful plants but died before they could set fruit.
Summer squash: order Amatista Grey (for the mildew resistance), Jackpot (green), Goldie (yello), Black Beauty (dk.green).
Celery: lots of seed left.
Team organization: We made a schedule on Google Docs assigning each Team Member a fixed day of the week to be responsible to check on the garden, water if needed, remove or put on covers if needed, and report anything of interest to the Team. We were to get another team member to cover our day if we were going to be away. This worked well and everything stayed alive and healthy. Everyone was supposed to weed whenever they could and I think I was the only one doing trouble shooting and pest control but that wasn’t on purpose. Everyone was welcome to call work parties if they wanted to and we got together a few times early in the season to plant but as summer progressed our schedules did not match up well.
Red Fife Wheat Bread
Red Fife contains less gluten than regular whole wheat flour and so it does not rise or spring as much, instead making a dense, chewy, nutritious and delicious bread. I have done many experiments and have found that no matter what, it makes better buns than loaves, and as a loaf you get a kind of flat focaccia type shape. If you are using loaf pans, put more dough in each, to about 1-2 inches from the top of the pan in order to get a functional sized slice for sandwiches. I have tried just whole red fife flour, adding gluten in varying amounts, and adding white AP flour in varying amounts. Just Red Fife gives the best flavour. For a “fluffier”(using the term loosely) texture I like to include 1-2 cups of AP flour. I do not like the texture from added gluten, if you do decide to add gluten I would recommend not adding more than 1 tablespoon to the sponge. I have found Red Fife to be “dry” and when adapting a recipe get the best results if I reduce the total amount of flour, ending up with a slightly tacky, soft dough. I use a mixmaster to mix and knead the dough and then bake it in the oven. Also, when rising the dough I cover it loosely with plastic wrap or foil, the old-fashioned way is to cover with a damp towel but I found I was getting lint on my bread. If you don’t like the dough to stick to your hands when shaping the loaves you can grease your hands with olive oil or butter. I buy organic Red Fife flour from Heritage Harvest Farm in Strathmore, Alberta. Farm Box may be carrying it soon, but in the meantime it is available at Community Natural Foods in Calgary.
3cups warm water
2 packs yeast
1/3 cup honey
2 cups white AP flour
3 cups whole Red Fife flour
Let rise until big and bubbly
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or butter
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups whole red fife flour
Knead for 8-10 minutes
Let rise to about doubled. Punch down and divide into rolls or loaves. Let rise, bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25-50 min. watching to not overbake. You can tell the bread is ready when you knock on the crust and it sounds hollow.
Now that we have a Christmas break, let’s take time to think about what worked and what could be improved in the potato patch. So please think about what we can do this spring to produce more potatoes!
Last spring, when the soil warmed up, we planted Red Gold, Lindzer Deleketess, and Alaska Sweetheart potatoes. The Red Gold variety were scabby and we won’t plant them again. The scabby skin can be peeled off, but it’s much easier not to have to peel, more nutritious, and scab-free potatoes store better.
Potato scab is a virus that stays in the soil. It can be lessened by planting disease free seed potato varieties that are scab-resistant, and controlled somewhat by rotating the beds. That means planting potatoes at most two times in the same place.
The Lindzer Deleketess were mostly scab free and a good producer. They’re a fingerling potato and tasted great. The Alaska Sweetheart had little scab, pretty bright pink skin and pale pink flesh, which keeps its colour after boiling, small producer and tasted good.
We’ll keep the fingerling Lindzer potato, and it’s been suggested by Rosemary that we could try Chieftain as a good producer and disease free (scurf). Another suggestion is the Russian Blue potato, a very popular and fun favourite potato.
Now that we know a few potatoes that work well in our garden in terms of disease and growing time in our short season garden, let’s think of ways to produce more potatoes overall. It may be a more regular watering schedule to take advantage of rain and warm weather, for example.
Let us know your thoughts and questions! Post what you’re thinking on this blog or the garden Facebook page. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Anne Wilson, Potato team leader (2014)