Root Veggie Abundance

20160910_113257 It’s that time of year when we’re digging up all our root veggies and trying to figure out what to do with this much!  Root vegetables do store well for quite a long time, and especially if you have a basement with a cold storage space you can keep a large harvest for several months.  However, many of us in Canmore live in tiny condos and apartments without basements, yards, or much storage of any kind.  So when we have more than what fits in our fridge we tend to share, which is awesome.  In fact, the veggies in these photos came from my neighbour’s Mom’s garden – YUMM!  With a little planning, and a day set aside for food prep, you can be eating your veggies well into winter, and reduce food waste.

If you have a deep freeze, you can roast your root vegetables and freeze them for quick meals later on.  I don’t advise using potatoes, they don’t tend to freeze as well, but turnips, parsnips, carrots and beets work really well.

Wash, trim and peel as needed.  Chop into 1 inch or smaller pieces.  Put in a casserole 20160910_115118dish, toss with a bit of olive oil and roast, covered, between 350-400 degrees, checking once in a while.  You can give it a stir  if you wish.  They are done when they are nicely carmelized and a bit soft.  You can also roast your veggies on the barbeque in a thick metal pan.  Careful the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Freeze in 2 to 3 cup portions for later use in soups, stews, lasagna, casseroles, vegetable pies, moussaka, and anything else you can think of!

Quick And Hearty 10 Minute Soup:  in a large saucepan, saute an onion or a couple of shallots until carmelized along with your favorite herb – I like sage – add 2 cups roasted root vegetables and stir a few times, add 3 cups broth, salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil then puree your soup.  Add more broth or water if needed.

Use your favorite carrot cake or muffin recipe to make Root Veggie cake or muffins. Any crunchy sweet root vegetable, whatever you have, can work.  This will freeze well.

Beet Pate freezes well too.  Freeze it in 1 to 1-1/2 cup portions to thaw for a quick treat or potluck dish.  Try using turnips or parsnips or a mixture of veggies.

Canning:  beets and carrots are especially popular pickled or canned.

Drying:  Dehydrating will give your harvest a long shelf life in your cupboard.  Try making your own Root Vegetable Chips as a snack or for garnishing salads and soups.

What are your favorite ways to store your root vegetable harvest?

Food Sovereignty Resources

Thanks to everyone who came out to the garden talk last night!  I’ve posted a few links to follow up on the request to share some resources on food sovereignty. There’s lots out there but here are a few starting places:

For those interested in further exploring what food sovereignty in Canada looks like:

Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy Project for Canada is based in the concept of food sovereignty and was developed by over 3500 people across Canada:

Food Secure Canada is a national organization working to advance food security and food sovereignty in Canada:

The Indigenous Food Systems Network was developed by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty: 9781552664438_300_450_90

Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems – a good book with a variety of chapters by different authors about various aspects of food sovereignty in Canada:

National Farmers Union – Losing Our Grip for further information on land grabs in Canada and an update on the 2010 report “Losing Our Grip: How Corporate Farmland Buy-up, Rising Farm Debt, and Agribusiness Financing of Inputs Threaten Family Farms and Food Sovereignty” (this link also includes further links about land grabbing and concentration in Canada):

For those interested in food sovereignty in an international context:

Nyéléni – you can sign up for the Nyéléni newsletter which provides updates and acts as a hub for the international food sovereignty movement:

You can also find the Nyéléni Declaration here which articulates the current international vision of food sovereignty:

La Via Campesina – the original grassroots movement around food sovereignty:

Towards Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming Autonomous Food Systems – an online book with lots of interactive media:

Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community – a second Canadian published book on food sovereignty in the international context:

Food Sovereignty: Towards democracy in localized food systems – you can download a copy for personal use for free here:

Lastly, if you’re interested in the work I’m doing, here’s a link to my research group:

You can also find us on twitter @feast_uoft


Insect Hotels by Donna Vultier

13151944_1243086919035102_3007313947948890077_nThe vanishing population of bees and other beneficial insects is a threat to gardens and to ecological balance in general. Attracting insects to our garden that are useful for pollination and the reduction of destructive pests provides a chance to sync with nature. An insect hotel is a man made structure built from natural materials and intended to attract and provide shelter for beneficial insects. These hotels are intended as nest sites and some to allow for hibernation. They also add an aesthetic quality to any landscape.

The first ‘hotel’ to be built in the Canmore Community Garden was a 2014 project using13133115_1243086945701766_437115875313292944_n clay tiles and a variety of natural materials readily available. It was located under one of the cisterns to provide protection from harsh elements like driving rain and intense sun. There is evidence that the ‘hotel’ has been occupied; you will see that some of the holes that were drilled in wood blocks are sealed. This is likely solitary bees who have laid their eggs and then sealed the hole to protect them. The second ‘hotel’ project began in 2015 and is ongoing. Used pallets already in the garden were the foundation and various materials are being added as time goes by. There is talk of a green roof being added for protection from rain and to provide habitat for wild flowers and grasses that the insects are drawn to.

Community gardeners are invited to add to and help maintain the insect hotels. Wood, rock, tile, reeds, bamboo, rotting wood, bark, terra cotta shards, brick, twigs, straw, grasses, leaves and logs or wood blocks with holes drilled into them – a variety of materials will attract a variety of beneficial insects. Use recycled, untreated natural materials and don’t forget to decorate – options are limitless.


Compost Project at CCG by Anne Wilson


We’ll be making a hot compost pile, so please put the green stuff, including all weeds, in one stock pile,(the big messy pile in the garden).

We’ll layer the green stuff with the brown stuff, and some fresh manure, water it, trample the layers down to squeeze out air and get the manure in contact with the green material, and let it cook for a month. Then we’ll turn it and use it to make a bed. The last year’s pile has potatoes in it now.

 We made the hospital garden with passive composting. This is hot composting to cook the weeds. They’re too hard to separate from the other green stuff.

Diseased plant parts can go to the bush outside the garden, or in the garbage.


Q: Won’t trampling out the air make the pile too compact?

A: No, there’s a lot of air in green plant material.

Q: Won’t the weed seeds survive and germinate?

A: If the pile gets hot enough the weed seeds will get “cooked”.

Q: Why fresh manure, why not well-rotted manure?

A: Fresh manure will compost at a high temperature, and will make the green material hot too. Usually we like well-rotted manure to top-dress a bed, and fresh manure would “burn” the plants, not good.

Q: Where will the manure come from?

A: Hopefully the horse stables by the Alpine Club, but maybe from the horse stables in Banff.

We should be building the pile in the next couple weeks, on one of the Sunday (noon to 5) or Tuesday(3-8) gardening-together sessions. Ask me anything!

Anne, for the Potato and Compost tea

Join Our Board!


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)
  • Fundraising
  • Applying for grants
  • Hiring, training and supervising summer employees
  • Maintenance of website, blog, Facebook page

The Executive

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.

Voles by Donna Vultier

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.

Call for Communal Garden Committee Members

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

Why Start Your Own Seed?


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:

“Hi Nicole,

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:

The following nurseries start their own plants from seed and do not use neonicotinoids:

Wild About Flowers 

Bow Point Nursery

Vale’s Greenhouse

Winderberry Nursery

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: