Why Start Your Own Seed?

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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:

http://evonnesmulders.com/2013/03/05/a-primer-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:  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/

 

 

Vegetable seed varieties owned by Monsanto and it’s subsidiaries/brands

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:

“Hi all,
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.”

Beans, green
(Does not include dried)
BAO958
BAO999
BA1001
BA1006
EX08120703
SV1003GF
SV1137GF
Alacante
Brio
Bronco
Cadillac
Ebro
Eureka
Excalibur
Fiesta
Firstmate
Gina
Gold Dust
Gold Mine
Golden Child
Grenoble
Hercules
Labrador
Lynx
Magnum
Matador
Roman Gold
Serin
Slenderpack
Spartacus
Strike
Stringless Beauty Lake 7
Sunburst
Sybaris
Tapia
Teggia
Tema
Thoroughbred
Titan
Ulysses
Valentino

Broccoli
BC1691
Castle Dome
Coronado Crown
General
Heritage
Ironman
Legacy
Liberty
Lieutenant
Packman

Cabbage
Blue Dynasty
Constellation
Platinum Dynasty
Red Dynasty
Tropicana

Carrots
CR2289
PS07101441
SV2384DL
Bilbo
Cellobunch
Enterprise
Envy
Forto
Juliana
Karina
Propeel
Sweetness (series)
Tastypeel

Cauliflower
Cheddar (orange
cauliflower)
Cielo Blanco
Cornell
Freedom
Freemont
Juneau
Minuteman
Whistler

Corn (sweet)
EX08745857
EX08767143
QHW6RH1229
SC1102
SC1336
SV1077SD
SV1580SC
SV9010SA
SV9012SD
SV9014SB
SV9813SC
Absolute
Devotion
Fantasia
Merit
Obsession (series)
Passion (series)
Seneca Arrowhead
Sensor
Synergy
Temptation (series)
Vitality

Cucumber
CC&1040
DRL9510
SV3462CS
SV4220CS
SV4719CS
Arabian
Babylon
Camaro
Colt
Conquistador
Cool Breeze
Eldora
Emparator
Eureka
Excursion
Expedition
Fanfare
Darlington
Dasher (series)
Impact
Indy
Intimidator
Jawell
Jumbo
Marketmore (series)
Orient Express
PowerPak
Poinsett
Rockingham
Salad Bush
Sweet Slice
Sweet Sucess PS
Speedway
Talladega
Thunder
Thunderbird
Turbo
Unistars
Vlaspik
Valsset
Vlasstar

Eggplant
Fairy Tale
Gretel
Hansel
Night Shadow
Taurus

Lettuce
Annie
Braveheart
Bubba
Conquistador
Coyote
Del Oro
Desert Spring
Gator
Grizzly
Honcho
Javelina
Mohawk
Raider
Sahara
Sharpshooter
Sniper
Sure Shot
Top Billing
Valley Heart

Melons
PS04911714
SV0051WA
SV0241WA
SV0241WA
SV0258WA
WM8317
Apollo
Cabrillo
Caravelle
Charleston Grey
Colima
Cooperstown
Crimson Glory
Crimson Sweet
Cristpbal
Cronos
Delta
Destacado
Durango
Earli-dew
Earlisweet
Ever Summer
Fastbreak
Honey Dew Green Flesh
Hy-Mark
Jade Star
Laredo
Magellan
Majestic
Mickylee
Mission
Omega
Moonshine
Regency

Sweet Spot
Sweet Sunset
Valiant
Wizard

Santa Fe
Saturno
Sentinel
Starbright
StarGrazer
Tiger Baby
Wrigley
Zeus

Onions
EX07714593
SV4643NT
SV6646NW
SV6672NW
XP07716000
Aspen
Barbaro
Caballero
Candy
Century
Cougar
Elbrus
Exacta
Fortress
Goldeneye
Granex Yellow
Green Banner (green
onions)
Hamlet
Lasalle
Leona
Long Day Spanish
Short Day Granex
Montclair
Pecos
Red Zeppelin
Savannah Sweet
Sierra Blanca
Sterling
Stratus
Swale
Sweet Agent

Peas (green)
Ashton
Hacienda
Reliance

Spinach
Avenger
Barbados
Hellcat
Interceptor

Tomatoes
APT 401
PS01522935
PS01522942
PS345
PS438
SV7101TD
SV7631TD
DRC564
DRC1183
DRW
Amsterdam
Aurea
Beefmaster
Beorange
Better Boy
Big Beef
Biltmore
Bolzano
Burpee’s Big Boy
Caramba
Celebrity
Crown Jewel
Cupid
Debut
Dixie Red
Empire
Flora-Dade
Florida (series)
Foronti
Heatmaster
Health Kick
Huichol
Husky Red
Husky Cherry Red
Hybrid 46
Hybrid 882
Hypeel (series)
Komeett
Lemon Boy
Lorenzo
Maya
Merlice
Patio
Phoenix (series)
Picus
Pik Ripe 748
Pink Girl
Pio
Poseidon
Prunus
Puebla
Quincy
Sanibel
Santorange
Seri
Sunbrite
SunChief
SunGuard
Sunsugar
Sunoma
SunShine
Sunstart
Sweet Baby Girl
Tygress
Tomimaru Muchoo
Torero
Tye-Dye
Viva Italia
Yaqui
Zebrino

Squash, Summer
(including Zucchini)
XPT1832 III
SV6009YG
Ambassador
Conqueror (series)
Consul
Daisey
Depredador
Dixie
Embassy
Gemma
Gold Rush
Greyzini
Independence (series)
Judgement (series)
Justice (series)
Lolita
Papaya Pear
Patty Green Tint
Prelude (series)
President
ProGreen
Radiant
Senator
Storrs Green
Sunny Delight
Terminator

Squash, Winter
Autumn Delight
Butternight Supreme
Canesi
Early Butternut
Pasta
Taybelle PM

Squash – Pumpkin
Appalachian
Buckskin
Jamboree HG
Longface
Orange Smoothie
Phantom
Prizewinner
Snackface
Sprint
Spooktakular
Trickster
Wyatt’s Wonder

Sweet Peppers
DR0710PB
DR0713PB
PP0710
PS09941819
PS09941814
PS09942815
PS09979325
PS9915776
PS9927141
PS9928302
SV3255PB
SV3782PP
Antebellum
Antillano
Archimedes
Aristotle
Baron
Bell Boy
Big Bertha PS
Biscayne
Bounty
California Wonder
Camelot
Capistrano
Cherry Pick
Chocolate Beauty
Corno Verde
Dulce
Early Sunsation
Enterprise
Ethem
Excalibur
Fooled You
Gypsy
Huntington
Key West
King Arthur
MarRojo
Morraine
North Star
Orange Blaze
Petit Sirah
Pimiento Elite
Pimso
Plato
Prophet
Red Knight
Revelation
Sir Galahad
Socrates
Striker

Sweet Spot
Sweet Sunset
Valiant
Wizard

Hot Peppers

PS11435807
PS11435810
PS11446271
PX11404796
SV3198HJ
SV7017HJ
Aquiles
Ballpark
Big Bomb
Biggie Chile
Burning Bush
Cardon
Carribean Red
Cayenne Large Red Thick
Cherry Bomb
Chichen Itza
Chichimeca
Corcel
Coyame
Frenillo
Garden salsa
Grande
Holy Mole
Hot Spot
Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot
Inferno
Kukulkan
Major League
Mariachi
Mesilla
Mitla
Nainari
Nazas
Papaloapan
Perfecto
Rebelde
Rio de Oro
Sahuaro
Salvatierra
Santa Fe Grande
Sayula
Super Chili
Tajin
Tam Veracruz
Time Bomb
Tula
Tuxtlas
Vencedor
Victorioso

 

 

2014 Beans and Squash

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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 DiseasesMay-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.

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Red Fife Bread

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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.

Stir together:

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

Knead in:

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.

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http://www.heritage-harvest.ca/

https://limeleavesandtastebuds.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/reasons-to-love-red-fife/

Potatoes by Anne Wilson

20130822_183045Potatoes: Year in Review

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)

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables!

Eat Your Dark green Leafys!

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Leafy Greens: Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Mustard Greens, Beet Tops, Turnip Tops, Kohlrabi Greens, Broccoli Rabe, Pea Shoots, Bok Choy(and many more) are delicious and jam-packed full of nutrition.  They also all grow really really well in Canmore.

Baby-sized, you can pick the leaves to eat raw in a salad.

Pea shoots: When thinning your peas, keep the shoots.  You want to pick off the tendrils, and break the stalks into 3” pieces with some leaves on each.  If the stalks are really coarse you can remove the leaves and discard the stalks.  If the shoots are very tender they can be added raw to a salad.  Or you can stir-fry them.  Wash them and then dry very well before stir-frying.

Spinach:  Spinach should be cooked with the stalk left on.  If you have the root of the plant you can peel and cook it as well in most dishes.

Kale:  I remove the thicker stalks of Kale (as well as chard and beet tops) and save them for broth.  Some dishes like casseroles and stews are really great for using the stalks.

Giant Red Mustard: No need to remove stalks unless you have really large coarse leaves.  Has a strong spicy flavour and can be used sparingly to add kick to a dish, or cooked up on its own.

Chard, Beet tops, Turnip Tops:  According to Guns Germs and Steel these are descended from the same plant and were bred for different features.  That explains why they look the same above ground.  In the Communal Garden this year, if you see a row or patch of all white stalks, those are turnips, all red or all yellow, those are beets, and a bazillion different colours mixed together will be the Swiss chard.  I remove the thicker stalks of these as with kale, and these can be used interchangeably with kale, spinach and mustard in many recipes.

Freezing your greens for later:  You need to blanche or steam your greens before freezing so they hold their texture and colour.  I prefer to steam most of them.  Remove stalks as needed, chop coarsely, and place in saucepan with steamer insert with a couple inches of water in the bottom.  Cover with lid, bring water to a boil.  At this point it is probably done.  You want the greens to be just barely wilted and turned a brighter colour.  Remove immediately and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Remove from the water and wrap with a towel or paper towels, squeezing as much water out as you can (if you are going to use this for stews it’s not such a big deal but if you want to use for frittatas you want as little extra water in there as possible).  Put in ziplock baggie, label and date, and put in deep freeze immediately.

For frittata instructions, see this blog http://canmorecommunitygardening.org/kale-frittata/

Basic method for cooking greens: Wash, de-stalk and chop your greens, leave water clinging to leaves.  In a large frying pan with a lid, heat a generous amount of olive oil over medium heat.  Sautee a chopped onion (or garlic, or shallots or leeks…) until soft and just starting to turn brown. Stir in a bit of salt and pepper.  Add your greens and stir well to coat leaves with oil.  Turn heat down and cover for a minute or so, checking often.  It is ready when the greens are just barely wilted.  Serve immediately. This timing works well for the tender greens we are growing in the communal garden.  If you have tougher greens the cooking time will change, you may even need to add some liquid (broth or water).  Experiment with adding different flavours; try adding mustard seed, hot pepper, cumin, ginger, sesame seeds, sundried tomatoes, raisins, cashews, peas, beans, chickpeas…

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Basic Kale Chips: Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 300.   Wash, dry well, de-stalk and tear kale into 2-3” pieces into a big bowl.  Pour a little bit of olive oil on your palms and begin to massage oil into the leaves to coat thoroughly with a very fine layer.  If you need more oil add it a drop at a time.  You can always add more but if you add too much it’s just gross.  Lay the oiled leaves out in a single layer on the cookie sheets being careful to minimize overlap.  Sprinkle a sparing amount of salt to stick to the oiled leaves.  Bake for about 10 minutes keeping a close eye on them.  You want them to be completely dried without turning brown.  My opinion is that kale has so much flavour on its own that it doesn’t need anything else, but if you want to try out some different flavours you can google kale chips recipes for ideas. My friends really like adding smoked paprika to their chips.  The key thing to remember is that you only want to add enough oil to just barely coat the kale leaves.  You can also try making chips with any thick-leaved veggie.  Try broccoli leaf chips or cabbage or kohlrabi!

Stir Frys:  Any of these can be added to a stir fry. Chopped stalks will go in around the same time celery would, and the leafy green part usually only needs about a minute, so at the very end.

Crudites:  Chard stalks in particular are delicious raw and can be cut up and served on a veggie tray with dip or cheese.  They have the same texture as celery but the flavour is very different.  The bright colours look amazing.

Juice It:  Leafy dark greens taste great juiced with beets, apples, carrots or lemon for sweetness and the mild flavours of celery and cucumber are also a good match in a glass of kale or chard juice.

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Rhubarb Part 2

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It is rhubarb time again in the Bow Valley!  Last year in my post I said to harvest by cutting the stalks.  I have been corrected.  You want to grab the stalk close to the ground and wiggle it loose, pulling out as much as you can.  This will encourage the plant to continue to produce more stalks.  You still want to cut off the leaf and put that in the compost right away.

If you want your own rhubarb plant, in the Fall or the early Spring (April around here!), find a friend who has a rhubarb plant that needs to be divided (they should be divided every 5 years or so- when the stalks seem to be less robust than they used to be).  It is easiest to see the crown and buds when it has just woken up.  Dig up the plant being careful not to damage the crown, and cut it apart with sharp spade, shovel or knife.  Then you will have several plants.  For full instructions please visit  http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/propagating and  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-qgehGT3Ds

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Flowering:  All our plants have been blooming really early this year.  (they probably need dividing)  While I am told flowering does not affect the taste, it does affect the production of the plant as it redirects its energy into flowers and seed production.  When you see a flower stalk forming, cut it out as close to its base as you can.  This can go in the compost.

Rhubarb keeps really well in the deep freeze.  Wash and chop it and fill ziplock bags, according to the quantities you would need for a recipe, for example, one medium ziplockfull would be the right amount for a rhubarb crisp.  Then you can enjoy this taste of summer all winter long!

To make rhubarb compote:  Wash and chop your rhubarb.  Put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water and sugar to taste and cook it down.  You can add other berries if you like.  Serve over ice cream, cake, with baked brie, or whatever else you can imagine.

 

Link to Audrey’s Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie  http://farmbox.ca/audreys-rhubarb-pie/

 

Insect Pests in Our Garden Part 1: Cutworm

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In Canmore, we don’t have as many pests as they have in warmer climates, however we do have some.  This blog will review some of the bad bugs we have in our Community Garden, and what we can do about them.

When we notice a pest, it is important to assess several factors in order to decide what action to take (know your enemy!).

  1. What are the signs indicating the problem?  A lot of the time we won’t actually see the bug right away so it is important to be tuned in to our plants and notice anything out of the ordinary.
  2. What is the insect’s life cycle? Often it is one stage of the life cycle that causes the damage, so it is important to know if the insect has one generation or several within a season.  How/where does the insect overwinter?
  3. What is the insect’s behaviour?  How does it cause damage and can we do things to interfere with this behaviour that would reduce the damage?
  4. What are the insect’s natural predators and are they present in our garden?  Sometimes we can sit back and let Nature do pest control work for us.
  5. Is there something the insect loves even more than our food?  Sometimes if we offer them something better they will leave our crops for us.
  6. How bad is it, really?  Is the insect causing major damage to our crops, and if so how quickly is it moving?  Will it spread to other areas of the Garden or will it stay in one spot?  Is it as bad as it looks?  Often we have a gut reaction to seeing insect damage and go to the extreme of pest control when the reality is the insect will munch a little bit then move on with its life, leaving most of the crop for us.  I have a farmer friend whose mantra is “Bugs get some, I get some”.  He also takes it as a good sign when he’s buying produce if there are bugs and worms on it because that means there isn’t pesticide on it.  When we’re gardening organically, we have to take a good hard look at what’s really necessary when it comes to pest control, even organic pest control.

CUTWORM

cutworms

The most destructive pest we had in our garden last year was cutworm.  It almost completely decimated our brassicas crop.  Read on for more information, but in a nutshell, our early frost-resistant crops are the most susceptible as they are what is there when the cutworm are at their destructive larval stage.  We can best protect new seedlings with collars (toilet paper rolls work well!), hand-picking at night, and sprinkling corn meal for them to eat instead of our plants.  Save some seedlings and be ready to replant later in June if necessary.  It is important to note that they can appear in any garden bed and are not necessarily localized to the same bed from year to year.

Signs:  You won’t likely see the little guys.  You will go in to the garden one day to find that your seedlings appear to have been mowed down at the soil surface.

What it is:  Cutworm is actually a little caterpillar that is the larvae of a largish brown moth.  The caterpillars are smooth and come in several colours from brown to greenish to pinkish.

Life cycle:  Eggs that overwintered in the soil hatch in early spring and the voracious larvae go looking for new seedlings.  By mid-June they have started to pupate in the soil, emerging as moths in the summer.  At the beginning of Fall the moths look for good places to lay their eggs and the whole process starts again the following Spring.  One generation.  This explains why cool-weather crops like brassicas are more affected than warm-weather crops like squash; because they are in the garden at the right (or wrong) time.

Habits:  They live in the soil just below the surface.  At night, or on cloudy days, they will come out and crawl across the surface of the soil to the seedlings to feed.  They do this by wrapping their little bodies around the little stem and start chewing.

How bad is the damage:  It’s bad.  They are capable of killing everything in the vicinity.

What we can do:  This Spring:

  1. Protect new seedlings with collars around their stems, pushed about an inch into the soil so the worms can’t crawl under.  Toilet paper rolls work well, but any kind of collar is fine, so plastic bottles, tubing… if you cut a slit in the collard to get it around the plant, make sure to tape it back together well so the worms can’t crawl through a gap.
  2. Putting a larger stick right next to the stem of the seedling will also prevent the worm from wrapping itself around the stem.
  3. Hand-picking.  Go out at night with a flashlight and look for them on your plants, pick them off and squish.
  4. Cornmeal.  Sprinkle cornmeal around your garden, cutworms apparently love it but it kills them.
  5. Wait until later in June to plant, when the worms have gone on to the next stage.  Be prepared to replant parts of your garden if needed.
  6. Molasses.  Paint a ring of molasses around your seedlings.  When the worms crawl towards the seedlings they will get stuck and eventually die.  Caveats:  this can kill good bugs too, it needs to be replaced after rain or watering, and spreading molasses in our garden is probably frowned on in Canmore (do bears love molasses?  Want to find out?)
  7. Diatomaceous earth.  This is ground up fossil.  It can be spread around the seedlings and works by cutting the worms so they dehydrate and die.  Egg shell powder has been suggested for the same use, reports have been mixed.  Caveats:  Will kill good bugs too.  Doesn’t keep the worms off the plants immediately; they take a while to die.
  8. Predatory Nematodes are very effective and safe.  You can get them from most good garden supply websites.  Make sure the variety you buy is rated for the cutworm.  Caveats:  Expensive, and you have to reapply every spring as they don’t survive the winter here.

What we can do: In the Fall:

  1. Over the summer, create a messy weedy environment that is more appealing for the moths to lay their eggs, then mow it down just before winter and remove the material from the garden to the landfill or fire pit.
  2. Turn the soil to expose eggs to the winter
  3. Don’t mulch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1T3wUp1AwE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QhtXffs9Gw

UPDATE:  Sebastien’s report from last year (photo soon)

These are what we found around june 15th although I remember seeing evidence of their presence at least a week before digging up the soil to find these guys. They were only found in the brassica side of the garden. The smaller plants were cut down but the larger ones seemed unaffected. All the plants in the area did have holes in the leaves but that was probably cabbage moth or something else. We put corn meal around each of the plants(apparently they eat it and it kills them) and collars around some of them. This may have helped but we also spent a fair bit of time digging them up. We dug up close to 100 worms/cocoons and the problem slowed.

 

 

Annual Fundraiser on February 27, 2014

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It’s time to dig yourselves out of hibernation and come out for a fantastic fun night at the 2014 Canmore Community Gardening Society Fundraiser!   Featuring the talk “Be A Weed” by founding member and Farm Box owner Chrystel Vultier, a dance party with local the Celtic band The Last Order and lots of great stuff to bid on at the silent auction.  It will be hosted by Communitea Café on Thursday February 27.   Doors open at 6:30pm.  Cover charge is $5 for Members, $10 for Non-Members.

About the Guest Speaker…

Chrystel Vultier is a founding member and past president of the Canmore Community Gardening Society.   She is a true local food purveyor for her home town of Canmore, AB. Over the past several years she has been instrumental in creating the Canmore Community Garden which now provides plots for over 100 gardeners in the city and area. She also co-owns the business Farm Box which sources local and organic food directly from farmers in Alberta and BC, and distributes it to over 130 families in a weekly CSA program, as well as making the abundance of healthy produce available to the whole city through a booth at the local farmers’ market. In 2011 she attended the Verge Permaculture course.  Chrystel was one of the presenters at the first TedX Canmore event in 2013.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6t1TSdP8lM

About the band…

The Last Order:  Using the energy of one thumping bass drum, next add a sprinkling of bass and 12 string guitar to capture the attention. Once properly warmed up, add the tin whistle and mandolin for a dash of celtic flare, stir thoroughly and finally add harmony vocals and the subtle use of the harmonica to create a night of Celtic flare & energy. Mix in some Celtic folk, country and Bluegrass to achieve a unique taste for all audiences. Having played throughout New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, U.K., The channel Islands and Canada, It’s the perfect recipe for dancing, and always leads to a good nights craic.

The band is made up of

  • John Paul Mcbride    (vocals, guitar, harmonica and drums)
  • Tara Brehaut                         (vocals, Tin whistle, Piano)
  • Grant Hilts                 (Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica)

 

A trio of musicians from different parts of the globe, each with a love of Celtic Music and beyond. Just stick a microphone and a pint in front of us and, let the party begin…

http://www.thelastorder.info/index.php

About the Silent Auction:  We have once again had a very generous outpouring of wonderful donations from our community for you to bid on at the silent auction.  Businesses who have donated items include:  Mountain Lady Greenhouse; Paint Box Lodge; Mercato; The Iron Goat; Fireweed Glass Studio; Spring Creek Mountain Village; The Nordic Centre; Yoga Lounge; Crossfit; Vales Greenhouse; Sunny Raven Gallery; Good Earth Café; Onward Up; Natural Mama; An Edible Life; Canmore Homes; Back At It Massage; Music In The Mountains; JK Bakery…

 

 

 

Zucchini

Communal Gardeners, we have lots of zucchini.  If you look deeply into the plants, or under the weeds, you will find the largest specimens.  Right now we are in the midst of a late-summer heat wave, however this is bound to end soon.  When it does, when we get our First Official Frost Warning, all the zukes that are not covered should be picked before the frost hits, regardless of the size.  Now, be aware that it is what is open to the frost that will be damaged.  Zucchini grow big leaves and anything below these leaves, whether other leaves or fruit, will be protected from light frosts.  As the season progresses the plant will be worn down.  So harvest accordingly, and check your email and the Facebook page frequently for notifications.

I have been asked several times how to cook the zucchini.  You can refer to the previous blog on Grilled Vegetable Salad for ideas, as well there are many great recipes for all kinds of things from zucchini gratin to zucchini loaf to zucchini fritters on the internet.  Here is what I do with all my zucchini (when not making the grilled veg. salad):

Cut the ends off the zucchini.  Slice it in half lengthwise.  Rub the slices down with a bit of olive oil.  On the cut side, sprinkle with a bit of salt and some minced herbs (thyme and/or rosemary or whatever you have handy).  Grill on the barbeque.  If you don’t have a barbeque you can cook in a frying pan on your stove.  Cut up to serve, or plate the whole halves, depending on the size, and number of people you’re feeding.  Okay, so there is always something to watch for and with zucchinis, it’s that you don’t want to undercook them.  With little ones it’s easy.  The big ones, you have to test them by poking, or squeezing, like you do with potatoes.  Overcooking is another hazard, but they will still taste good, just be a little hard to grab with a fork.

There you have it.  Don’t let your garden-fresh zucchinis sit in your fridge.  Cook them up right away for best results.  If you don’t eat it all, cooked zucchini freezes really well.  Chop it up and freeze in about ¼ cup volumes which you can thaw to use in sauces and pastas, sandwiches and wraps or on pizza.

-Nicole