Fall garden tasks: Collect mulch, plant garlic, control rats

As the leaves are beginning to accumulate on the ground, it is time to shift into mulch mode. You can’t get a better material than whole leaves for winter mulching! This fall you can also stockpile dry leaves now for mulch next summer—just keep them dry until you want to use them. Where fall leaves are unavailable, use any materials that won’t get too compacted over the winter, such as straw, cut bracken ferns, asparagus fronds or other coarse garden waste. This month, concentrate on layering mulch on empty garden beds and spreading it between overwintering plants. Plan on adding more mulch later when the first really cold weather is forecast, which usually happens in late November/early December. That’s when I pile on a thicker layer of mulch right over the tops of carrots, beets, celeriac and other root crops, essentially insulating them into a living root cellar. To keep the leaves from blowing off this mound of mulch, lay a few boards or a piece of stucco wire or chicken wi…
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How will your garden grow? Transition Salt Spring launches Rainwater Harvesting Rebate pilot

Growing things need water, and water requires a source. If it's from a well, we're thinking of you. We're Transition Salt Spring, and we are proud to be offering the Rainwater Harvesting Rebate for non-potable water for folks on wells. With our longer, drier summers, many of the aquifers we rely on are under increasing stress. Harvesting rainwater from our rooftops for irrigation purposes helps retain more of that valuable well water. Our Climate Action Plan 2.0, (https://transitionsaltspring.com/climate-action-plan-2-0/) Chapter 8 “Climate Action for Freshwater Ecosystems,” calls for the Implementation of wide-scale rainwater harvesting and enhanced water conservation. Together with forest retention, this will help maintain water levels during our increasingly hot and dry summer months, reduce sedimentation, and decrease the number and severity of bacterial or algal incidents. As a step towards making these recommendations reality, our new Climate Action Coach program…
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Linda's September garden to do list

This message turned out to be one long “do” list, mirroring my own list of tasks for this month--so here it goes: Last chance to sow for winter salads: You can scatter corn salad seeds around under tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. that will be finished in October. Rake back the mulch in patches and broadcast the seeds on the soil. If you water them they will come up quickly, but if you don’t they will still come up, just later. When it gets cooler and wetter you will suddenly see the soil covered with tiny seedlings. Corn salad is about the only veggie I know of that actually puts on noticeable growth during the winter. Try fall seeding for spring salads: Frost hardy lettuce varieties seeded this month don’t get big enough to pick this fall, but the little plants get their roots down and survive winter. They will be the first plants up and ready to harvest in early spring. I find this timing more reliable than sowing seeds outdoors in early spring (or fussing with starti…
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More winter crop to sow; weird heat effects and summer pruning fruit trees

You might want to take advantage of the next few days of cooler temperatures to sow hardy lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens (leaf mustard, leaf radish, Chinese cabbage) as well as winter radishes and daikon. August 8 is usually “Spinach Day” at my house, which is when I sow a big patch of spinach for harvesting from fall through next May. That timing works because the daylengths are rapidly getting shorter so seedlings rarely bolt (long days are what make spinach go to seed). I might wait for another week to sow this year, however, since the long range forecast shows another heat wave on its way next week (when does is stop being called a “heat wave” and become a “heat ocean”?). As I have mentioned many times, getting seeds started under hot, dry conditions means covering the seedbeds with some sort of shading material until the seeds germinate. Just to clarify, as some people have been confused on this point: you can use opaque materials, such as burlap or white plastic,…
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Mid-summer gardening tips; more winter crops to plant

Some plants are still recovering from the damage done by the extreme heat at the end of June (others, such as cucumbers, corn and sweet potatoes are growing like never before!). It sometimes takes awhile for heat damage to leaf and fruit cells to become visible. A week or two after high temperatures, tan or yellow areas on tomatoes, peppers and tree fruit and blackened or shriveling areas on leaves were still developing and might have been mistaken for disease. Sunscald on a few of my apples and pears is just now showing up as yellowish spots on the side of the fruit facing the sun. Heat injury to raspberries appeared as patches of white or tan drupelets (those little globes that make up the berry) on maturing berries, while younger berries simply shriveled up. Some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans lost the cohort of blossoms present during the heat wave and that loss is now being seen as a period with scant fruit. But blossoms that opened after the heat wave are fine an…
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Changes allow for increased housing flexibility in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)

New rules will allow property owners in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) increased housing flexibility, helping farmers and non-farmers support their families and businesses in their communities. Options for an additional small secondary home have been added to regulations, allowing farmers and ALR landowners to have both a principal residence and small secondary residence on their property with a streamlined approval process. Only permissions from local government or First Nations government will be required, and there will be no application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). The additional residence can be used for housing extended family, agritourism accommodation, housing for farm labour or a rental property for supplemental income. There is no longer a requirement that additional residences must be used by the landowner or immediate family members. “Our government’s goal from the outset has been to protect farmland for future generations, so British Col…
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Gardening heat alert

I figured that I have sent out so many heat alerts over the years that you all know what to do, but then remembered all the new readers that may not know how serious extreme heat can be for our food garden plants. The plants most likely to die from extreme heat are germinating seeds and small seedlings, of course, because their roots are close to the hot surface. The leaves of young plants are prone to being burned, but any kind and age of vegetable can experience heat injury if it gets hot enough, especially if the soil is allowed to get dry. In dry soil, heat injury occurs at lower temperatures than it would for well-watered plants. We had a taste of hot weather already this week, but with the kind of temperatures forecast for much of the region starting tomorrow, it looks like we will be experiencing record-breaking heat. And that means it will be necessary to deploy some kind of shading over vulnerable plants. In addition to any young plants, this also includes mature le…
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Sowing for winter harvests

Photo: Purple Sprouting Broccoli Here we are, with what actually looks like summer weather kicking off this week—and we are starting the main planting season for winter harvest vegetables. Veggies for winter harvests have to do their growing in the growing season, which means sowing them early enough to mature to a good size before the shorter, colder days of October put an end to growth. You can print out a planting chart showing when to plant what this summer. Stick the list on your fridge as a reminder. Right now, from mid- to late June is the time to sow seeds of winter broccoli and winter cauliflower, also cabbage varieties that take less than 80-90 days to mature (check the days-to-harvest information in the cabbage description). The overwintering broccolis and cauliflowers are very hardy biennial varieties. They are not the same ones grown for summer and fall harvests, which are less hardy annuals (some of these do survive milder winters). Purple sprouting broccol…
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Winter seeding starts now + tent caterpillars

With some surprise I just realized that we are already at the last week of May and, with that, I need to remind everyone to start seeds of some winter crops (already!). Winter crop: Good timing for sowing Brussels sprouts seed is the last week of May to the first week of June. This is early enough to ensure plants have time to form sprouts this fall, but late enough to largely avoid late summer cabbage aphid infestations in the sprouts. If you have already planted Br. sprouts, that’s fine, but you may find in August that the earliest sprouts to form may have aphids in them (later developing sprouts won’t, however). The most common reason for failure with Brussels sprouts is planting too late: although some sources still say to sow seed up to July, that is too late for most coastal gardens. So start seeds this week, either directly in the garden or in seed flats. With birds and slugs still about in my garden, I find it more reliable to start seeds in small flats that I can br…
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Common pests in the garden this time of year

Realizing that many new readers will not have seen some of these notes in previous years, here is a roundup on common pests at this time of year and what to do about them: If you are growing currants or gooseberries, there are two pests to watch for: Currant Sawfly/Imported Currantworm (same critter, 2 names) The sawfly larvae look like green caterpillars with black heads. They chew up a lot of leaf area, often leaving just the large veins behind. Right now female sawflies are laying eggs on the veins on the underside of the leaves, looking like tiny stitches of dental floss along the veins: Generally the eggs are laid on just a few leaves, down in the bottom part of the bush, from mid-April to mid-May. All you have to do is check every few days and pick off any leaves with eggs and destroy them. That’s it for the season since there is only one generation per year. If you don’t catch them at the egg stage, you will find groups of tiny green larvae feeding together on l…
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What to plant; flowers in the garden; gardener resources

This colder than usual spring seems to be taking forever to warm up (I was breaking ice out of the bird bath again this morning!). Over the next few days, however, the forecast is for the kind of warming we have all been waiting for. Remember, though, that the soil is still pretty cold because so many nights recently have been close to freezing. Peas and early cauliflower that I planted out in in the last couple of weeks have hardly grown at all--which is just reminds me of the joys of overwintered vegetables. With winter cauliflowers, purple sprouting broccoli, kale, spinach and other greens, the last of the carrots, beets and Brussels sprouts, there can still be lots of fresh veggies from a garden at this time of year. Assuming the weather warms as predicted, I expect to be able to transplant onion and leek seedlings to the garden by next weekend. Also starts of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as well as lots more peas, which I am continuing to sprout first indoors in th…
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Savage Dog Attack Kills 6 Sheep and 1 Lamb on Falcon Farm

Note: Graphic images that might not be suitable for all ages are included in this story. A savage dog attack, which left one ewe dead and 5 mortally wounded, happened on Monday night this week on Musgrave Road. We heard dogs around 11:30 p.m. and rushed out to the sheep barn knowing that we had many young lambs, most less than a week old. We heard the dogs but could not see well in the dark or be sure of what they looked like. The sheep had bunched up in the yard and many were missing. The full extent of and the ferocity of the attack was not realized until the morning hours. One Ewe dead, many savaged so badly they could not get up, others torn beyond repair. All the wounded were assessed by the vet and euthanized humanely. One ewe remains in poor condition, her lamb gone, presumed eaten and she all bitten. We hope she might make it or the death toll will be up to 7 ewes. We now have 8 orphaned lambs. We since learned another neighbour had a sheep killed also that night.…
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Dig Carrots, Build Garden Beds and Get Gardening Help

I feel like it was just the other day that I was worrying about freezing temperatures and here we are picking overwintered cauliflower and lettuce--spring is unfolding quickly! While some nights are still pretty cold, you can try early peas, potatoes, lettuce, spinach and other annual greens outdoors. In the warmer and more protected gardens they should be fine, but colder, more exposed gardens and gardens in valleys that get frost every morning, wait for a couple of weeks until it is warmer. Given the large number of seedling predators (birds, mice, cutworms, slugs, pillbugs) around in early spring, use plenty of seed if you are sowing directly in the soil to allow for losses. Also, cover plants and seedbeds with floating row cover, plastic tunnels, cold frames or other cloches to keep plants warmer. Such covers also help keep birds and mice out of seedbeds, but don’t have much effect on those other pests I listed, which are often already present in the top layer of soil or…
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2021 Saturday Market in the Park Opening Planned with Limited Capacity

Our "Make It, Bake It, Grow It" Saturday Market Salt Spring will be back this year with limited capacity while we still navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saturday Market in the Park this year begins on April 3rd, from 9am - 4pm. Operating as an essential service with safety protocols in place, the market will offer farm produce and prepared foods. The market will be operating as an essential service market offering farm produce and prepared foods with modified protocols in place to meet safety standards set by the Provincial Health Officer. Artisan vendors will be permitted once Provincial Health Orders allow for non-essential vending. Our market follows the provincial health guidelines for vendors concerning food prep and selling of high risk and low risk foods. Following the Provincial Health Order, masks are required for all vendors and patrons. Market shoppers are encouraged to 'shop and go' in order to maintain social distancing. The Salt Spring …
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Extreme Cold Warning, Pruning and Starting Seeds

As the cold outbreak has developed over the weekend, the forecast now for some parts of the coast are for lows down to -7 to -12oC (10-20oF) by Wednesday night. This is much, much colder than our usual Arctic outbreak and well into damaging range for many of our coastal gardens plants. There doesn’t appear to be any significant snowfall in the forecast that would provide valuable insulation. So today, beef up your insulation on all above-ground vegetables, even the hardiest ones we don’t usually worry about; kale, hardy leeks, Brussels sprouts, as they would be damaged at these lows. If possible, pile on more leaf mulch around plants and then cover with tarps, plastic sheets, old blankets, etc. Unfortunately, because it has been so mild this winter, some plants are at greater risk of cold injury now because they have started to grow. Artichokes are especially vulnerable so pile the mulch back over the crowns of plants and add an extra covering (e.g., tarp or very large pot …
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Seedy Topics, Happy New Year!

I meant to send out a note on Dec. 21 celebrating the start of lengthening days—but a snowstorm took out the cable in my neighbourhood that afternoon so I had no internet for a few days. Anyway, here we are at the beginning of what everyone is hoping will be a brighter and better year. And now that the days really are getting longer, gardeners are looking forward to growing their best garden yet. So Happy New Year to you all! If you haven’t thought about what you want to grow this year, it is time to do that as seed suppliers are already shipping madly to keep up with early demand. While ordering, look ahead to what you will need for mid- and late summer sowing. For those who might not have it, there is a planting chart on my home page that you can print out showing suggested planting dates for winter harvests. Those late summer plantings would mostly be of frost-hardy varieties that can stay in the garden over the winter. For such plantings, make sure you are ordering…
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Farm Stand Tour and Piping Piper

One of the many charms of Salt Spring Island is our network of local farm stands. Most are trust based stands openly offering their goods to visitors and locals alike. In a 'normal' year, these farm stands dot the island and are an experience that many visitors to the island often recount as part of their stories of time spent here. While many cater to visitors, some are also full-time, year-round farm stands for treats, veggies, meat and eggs that also have many of the staples needed for delicious, local meals. This year, in response to the pandemic, farm stand operators banded together to organize a holiday tour to encourage locals to get out for a fun, pandemic friendly shopping experience. Numerous stand operators took the extra initiative to light up their stands offering even more moments of beauty and charm. Our little family bubble hit the road today to visit some of the stands. We came home filled with treats and handfuls of gifts for friends and family. We also …
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Mulching, Citrus Protection, Planning Ahead

As heavy rains and frequent wind storms continue we are experiencing what is to be expected of a La Niña year. La Niña conditions are forecast to last into the spring so hang onto your hats and brace for colder and wetter conditions than usual this winter. That said, the immediate forecast doesn’t show unusually cold weather for the next 10 days, which gives you time to get out and mulch the garden. Reserve some mulch to use when the first serious cold weather arrives to cover completely over the tops of root crops. Last year I wrote up pretty much everything I know about fall mulching so for more details have a look at my November 7, 2019 message; there is a follow-up message about the (non) risk of spreading pests and diseases on leaves in the Nov. 26, 2019 message. Another task to prepare for winter: Stockpile some tarps or plastic sheeting to throw over leafy greens and other above-ground vegetables in a cold spell (root crops under a thick mulch won’t need additional pr…
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Plant Garlic, Collect Leaves, Control Leaf Pests

A key October task is planting garlic: It is essential to plant garlic where no plants in the onion family (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots) have been for at least 4 years. This year I received an all-time high number of questions (and sad photos) about garlic root diseases. This was undoubtedly due to the wet summer, which promoted common root diseases, but also due to the fact that a surprising number of folks had not been rotating their crops. The only management tool we have for soil borne diseases, including all kinds of root rot, is rotating crops to make sure dormant spores in the soil have time to die out before their host plants are grown there again. Along with that goes good sanitation practices: planting disease-free stock and destroying infected plants as soon as they are notices. A friend wondered if using disinfectants on garlic cloves before planting to kill root rot pathogens was necessary, but really there is no need for this. The pathogen spores stay in the s…
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Last Seeding, Powdery Mildew, Timely Tasks

This week is the last chance to sow frost hardy lettuce, corn salad and arugula in the garden outdoors. If you have cold frames or are sowing in an unheated greenhouse you can get away with waiting another week or two, but given the generally cool season, I would still sow as soon as possible. With the high daytime temperatures forecast for the next few days, be sure to shade new seedbeds so that seeds and seedlings don’t fry. By now, with gaps opening up in the garden where sweet corn, onions, early potatoes, etc. have been harvested, you should be able to find lots of open spots to sow seeds. You can also sow corn salad and lettuce under tomatoes, peppers, pole beans and other crops that will be finished in October—just pull back mulches and scatter the seeds on the soil. Corn salad simply won’t germinate in warm soil, but when it is a bit cooler you will suddenly see the soil covered with seedlings. Powdery mildew, that whitish dusting seen on leaves of squash and other p…
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Last Sowing, Thinning, Summer Fruit Pruning

This month we are coming to the end of the seeding season for winter harvest vegetables. With the cooler temperatures this week, conditions are ideal for sowing lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens (leaf mustard, leaf radish, Chinese cabbage) as well as winter radishes and daikon. For sowing this month, choose frost hardy lettuce varieties to extend your harvest all winter. There are some excellent hardy lettuce varieties, including ‘Winter Density’, ‘Rouge d’ Hiver’, ‘Arctic King’, ‘Continuity’ (AKA ‘Merveille des Quatre Saisons’). These can be sown up until the end of this month, along with arugula and corn salad, which is a super-hardy lettuce substitute for winter months. The leaves are small (so grow lots), but the plant is indestructible in winter ice, snow and below freezing weather. If you haven’t sown kale, collards, leaf beet or Swiss chard before this, try to find seedlings to transplant as it is getting too late to start these larger plants from seed. If you a…
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