Heat alert, Carrot Day arrives; spring diseases

The first day of summer is here and it is drizzly and cool again, but there IS a forecast of warm sunny weather coming at week’s end. For vegetables, the forecast highs of 24-27C [75-80 F] for much of the region (hotter than that up the Fraser Valley), constitutes a heat wave. Plants have been growing for so long in cool, moist, cloudy conditions that leaf tissue is soft and unprepared for hot weather. Should the heat materialize, before you head out for beach or barbeque, take time to rig up shade on seedlings, seedbeds, cool weather crops (peas, lettuce, young plants in the cabbage family). Any plants with large, soft leaves (squash, beans, leafy greens) could experience sunscald injury, especially at the highest temperatures. So keep your shading materials handy (shade cloth, latticework, lace tablecloths) for rapid deployment and watch the weather forecast. We haven’t been thinking about watering until now, but don’t forget to check that soil isn’t getting too dry. Every…
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Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust updates on The Root food hub progress and milestones

Photo: From left, Sheila Dobie, Nicole Melanson, Valerie Perkins, Stephane Aucoin, Ella Bronstein. (Not pictured: Daria Zovi) - Source: Farmland Trust Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust is anticipating its first AGM since the all new board of directors was installed last June. All interested community members are welcome to join by Zoom for the Monday, June 6th meeting starting at 6:00 PM. The meeting promises to bring famers and the community up to speed with the milestones, progress, and momentum the organization has enjoyed over the past year. It will also roll out what people can expect through the rest of 2022, with some large achievements coming to fruition. The most significant announcements will be concerning the long-anticipated food hub, The Root on Beddis Road, and the final countdown to its completion and launch later in the year. The Root’s three-storey facility, barn, and surrounding grounds have the mandate to improve Salt Spring’s ability to produce, …
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Effects of the cool spring, winter crops to sow, spring pests

With night temperatures finally at reasonable levels for tender vegetables, it should be safe to plant squash and tomatoes in most gardens. I am still holding my cucumbers and melons in pots for a little longer, bringing them indoors at night. If you planted out such tender plants earlier and they are still looking OK, that’s great--but if plants are now in poor shape, you might want to get replacements this week while garden centres still have stock. If they didn’t outright die, warmth loving plants that were planted outdoors while nights were still too cool may be looking sadly nutrient deficient now. They might have pale yellow leaves, or in the case of tomatoes, purplish and yellow leaves. The oldest leaves may look even worse—turning brown, wilting or dying back—especially after leaves of some plants were windburned by high winds in the storm last week. In the last several days of warmth, however, any plants with a will to live should be showing signs of healthy dark green…
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Planting tips for a cold spring, potting on, hail damage, bird problems

With spring unfolding so slowly (some of us only recently stopped having snow showers!), there may still be a few frosty mornings ahead for some places. With a bit warmer nighttime temperatures in the forecast, you can safely plant or seed cool season vegetables outdoors such as cabbage family, peas, lettuce and other salad greens, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, radishes. It is way too cool yet to sow beans or corn outdoors or to plant out starts of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, basil and other warmth-loving plants. It has also been too cold in most places for those tender plants to spend the night in unheated greenhouses or tunnels, though the plants will be happy there during the day. They can stay out at night once night temperatures start staying mostly above 10oC (50oF). I am holding off on planting out celery and celeriac seedlings as these are readily vernalized by a spell of by a spell of 5-10oC weather (which can cause them go to seed prematurely, rather tha…
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Grow Local building a healthy resilient food chain

The Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance (SS-AA) and the Salt Spring Community Economic Sustainability Commission (CESC) are pleased to announce a new initiative that seeks to expand local food production and enhance the economic viability of farming. ‘Grow Local’ is an eight-month pilot project being launched this month. This new initiative will turn key recommendations from the Salt Spring Island Area Farm Plan into action. The main goals of the project are to build collaborative opportunities and test innovative marketing strategies that strengthen the regional food economy. Local producers and food justice advocates Nick Jones and Polly Orr are co-leading the Grow Local initiative. The Grow Local team will be responsible for testing food systems that develop and strengthen short supply chains for the food we eat; making connections and building relationships across the region to increase the viability of island businesses and reduce our carbon footprint. A robust lo…
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NO Joke: Spring has sprung

With April here and a really warm day or two this week, spring is unfolding rapidly and some gardening milestones are coming up soon: Seed starting: If you are growing your own seedlings, the first week of April is a good time to start seeds of squash, cucumbers, melons, sweet basil indoors for plants destined for the outdoor garden. You might have already started these plants if they are destined to be planted in a greenhouse for the summer. Many gardeners have set out first plantings of peas, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, but if you haven’t, not to worry—there is plenty of time to get these going. The warmer the soil is when you plant, the faster plants grow anyway. Looking ahead, I usually plant onion sets and leek and onion seedlings in my garden the second week of April. For good sized onions, you need to plant in time to allow them to grow a good root system before the really long days of June cause them to focus on making bulbs. The later onions are planted in the sp…
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Increase your harvest; gardening resources

With climbing prices for produce and the pressure of inflation on household budgets, harvesting the maximum amount from our gardens is more important than ever. For most of us, garden space is limited by the size of our yards or community garden plots. Even where people have access to a larger area, garden size may still be limited by the expense of investing in deer fencing and irrigation systems. I have seen many gardens, however (even very small ones), that have lots of potential for increasing the total harvest without using more land. In fact, gardeners that can increase the amount they harvest per square metre might find that they can grow as much as they need on less land than before. This could free up space to plant flowers for beneficial insects, restore native vegetation and plant shrubs and trees to help mitigate global warming by capturing and holding carbon in their deep roots. While we are waiting for the weather to warm up and the soil to dry out enough to wo…
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Cold snap, early seeding tips

Last year this time we were coming out of a period of very heavy snowfall and sub-zero weather so this February has been quite a pleasant surprise. Now, however, a late cold snap is forecast to materialize starting Monday or Tuesday, depending on where you are, with nighttime temperatures falling well below freezing. If you were lulled into uncovering tender plants (I’m looking at you, citrus growers!), best cover them up again. Plants that have started growing are more vulnerable to cold now than they would have been a month ago. Especially be sure to protect artichoke crowns, which, if they survived the December cold, will have started to grow by now. Also protect half-hardy herbs, such as rosemary, and pull tarps back over beds of spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens for the next couple of nights. We still have a bit of winter to get through, with snowstorms in March not uncommon (and even in early April at higher elevations). Although more frosty nights are undoubtedly c…
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Pruning, weeding, thinking about starting seeds

Only last week I woke up to the fact that it IS January and that there ARE gardening tasks to get on with as the days get longer and the new season picks up speed. Snowdrops and other spring bulbs were already emerging and showing buds as the snow receded. February is a tricky month, often with at least one Arctic outbreak, so it is likely we haven’t seen the last of cold and snow, but with a spell of dry, mild weather forecast, there are a few things to do outdoors now. By now you have had a chance to see what plants survived the brutal cold spell in late December. While the summer broccoli that was still producing in my garden before Christmas is now green mush, I was happy to see how well winter broccoli and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and hardy cabbage came through (some had tarps over them, others did not, but both groups have survived). The oldest leaves of winter broccoli and cauliflower may be dead from cold injury, but as long as new leaves look crisp and alive, t…
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Garden cold warning and best wishes for the season

The first spell of really cold weather this winter is forecast to hit the coast later this week as a polar air mass continues to slide over the continent. With long range forecasts predicting -3 to -5oC (23-26oF) starting around Christmas Day and continuing for what might possibly be several weeks, do try to find time in the next day or two to prepare your garden for extreme cold. I know it might not be top of mind this week, what with the covid situation and holiday plans, but a little effort now could make a big difference in how well your winter crops come through. I won’t be sending out notices every time it gets cold, but because this is the first one of the winter, here is a reminder of what to do: In the next couple of days, while above-ground vegetables are not yet frozen, you might want to harvest enough vegetables to see you through a couple of weeks of bitter cold. Root crops won’t freeze in the soil so can be harvested any time (but it’s no fun digging in freezin…
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Winter garden preparation, winter cauliflower seeds

Extreme weather driven by the changing climate is certainly hitting hard these days. We continue to get the wetter, colder weather consistent with a La Niña season, so brace for more of the same until spring. September, in particular, was a cooler than normal month, so you might have noticed that some late crops didn’t grow as much as they should have in the waning days of fall. I am disappointed in the size of my fall cabbages, for example. Hardy vegetables do grow a bit over the winter, however, and will pick up speed in early spring. If they are too small to harvest now, just leave them in the garden. With all this rain, you might also notice that leaves of spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard have developed black blotches and ragged or decomposing leaf edges. The leaves of these plants are more delicate than leaves of cabbage or broccoli, which have waxy, water-repellent leaves. When rain, rain, and more rain, abrades the cuticle of leafy greens, the leaf tissue just breaks …
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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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