Ruckle Farm & Neighbours Fine Arts & Crafts

Salt Spring’s Ruckle family were farmers ... with a couple of artists. Or so the story goes, but it has come clear of late that Ruckle farm was long a south-Salt Spring arts hub Throughout November, the Salt Spring Library hosts “Ruckle & Neighbours Fine Arts & Crafts”, showcasing the works of nine south-end creators, from the early 1900s to present day. The foyer display case introduces Ella Anna Ruckle, the Norwegian matriarch of three highly artistic offspring. Son Alfred was a luthier and woodworker. His wife Helen experimented with dyes for the many rugs she hooked from Ruckle sheeps’ wool. Daniel, a consumate farmer, knitted with farm wool, with his vest on display. Neighbours and good friends of the Ruckle ‘boys’, Jim Monk and Sophie Purser King, were wood carvers. Present-day artist, Garry Kaye, took Gwen’s advice years ago and went to art school, setting off a success career. The Program Room features three gifted Ruckles. Two are known: Agnes, who die at age …
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Last sowing, confusing bugs, splitter alert

There is still time to sow hardy winter lettuce and arugula if you do it this week and now is also the perfect time to sow corn salad for winter salads. Pull back mulches and scatter seeds under tomatoes, squash and other plants that will be finished in October. Corn salad seeds may not germinate until the soil cools down, so don’t worry if they don’t come up immediately; it is extremely hardy and one of the few greens that can grow (slowly) during the winter. If you are sowing winter greens in a coldframe, plastic tunnel or unheated greenhouse, you could also sow Chinese cabbage, leaf mustard and other hardy greens now, because the warmer environments provide a little more growing time. If you can buy starts of spinach, lettuce, Chinese cabbage and other leafy greens you can still transplant those into your garden (on Salt Spring, Chorus Frog Farm stand still has these available). Grow them as quickly as possible in nitrogen-rich soil with plenty of water. Even if plants don’t…
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Sow Spinach and Greens; Pests and Problems

Yesterday should have been “Spinach Day” in my garden, but it is far too hot to attempt to sow anything right now. I have had good results sowing spinach as late as the middle of August so will wait to until it cools down in a couple of days to plant seeds. The forecast for Saturday is for cooler weather, with a small chance of the ever-receding mirage of rain showers in some places. Gardeners along the outer coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca, where summers are cool and foggy should sow spinach right now to give it time to grow to a good size before winter. Winter lettuce, arugula, salad radishes and winter radishes and other leafy greens, including leaf mustards, leaf spinach (‘Komatsuna’), leaf radish and Chinese cabbage varieties can also still be started from seed this week, but wait until temperatures drop in a day or two to sow these outdoors. Lettuce seeds simply won’t germinate if it too hot, no matter how carefully you keep them watered. Starting seeds in flats or po…
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The Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust receives $50k from The Farmers' Institute for The Root

The Salt Spring Island Farmers' Institute has donated $50,000 towards building The Root. This is a significant contribution to the Farmland Trust’s fundraising goal, which is now down to $510,000 thanks to the generous donation by the Farmers’ Institute. “The Salt Spring Island Farmers' Institute fully supports the leadership role the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust is taking in local food production, and we are pleased to donate $50,000 to the Farmland Trust for the Root, a very worthwhile agricultural initiative,” says Bruce Marshall, President of the Farmers’ Institute. “This project meets our goals to sponsor community projects that promote agricultural education and infrastructure. The project also responds to the recommendations and priorities outlined in the Salt Spring Island Area Farm Plan.” “We are so grateful to the Farmers’ Institute for their donation to The Root. Their support really means a lot in our community, and I hope it will encourage others to supp…
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Farmland Trust Breaks Ground for The Root

Salt Spring Island, July 12, 2018 – This week the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust begins construction of the new local food centre The Root at 189 Beddis Road, and officially kicks off The Root community fundraising campaign. “If you love eating produce and foods from Salt Spring Island and would like to see even more available all year long, and if you care about making the Island more food self-sufficient and would like to see more jobs in farm and food businesses, then you will want to contribute to the building fund at The Root,” says Patricia Reichert, SSI Farmland Trust President. “Currently 8% of the produce available for purchase on Salt Spring is locally grown, and the Farmland Trust would like to see this increase to 25% by 2025,” adds Reichert. Thanks to the donations to date, the Farmland Trust is well on the way to its fundraising goal but still needs to raise $560,000. The Farmland Trust will issue tax receipts for donations over $50. This money will fu…
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Winter Planting and Garden Editing

Many vegetables for harvest over the winter and early next spring should be planted at this time of year. So take advantage of the somewhat cooler weather forecast for the next few days to sow seeds of beets, chard and leaf beet, rutabaga, radicchio, kohlrabi and the small, quick growing, cabbage varieties (e.g., ‘Caraflex F1’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, ‘Greyhound’). These should be sown immediately to have enough time to grow to a good size by the end of October. Most varieties of chard survive well outdoors through most winters, but they don’t all make it if there is exceptionally cold weather. That’s why at this time of year I include a couple of the hardier chards in my plantings: ‘Lucullus’ (wide stems, light green savoyed leaves) and ‘Leaf Beet’ (narrow stems, dark green, smoother leaf). The latter may also be called ‘Perpetual Spinach’ or ‘Bietina’ by different seed sources. From now to early August you can sow kale, collards, daikon & other winter radishes, b…
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Ruckle Park Heritage Conservation Management Plan Receives Heritage Legacy Fund Grant

The Friends of Ruckle Park Heritage Society is delighted to announce that it is receiving its first and most generous grant to guide future improvements to Ruckle Park heritage. The Heritage Legacy Fund has provided $10,000 to help with the creation of a “Ruckle Park Heritage Conservation Management Plan”, which will not only serve Ruckle Park, but will become a template for conservation work on all BC Parks heritage sites. Ruckle is ideal, because it has some of everything, from deep woods to fields, from old farm structures to modern interpretive features. BC Parks has provided matching funds, to ensure the project’s completeness. The work will be directed by Heritageworks, under the skilled hands of Gord Macdonald and Ben Gourley. Some additional, volunteer help will be needed. Please contact Brenda, see below, if you have skills or interests to offer this project or future work. The BC Heritage Branch has also contributed $40,000 for the development of this Conserv…
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Heat Alert! Sowing Winter Brassicas

The recent cool weather is giving way to what is forecast to be pretty hot weather starting this weekend. This is a reminder that if you haven’t done so already, do finish mulching vegetables before it gets hot; it will conserve soil moisture and keep roots cool. Some people had quite a bit of rain, others not so much over the last week—but at least it was something after the driest May on record. It was so dry in May that powdery mildew showed up on a variety of plants (strawberries, kale, roses, etc.)--much earlier than we usually see it. On the other hand, some diseases of wet weather, such as apple scab, were noticeably absent.

Because it has been cool, young leaves of vegetable will be tender and prone to sunscald damage. Temperatures that could fry leaves this week wouldn’t likely damage plants later in the summer after leaf cells have had time to adapt to summer weather. Be ready this weekend to deploy some k…

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Sowing Sprouts, Irrigation and Pest du Jour

Just a quick note this time, but I couldn’t let another day go by without reminding everyone that it is time to sow seeds of Brussels sprouts and any cabbage varieties that need over 120 days to mature (e.g., January King, Danish Ballhead, Red Langedijker). Getting the timing right for these crops seems to be a perennial problem for many due to conflicting information on seed packets and from nurseries. The long season cabbages really do need the whole summer to develop a good-sized head, but no matter what size they are by fall, they still provide a harvest. Timing of Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, is a trickier because if sown too late (after the first week of June), plants usually don’t have enough growing season left to produce sprouts before winter—and if they don’t form sprouts by the end of October, they aren’t likely to have them at all. Of course you can sow Br. sprouts earlier, but by waiting until now to sow them, you largely avoid …

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The Salt Spring Island Freshwater Catalogue Needs You

Selling the idea of interconnectedness and all it entails is one of the toughest pitches environmentally minded people have to make. Most people understand the connection between actions and consequences; not everyone acts upon that understanding. Living on an island fosters an acute sense of community and belonging, which can in turn lead to greater participation in stewardship. We’re somewhat self-contained. After all, my backyard is your backyard – quite literally. The mission of the Salt Spring Water Preservation Society (WPS) is to protect and preserve the island’s drinking water; to promote the scientific study of and research into water resources; and to promote and increase the public awareness of the value of water resources. Currently the WPS are working on a project to develop a SSI freshwater catalogue and they are looking for volunteers. Whatever your background, you would be welcomed and put to good use; suitable training will be provided. Do you want to know w…
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Japanese Historical Charcoal Kilns on Salt Spring Island

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. One of the very few Asian heritage sites on Salt Spring are the two charcoal kilns built by Isaburo Tasaka in the early 1900s in Mouat Park. Besides the two on our island, we have identified thirteen others in the Southern Gulf Islands. A new 68-page booklet published by the Japanese Garden Society gives the history of charcoal (the history of humanity!) and its local production, and some insights into the lives of early Japanese Canadian settlers on the Southern Gulf Islands. The launch of the booklet will from 1:30 pm on May 15th in the Library Program Room. Four of the booklet’s contributors will be giving a talk. Our story began with the restoration of one of the two Salt Spring kilns in 2015. While we were working on the restoration, we learned from local historical kiln expert Steve Nemtin that there were a number of similar kilns on Galiano, Mayne, Saturna, and possibly the other islands too. Steve has been fascinated by th…
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Tomatoes, Corn, Beans, Peas and Pests du Jour

With the warmth last week and the forecast of another sunny week, you can keep right on planting any and all cool weather crops (peas, lettuce, onions, leeks, all of the cabbage/mustard family, leafy greens, Swiss chard, carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, etc.). It is still too cool at night in most places to rush warmth-loving plants into the ground, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, corn and beans. And don’t push sweet basil outdoors too early, either: it can’t handle cool, wet weather. When tomatoes can go outdoors depends on your garden microclimate and how prepared you are to protect them with cloches, floating row covers or coldframes if it turns cool after you plant. Tomatoes are more robust than the other tender plants listed (and some tomato varieties can take cooler weather than others), but that just means they tolerate it, not that they thrive. If it is too cool for growth the leaves often turn purple from temporary nutrient deficiencies cau…
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Wet Soil, Cool Crops and Pollinator Plantings

Our cold spring continues…with the soil too soggy to work in many gardens, especially after this recent heavy rain. If you squeeze a small handful of soil and it stays together in a compact clod, then it is too wet to handle; it should be moist but still easy to crumble apart after you squeeze it. Trying to turn in amendments in wet soil compacts the soil and crushes the air spaces that let in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide (plant roots, soil microbes, earthworms, etc. all need to breath). If hard clods form when your soil dries out, it is a sign of compaction, often seen in clay soils. Wait until such soil are drier before handling them and keep adding compost and organic matter from mulches to improve soil structure.

Gardeners are always eager to get out there and plant something, but really, there is no rush, especially if have crops in the ground year round. If you are not harvesting lots of overwintered crop…

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BC Rural Dividend Grant Funds Salt Spring Shared Business Services Study

As part of its rural development mandate, the Government of British Columbia is providing $39,136 to support community projects in the Cowichan Valley and Gulf Islands, Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan announced today. “The wide range of projects that received grants is a testament to the resourcefulness of the proponents and their commitment to diversifying their community’s economy,” said Routley. The funding is part of nearly $700,000 in project development grants being awarded to eligible local governments, First Nations and not-for-profit organizations under the BC Rural Dividend program. These grants, of up to $10,000 each, help rural communities develop projects to stabilize their economies and create long-term local employment. “Congratulations to everyone involved,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The selected projects reflect the strength of rural communities – people working tog…
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Starting Seeds and Onion Sets

Despite the slow start to spring (as snow flurries Friday morning reminded me), this is a good week to start seeds indoors for early crops and for plants that take the whole growing season to mature. I used to start leeks in mid-February, but now wait until the first week of March and find they grow just as big as always. And starting later means less time spent babysitting seedlings. While onions grown from sets mature around mid-July, earlier than onions from seed, growing onions from seed allows you to try many more varieties than are sold as sets. The downside is that seedling onions take most of the summer to reach maturity. You can grow your own sets, however, which gives you the wide choice of varieties along with the earlier harvest, which allows you to plant another crop after the onions. Choose storage varieties for onion sets and sow seeds thickly enough to keep the crowded bulbs very small. You can grow a lot of sets in 1-2 square feet. I sow mine directly in t…
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2018 Salt Spring Island Home & Garden Show

Introducing the Salt Spring Island Home & Garden Show presented by Mouat’s Trading! March 17th and 18th - what a great weekend to be on Salt Spring Island as we host the Salt Spring Home & Garden Show. If you are a fan of HGTV, you will want to be at this great event showcasing local designers, landscapers, construction and trades professionals, along with service and recreation providers. Admission to the event is FREE and attendees could win some great prizes. All events are at the Salt Spring Farmers Institute. Friday Evening, March 16th from 5pm-8pm - You are invited to a Salt Spring Home & Garden Show Welcome Reception and cash bar pre-show gathering. There will be a fun, festive atmosphere with music and free food. Meet with the local trades, construction, home services, landscape companies and home décor vendors and mingle with fellow attendees. The Welcome Reception is sponsored by Windsor Plywood. Saturday, March 17th from 9am-4pm and Sunday, March 18th from 10a…
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Bitter Cold Alert for Gardeners and Growers

I waited, hoping to see that the forecast cold would be moderated by a warmer weather system as the last one was—but it hasn’t happened. The predicted cold weather, starting Sunday or Monday is for extreme lows over the next 3-5 days that would be very damaging this late in the winter. All around the region the forecast is for lows of -5 to -8 degrees C (18-23 F). Even Seattle has forecast lows of 23-26F). I discussed cold-proofing tips in my previous message. Given how cold it could be, I suggest you harvest as much of the above ground crops (leeks, cabbage, kale, Br. sprouts, chard, etc.) as you can stuff in your refrigerator and cover everything you can’t harvest. I am breaking into my stash of leaves for next summer’s mulch to cover cabbage heads and renew the mulch on beds of root crops. My purple sprouting broccoli and winter cauliflowers were looking so promising with little heads starting that I will be covering them with tarps to try to prevent damage to the tender…
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Big Chill Coming - Yams Again - Fruit Sources

Well, nuts! To prove my contention that you just can’t trust February, the current forecast is for a few days of really cold air to hit this weekend. With lows of -4 and -5oC (25 to 23oF) predicted for the south coast (even for Victoria, which is unusual), you may need to take steps to protect some plants if that cold does materialize. I am afraid those temperature will kill any early peach and cherry flowers that are opening now, but don’t worry about garlic, spring bulbs, buds on native shrubs and trees or fruit trees that flower later -- they should be okay. Do worry about half-hardy herbs, such as rosemary, and new shoots of artichokes and other less robust perennials. Mulch right over the crowns of plants or cover them with plastic. It would be a good idea to cover spinach, lettuce, chard and other overwintered greens too; the roots should survive the low temperatures, but new leaves could be ruined as -5oC is pretty much the lower limit for many greens (kale would be fine…
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FireSmart Landscaping Choices

Did you know that the landscaping choices you make can improve your home’s chances of with-standing a wildfire? Before then, would you like to test your FireSmart knowledge?             Ground covers - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Buttercup Dianthus English Ivy Periwinkle Phlox Sedum Perennials - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Bearded Iris Daisies Foxglove Geranium Hydrangea Lupine DR Shrubs - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Boxwood Fuchsia (dieback) Lilac Pyracantha Piers Salal Trees - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Cedar Dogwood Garry Oak Magnolia Maple Prunus cherry Interested in learning more? I will be at the popular Seedy Saturday on February 10th at the Farmers’ Institute at 10:30 a.m. to give you the information you need to make those right choices. See yo…
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Spring Is Coming - Seeds, Yams, Pruning and Tool Disinfecting

With the gardening season arriving quickly (yay!), it is time to sort out our seed collections, decide what to buy and check seed suppliers for new varieties: Germination test: If you are wondering whether seeds in old packets are still good, you can check with a quick germination test: Count out 20 seeds if you have lots, 5 seeds if you only have a few. Spread them on a wet paper towel or cloth and cover with another piece of towel to keep them moist. If you are testing many different varieties, you can germinate them all on the same paper towel. Before wetting the towel, use a waterproof pen or pencil to draw a circle for each group of seeds and label it. Then wet the paper and place the seeds in their labelled circles. Of course, be careful handling that setup so you don’t scramble the seeds… Put the moist towel with the seeds in a plastic bag or container and close loosely to maintain a bit of air flow. Keep the seeds warm, check daily for moisture and watch for th…
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Last Notes For Your Winter Garden

That recent cold snap was a surprise, with temperatures well below freezing and the first snowfall in some areas. If your winter veggies were not all mulched by then I doubt they came to harm as the soil was still relatively warm. In this warmer lull, however, do get the mulching done before temperatures drop again. Mulch is especially necessary to protect the shoulders of root crops poking above the surface, but it also protects soil from erosion in heavy winter rains. I always set aside a big bag of leaves to use at the last minute, just before a really cold spell, to cover over top of the leaves of carrot, beets and other root crops. I wait as late as possible for this because I don’t want to smother the leaves prematurely (or provide rats with a tempting winter nest). I know for a fact there are still people out there that haven’t planted their garlic and it is still not too late, but do get that done now while it isn’t so cold. No matter how late you plant garlic, it wi…
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