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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Linda's List: This Month's Gardening Tasks

The golden days of fall are such a delight…but they do remind us that there are things to do before winter: All you Brussels sprout growers, if you haven’t done so, this is the week to pinch out the tips of the plants to hasten the growth of the sprouts along the stem. If you have good-sized sprouts forming already, you don’t necessarily have to do this, but if your plants only have tiny little sprouts at this point, do force them to make sprouts by pruning the tops. If the plants don’t develop their crop this fall, you won’t be getting sprouts this winter. Cleanup: If your apple trees had scabby apples this year, be extra careful to rake up all the fallen apple leaves and compost them. Not to worry if the compost heats up or not—as long as the leaves decompose by spring, the overwintering spores of apple scab will die. Also, those squash leaves with powdery mildew are fine to put into the compost pile. Things it would be best not to compost: tomato plants with late bligh…
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Video: 2017 Fall Fair Zucchini Racing

What a wonderful weekend at the fall fair again this year. Thank you to all the organizers who did such a wonderful job creating a beautiful and fun fair for our island. Here are some highlights of the zucchini racing, just one of the great events of the weekend. https://youtu.be/32oS4QMRslM
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Last Planting, Powdery Mildew and Rats

Well, so that summer went by in a blur…and here we are at the last planting window of the season. What to plant: If you sow this week, you should still be able to grow nice-sized plants of hardy winter lettuce and arugula before winter. It is expected to be pretty hot this week, so cover seed beds with burlap or other covers to cool the soil enough to allow seeds to germinate. Now is the right time to scatter corn salad seeds under tomatoes, squash and other plants that won’t continue in cold weather. Corn salad may not germinate until the soil cools down, so don’t worry if they don’t come up immediately; it is the hardiest salad green I know of and will continue to grow (slowly) during the winter. If you will be growing winter greens in a coldframe, plastic tunnel or unheated greenhouse, you could also sow Chinese cabbages, leaf mustard and other hardy greens now, because the protected environments provide a little more growing time. If you can find seedlings of spinac…
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Kitchen Scraps and Then What?

Of the many qualities that attracted me to the Salt Spring Island community, ingenuity was a huge draw. It still is. Whether it’s critical mass or the propensity to organize to solve problems, islanders know how to get stuff done! For example, while you and I, and the restaurants we patronize, are tackling the daily chore of dealing with kitchen scraps, a group of people is organizing around the same topic. They came together in April of this year to create an informal group ― the Organic Waste Working Group. Initially, their goal was to share ideas and compare notes about organic waste management on Salt Spring Island. Since January 2015, the CRD has banned all kitchen scraps from the garbage, so businesses and institutions have been shipping their organic waste off island. Enter the Organic Waste Working Group, which wants to create another viable option for dealing with kitchen scraps that keeps the nutrients on island. The group consists of people from a wide range…
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Are Your Fall Fair Entries Nearly Ready?

As August’s temperatures drop, the Fall Fair comes to mind. I can almost smell the corn-on-the-cob and the pies. I can nearly hear Country Grocer’s Spin to Win wheel and the local talent on stage. And in my mind, I’m walking through the barn and looking at the exhibits. This year’s Fall Fair theme is “Party with the Animals!” held on September 16 and 17. According to Marguerite Lee, a director of the Farmers’ Institute, our island’s Fall Fair is “recognized by the BC Fair’s Association as one of the best small fairs, oriented toward family and fun and not toward commercialization.” It started in 1896, and to this day, the focus of the Fall Fair is "local" ― from the great array of food vendors who sell ethnic and traditional food to the musical talent and all of the community information booths where organizations promote their message or product and services. The highlight for many is to see all of the exhibitions and a variety of competitions in various categories. …
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Gardening: Super Heat Wave Prep Today

A scary weather forecast for record-setting high temperatures this week, lingering over a longer than usual period, should send you out to the garden today to take some simple steps to protect your vegetables. Basically it boils down to 3 things: Shade, water, harvest. Of course, shade cloth, which I have discussed in detail earlier is a very handy tool to have, but you can use anything from curtain material to paper to old sheets if you have to. A reminder that floating row covers and insect netting do not shade or cool beds. If you have covered carrots or other vegetables to prevent insect attack, lay shade cloth or a light weight fabric on top of the insect barrier to shade beds if you have small seedlings (as you would right now if you sowed carrots earlier this month). Mature plants now generally have leaves well adapted to sun and their leaves also shade and cool the soil for roots. Priorities for shading this time around are the Brassica family (broccoli, caulifl…
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