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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Planning and Planting for Winter Harvests

If you haven’t already sown beets, chard and leaf beet, rutabaga, radicchio, kohlrabi for winter harvests, do it right now so that plants have enough time to get to a mature size by the end of October. It is also time to plant out starts of winter broccoli and cauliflower and long-season cabbage (it is too late to sow from seed). If you sow now, you can still get very nice heads of the small pointy ‘sweetheart’ cabbages (Caraflex F1, Early Jersey Wakefield, Greyhound). For successful winter harvests, plants have to have enough hours of daylight in the growing season to reach a good size because they can’t grow in the winter cold. When the sun is high in the sky at this time of year most gardens have enough daylength for good plant growth, but as the sun gets lower in in August, sunlight is increasingly blocked in the morning and afternoon by buildings, trees, even mountains. If you are gardening in a wide open area without such obstructions, you can plant a couple of weeks l…
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Winter Planting is Here, Heat Again and Late Blight

I still feel like we are caught somewhere in endless spring, but believe it or not, some important planting windows for winter harvests are upon us. Winter broccoli and winter cauliflower: Sow seeds from now until the end of June, either directly in the garden or in seed flats or pots. Given the rampaging slugs, pillbugs, birds and root rot diseases still plaguing us during all this wet weather, I have opted to sow mine in seedling trays and will keep them in the kitchen until they germinate (no need for bottom heat at this point). After that I will do the dance—outdoors during the day and safe and sound indoors at night, until they are big enough to plant out. If you sow directly in the garden, do sow lots of extra seeds to make sure you have enough surviving plants. These are crops that are going to occupy the garden for the rest of the season, but don’t produce heads until they have been through the chill of winter. They can be interplanted with other crops, such as lettu…
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Foundation announces $100,000 grant to 'The Root'

The Salt Spring Island Foundation is pleased to announce a grant of $100,000 to The Root, Farmland Trust’s new local food processing, distribution and storage facility. The grant is part of a bequest left to the Foundation by May Cree Shaw and will be used to construct and equip The Root’s Shaw Family Kitchen, which will be a hub for preparing, cooking, and preserving locally grown produce. Kees Ruurs, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, says, “This exciting and innovative project will benefit all islanders by making more local food available, improving our food security and also boosting Salt Spring’s economy. The Shaws were south-end farmers, part of our agricultural heritage, so this is a very appropriate use of their legacy.” The Salt Spring Island Foundation will be awarding $500,000 in grants from the Shaw bequest over a five-year period, beginning with the grant to The Root. Applications for the next $100,000 grant, to be awarded in early 2018, will be…
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Current Planting, Currant Pests and Wireworms

Planting now? With that really good warm day yesterday, I know you are ready to plant everything—but whoa! There is no point in trying to rush warmth-loving plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn, beans, into the garden as it is still too cool for them. Indeed, cool weather crops (cabbage family, peas, lettuce, onions, leeks) now in the garden are growing slowly enough as it is, though they are finally picking up speed with the warmer temperatures this week. When tomatoes can go outdoors is debatable: they are generally more robust than the other tender plants and some varieties can take pretty cool weather. It doesn’t mean that they grow much, just that they tolerate it. Varieties such as ‘Oregon Spring’ and ‘Siletz’ can set fruit at 10oC [50oF], but the big, potato leaved varieties, such as ‘Brandywine’, need seriously warm weather to do well. If you have already set out your tomatoes, do what you can to keep them warm at night, whether it is using floatin…
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Wet Soil, Harvesting Roots, Fruit Pollination

Our cold, wet spring continues…with the soil too wet to work in most gardens. For much of the region, March set records for rainfall, so it has been really, really wet. This spring certainly shows how valuable it is to fill your garden with mature, hardy vegetable plants before winter. Despite the bitter cold, a lot of crops made it through the winter and these deep rooted plants are now producing crops without anyone having to plant or cultivate cold, wet soil. Overwintered crops being harvested in coastal gardens now include greens (chard, spinach, kale), roots (carrots, beets, parsnips), as well as leeks, Brussels sprouts, winter cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli. I lost a lot of my winter cauliflower and broccoli plants, with stems crushed under the weight of, heavy snow, but the few that survived are producing lovely heads now. Which reminds me to remind you that it is now time to dig up any remaining root crops and put them in the refrigerator. They should be h…
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Name the “Farm Centre” Contest! Win Gift Basket of local goodies!

What’s in a name? Currently, the official name of the “Farm Centre” is “Salt Spring Farm Centre for Food Security.” We’d love a new name and that’s why we are asking the community for help. Our goal is to develop sustainable, local food production and increase access to local food for all sectors of the community. Who benefits: farmers, value-added food producers, and anyone who values locally grown and produced food! And you can win an amazing gift basket full of goodies from island producers as well as participants of the Rural Business Accelerator (RBA). The Contest: Simply e-mail your Entry here: farmcentre@ssifarmlandtrust.org Subject line, please say “Farm Centre Contest” and include your name and contact details. Rules: One entry, per island resident. If a name is approved by the Farmland Trust, the winner will be announced on the Exchange. The Prize: Gift basket featuring scrumptious local food items including: • $50 Vegetable Gift Certifica…
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Linda's List: Spring Planting Timing

As our cool spring weather continues, everyone is asking about when to plant: Soil Temperature: On the theme of testing, right now I am checking a soil thermometer out in a garden bed. It shows that the soil is far too cold to plant anything (and of course our soils are far too wet to be handled at all). As of today my soil temperature had come up to 4 degrees C by afternoon, but is lower in the mornings after overnight frosts. So we are a long way from the 12-15 C minimum for planting cool season crops! Bear in mind that the optimum germination temperatures for even cool season vegetables is minimum 21 C ; peas, for example, germinate best at 24 C. Which is why sprouting early peas indoors is such a good idea, giving them a nice warm germination period, after which they can go outdoors to cooler weather. To hasten soil warming, rake off any mulch on the surface and lay clear plastic on the soil to trap heat. Black plastic won’t heat the soil nearly as fast as clear. If yo…
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A Hidden Gem behind Salt Spring Elementary

Hidden away from the street is a great little project that has taken at least 20 years to be realized. You would only see it if you visit the middle or elementary school. On a fairly steep slope that was overgrown with gorse, blackberry, and broom, a children’s garden―appropriately called the “Hillside Garden”―is taking shape. Mother to a kindergartner at Salt Spring Elementary and a regular with her toddler at the ELF preschool program, Robin Jenkinson coordinates the Garden Committee, comprised of parents and teachers. On Sunday, March 12, despite the grey and rain, 26 parents and children gathered to continue carving terraces into the slope. As of January, all schools in the Gulf Islands District had food gardens, save Salt Spring Elementary and Middle Schools. Now, two gardens are underway―one in front of the school and this hidden gem. Both schools, and the ELF classroom located next to the gym in the elementary school, will use it. It’s not just sweat and backbre…
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Linda's List: To Seed or Not to Seed, That is the Question

This certainly is a different spring than we have had for the last couple of years. I was walking around Victoria on the weekend noting all of the street trees that should have been blooming for weeks by now, without a blossom to be seen. Chirpy little notes in my own garden journals show that last year this time crocuses, Siberian iris and daffodils were all blooming in my yard…and there are none to be seen this year (awe still have snow along the roads!) Starting Seeds: If you are starting your own seeds indoors, you might want to adjust your schedule to take this late, cold season into account. I have always started seeds of leeks, onions, celery and celeriac sometime after mid-February, but this year am waiting until the very end of the month to sow them. I don’t want to have to manage plants that are getting larger and larger, while the soil is still too cold for them to be set outdoors in the garden. In fact, I am pushing back all of my planting dates a week or two a…
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Reviving the Garden, Germination Test, Pruning, Garlic Freebie

Funny how fast those snowdrops pop up the minute the frost leaves the ground! With the going of the snow and the arrival of more seasonal temperatures, it is time to come out of hibernation. First, I want to let everyone know that my newest publication is out and making its way to bookstores. You can also order it from my web site or get it directly from me at any of my talks and workshops. Resilient Gardens 2017: Pollinator Gardens, Garlic Diseases, Pest Update. The focus in this publication is on how to grow safe, hospitable and abundant coastal gardens for pollinators. Topics include pollination biology and common pollinators, what to plant to feed them (and what not to plant), nest sites for bees and protecting pollinators from insecticides. The second section focuses on identifying and managing garlic root diseases in an effort to clear up confusion about the various fungal diseases that attack garlic (although White Rot is the disease everyone fears, there are other…
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Linda's List: Come the thaw....

As this prolonged cold period is coming to an end, I thought a few notes on salvaging garden crops would be in order. In this last couple of weeks, the minimum temperatures and amount of snow cover varied quite a bit over the region so some gardens will have suffered more than others. Well-mulched root crops with a blanket of snow over the top are quite likely to be fine, no matter how cold it got in your garden. Root crops with little mulch and no snow cover, however, are going to have frost damage on the shoulders of the roots. To see how yours fared, after everything thaws later this week, pull a couple of carrots, beets, etc., and see if the top of the roots look like they have been frozen (a water-soaked appearance). If so, the roots won’t keep for long because the damaged tissue rots and the rots will spread to the rest of the root. To salvage frost-damaged roots, dig them all up soon, cut off the damaged top part and store the roots in the refrigerator. They should …
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The Garden: Extremely Local and Exotic

This morning, I sat between a 12 foot tall banana tree, a row of fruiting grapefruit trees, and a Bougainvillea still in bloom. The sun broke through the clouds, and suddenly, it was a balmy spring day―except that I was in a tropical oasis in November here on Salt Spring Island. Some people may know this place as The Garden. It’s a 6000 square foot greenhouse where Jane Squier has been growing food commercially since 1994. Although she’s best known for her living lettuce and succulent basil leaves, half of the greenhouse is now dedicated to growing fruits such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and avocados. Jane put a freshly picked kumquat in my hand: “It’s like eating sunshine.” And it was! The rind was sweet, and the flesh burst with a lively tang. She grows three varieties of kumquat. Along with lemons and limes, she can eat these fresh year round. Jane picked a kaffir lime and encouraged me to rub its gnarled rind. Within seconds, an aromatic oil had spread across …
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Linda's List: Cold weather preparations, cutworms again

Well, the La Nina weather pattern is certainly delivering as promised: wet and windy indeed, with a record-setting October for number of rainy days and, in some areas, record total rainfall for the month. Despite this, however, it has been warm enough for cabbages and other hardy plants to continue slow growth and for cutworms to be out and about (see below). There isn’t cold weather in the immediate forecast and Environment Canada’s long range forecast shows a probability of somewhat above average temperatures through January, but remember that the coldest weather we have had in the last couple of winters occurred in late November. So…just sayin’… be prepared to finish mulching by then and have some tarps or sheets of plastic handy to cover leafy greens in case of really cold weather. The hardy greens, such as chard and leaf beet, winter lettuce, Komatsuna, Mizuna, leaf mustards and hardy Chinese cabbages are usually fine to about -5oC (23oF) without covers. At those temper…
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Culturalive: Krauts, Kimchis and Salsas

If you’ve been to Mexico, your taste buds have likely never forgotten Mexican fare. And maybe from time to time, your taste buds coerce you into trying to recreate the unique Mexican flavour combinations in your kitchen. And, if you’re like me, sometimes you succeed and your taste buds flare with delight. Other times, they wither in scorn. But a zippy li’l salsa made here on Salt Spring Island recently revamped my―let’s be honest―dull version of huevos rancheros. I was buying the Culturalive’s mild kimchi, a staple in my house, at Country Grocer when I noticed Culturalive’s latest product, red pepper salsa. It had been a long time since I had eaten Mexican, and my taste buds encouraged me: “¡Orale!” In that jar, I found my ferment fortune. It is an extraordinary salsa that literally brings Mexican dishes to life. The chipotle smokiness and the peppery sweetness interact like mariachi music and zapateado dance, and the coriander and cumin add flavour intensity. The f…
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Linda's List: Fall Leaves, Garlic & Brussel Sprouts

That nice spell of warm weather was just what we needed to bring on the last growth of late crops. Here are some things to do—and not do—right now: Keep insect covers on until the end of October. A perennial question is when to take off the netting or row cover protecting carrots, winter radishes, turnips, and small cabbage family greens from root maggots. There are still lots of adult flies floating around, laying eggs on unprotected plants. Give the covers another month or until the first heavy frost, whichever comes first.  Rinse the covers to clean them and store until next year. For you eager Brussels sprout growers: It is time to pinch or cut out the centre top-knot of leaves to force the plants to develop sprouts. If your plants already have nice-sized sprouts, this is optional. Plants set out later may just be showing the first small sprouts on the bottom third of the stem. These benefit from stopping the top growth to hasten sprout development. I am still hearing…
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