Linda's List: Last Planting, Fall Weather Reminders, Keep on Trapping

The seeding season is about over: Only the smallest leafy greens (corn salad, lettuce, arugula) can be sown this week and still have a chance of making a good crop this fall. If you want more kale, chard, spinach or Chinese cabbage, look for well-grown starts at local nurseries. These still have enough time to produce a usable harvest for this fall and winter (but do get them planted as soon as possible). The wet weather this week provides a good opportunity to transplant seedlings you started earlier. I have a bed of leafy greens and lettuce that should be thinned so I will transplant some of the plants into an empty bed vacated [finally!] by the last of my onions. Splitters: With this wet weather, watch out for splitting fruit and vegetables. I found an exploded zucchini this morning, cracked from one end to the other. This happens when plants have been kept rather short on water as many gardens are on the coast during the dry season. With the arrival of substantial rainfa…
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Take a Spin at the Fall Fair!

Take a Spin at the Fall Fair! September’s moisture-laden skies are here, and the first hints of autumn are all around us. But for farmers, artists, gardeners, craftspeople, and other community members, this is an exciting time! Behind closed barn doors and meadow gates, and beyond office doors and electric fences, creative minds have been concocting freshly squeezed plans for this year’s Fall Fair theme: “We’ve Got A Good Thing Growing.” Let’s take a look at what Country Grocer has been germinating. Many of you know that Country Grocer’s Spin to Win is a Fall Fair highlight. Every spin wins! Each spinner gets two spins for $5 and will always win something of greater value. You literally can’t lose! Another big winner is the Salt Spring Community 4‑H, as all of the money raised goes directly to the club. Last year, prizes included coupons or gifts such as iPads, laptops, and socks. Yes, sock pandemonium broke out when bare-footed spinners caught sight of the warm, wooll…
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Linda's List: Growing Greens for Winter

Right now is a great time to seed spinach for harvest this fall. Spinach sown at this time of year usually overwinters to produce a big spring crop, no matter how beat up plants are by winter. I just seeded mine to take advantage of that spell of cooler moist weather over the last couple of day, but it should be fine to sow it up to the middle of the month. Do use burlap or other covers to keep the seedbed cool and moist in the hot weather forecast for this week. So far I have only had one variety of spinach not work on this schedule (‘Melo Nero’ all bolted). Though I have certainly not tried every spinach there is, I do know that Long Standing Bloomsdale, Viking, Tyee and Large Leaved Winter spinach all do well. Spinach generally, however, is not happy about being out in endless winter rain and is broken down by wet snow. If you can grow it in a bed protected by the overhang of a roof or under a plastic tunnel or coldframe, the leaves will hold up better (the same goes for win…
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Of Garlic Festivals and Garlic Gods

This week while grocery shopping, I watched a shopper fill a brown paper bag so full of organic garlic that the bag couldn’t close. I admired his gung-ho garlic attitude, so I said, “Hello fellow garlic lover!” “I love this stuff. It’s Space Man’s easy-to-peel garlic.” “Grown on Mars?” “No, look―‘extremely local.’” Since coming to Salt Spring Island, I’ve been amazed every summer by the many different varieties of garlic. The people who eat it―and grow it―are equally as diverse! Salt Spring Islanders revere garlic, and this reverence is refreshing. Garlic powder was all my parents used when I grew up. It isn’t as assertive as the fresh stuff nor as versatile, and you can’t marinate and roast it. So, when I moved out on my own, I bought my first garlic bulb―that came all the way from China. China, India, Korea, Russia, and Egypt are the top garlic-growing countries, with China growing 84% of that and the United States 2%. Canada wasn’t even included in the 2…
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Linda's List: Editing, seeding, planting & propping

There are quite a few crops for winter harvest that can be sown from now through mid-August (see below)—but where to fit them into your bursting garden? The main thing I am doing this week is ‘editing’: pruning back plants that have overrun their space, removing what I don’t like, don’t need, have too much of, as well as the odd plant that is growing poorly. Don’t feel you have to keep something just because you planted it. If the flavour is disappointing or nobody in the family eats it, go ahead and take it out. I hate to do it, because it is vigorous and pretty, but my huge yellow ‘Sunbeam’ zucchini has gotta go—the fruit doesn’t compare in quality to ‘Romanesco’ or the dark green zucchinis I am growing and I need the space. You might have too much lettuce or it is starting to bolt, pea vines that are petering out or have pea enation virus (unfortunately quite widespread this summer; for a photo of infected peas, see online. ). If plants aren’t contributing to the productivit…
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New Farm-To-Table Eating Adventure Opens

Salt Spring farmers and foodies are warming up to farm-to-table dining. Within the last couple of years, several farms have hosted this kind of event, such as Stowel Lake, Foxglove, Knoth, Bullock Lake, and Golden Tree farms. In this last week, Redwing Farm joined the fun! The dining is a social experience. Settings are arranged on long tables, which means people are seated next to and across from acquaintances and strangers who become friends while course after course is served. The dishes are incredibly fresh as most of the food is grown on the farm or on other local farms―picked the same day it’s cooked. Chefs include local talent or visitors, such as Chef Haan Palcu-Chang who came to visit his mother and, while he was at it, feed 175 people at Bullock Lake Farm over a 3-day period! Haan makes part of his living creating “pop-up restaurants” in various locations in Canada. It’s a concept that works if a chef wants to avoid the high overhead costs of opening a restauran…
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Linda's List: Happy Carrot Day!

July 1st is Carrot Day too! It is time to sow the carrots as well as beets, rutabagas, turnips, winter radishes that you want to eat over the winter. The first week of July seems to work fine for carrots for most gardens in the region. You can sow beets and turnips a week or two later with good results, but if you start seeds much later than that, you will run out of growing days to mature the roots. They will still be edible of course, just small. If they are small in the fall, that’s all…because plants and roots grow as large as they are going to get by about the end of October. Plants don’t grow noticeably in the winter months andm because carrots and other roots are biennial plants, in the spring they will just send up flower stalks rather than grow larger roots. And here is a review of how to start seeds in the summer: The soil is too warm right now for good germination of carrot (and lettuce) seeds so you should shade seedbeds until the seed has germinated. This will …
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Linda's List: Late blight, fruit fly alert

Based on emails I have been getting, I thought a quick review of how to approach pest and disease problems would be useful, plus an alert about the 2 most serious pest problems in food garden (IMHO): The first thing to do when you see something you are concerned about is NOT to remove the odd looking or damaged leaves. This is like caring for a sick friend by reducing their food intake. There are a few exceptions, such as leafminers on chard, beets or spinach, when it is a good idea to remove and destroy the parts of leaves with leafminer tracks to kill larvae that would become the next generation. It is a losing battle to try to control leaf diseases caused by fungi (powdery mildews, downy mildews, rusts) by pulling off leaves during the growing season: the spores are everywhere and blow in the wind so removing leaves only harms the plant by removing leaf area. At the end of the season, collecting and destroying infected leaves or fruit is a good way to remove overwintering…
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Winter Crop Planting, Garlic Harvest, Ermine Moths Among Us

Time to start winter crop planting now and over the next few month: This week is good timing to sow seeds of Brussel sprouts and the varieties of winter cabbage that take over 120 days to mature (e.g., January King, Danish Ballhead, Langedijker Late Red). These need the whole summer and fall to make big, heavy heads for winter. Many main season cabbages take almost as long so check package descriptions to plan your sowing dates. The last week of May to first week of June is good timing to sow Brussels sprouts, but don’t leave it any later. This timing has sprouts developing in September and October, largely avoiding cabbage aphid damage to the sprouts as the aphids die off in the fall. Later sown plants risk not making sprouts at all because they are too late. If they don’t make sprouts this fall, they won’t do it in the spring because they send up flower shoots from where the sprouts would have been. If you seeded Br. sprouts earlier or set out plants from a nursery, just keep…
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Linda's List: Heat & drought lessons

This spring has unfolded remarkably like last spring, both in lack of April rainfall (around 75% below average over the region, again) and the same higher than average temperature regime. Nighttime temperatures have consistently been above average all spring, resulting in flowering and plant development in my garden occurring about a week earlier than last year. We have already had record-breaking warm days in April and a couple of hot days are forecast, starting today. While it might be another challenging year for some vegetables it should be another great year for fruit crops. At this point the soil is so warm that you can probably plant most things. If we do get a cold night, the warmth in the soil should protect tender plants if you cover them with plastic or floating row cover. I am dithering on when to set out cucumbers, beans, melons, basil, peppers and corn seedlings, but mine are all shortly going to be too big for the trays I started them in so it will force my h…
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Linda's List: Buying & planting tips for veggie starts

One effect of last year’s drought is haunting us this spring as clouds of pollen billow from the huge crop of stress cones on conifers all around the region. We always see pollen from alder, maple and other trees in the spring, but this year, everywhere, there are masses of small reddish brown cones on branches of spruce and fir trees. It doesn’t mean those trees are going to die, but they did get a fright and are making an effort to reproduce this year in case it is their last chance. It will be a happy season for squirrels and seed eating birds…..meanwhile back at the garden: Buying vegetable seedlings: As a greater variety of veggie starts is coming into the nurseries, I thought it would be good to review what to look for when buying seedlings to transplant. The key thing to remember is that stressed seedlings never become the plants they could have been if they had not been stunted by poor watering practices (too dry, too wet), lack of nutrients, or from becoming root-bo…
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Linda's List: Early Planting and the Usual Suspects

The fast start to spring last month seems to have slowed down a bit with the recent cold weather, but it sounds like we are in for a nice stretch of warm, mostly sunny days starting this weekend. In most gardens there have been few, if any, days that garden soil has been dry enough to work due to constant rain. To tell if your soil is dry enough to handle, squeeze together a handful of soil: if it makes a compact ball that doesn’t crumbled apart easily when you gently rub it between your hands, it is too wet to work. Soils with more clay will be the last to dry out and their structure is easiest to damage by cultivating while they are too wet (resulting in hard clods). Sandy soils dry out sooner, but even my own sandy, well-drained soil is still too wet to work today. Anyway, trying to sow too early makes it more likely you will lose tiny plants to roots rots, cutworms, slugs, pillbugs, wireworms, birds, cold, rain (sigh)…..making it all much easier to wait until the soil warms…
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Salt Spring Island Water Fair 2016

Water has long been the mode of transport, the giver of life and food, and the source of strength for all human and non-human life sharing the coastal rainforest bioregion of British Columbia. According to water researchers, flooding and droughts have become the “new normal” in much of B.C. as a result of a changing climate. Seasonal droughts in this region encourage the rare “Garry Oak” ecosystems, and many other features of this unique environment. Droughts also pose significant challenges to our human and built environment, and it is essential that communities work proactively to manage the water so that its abundance and quality strikes a balance. Fine tuning of water in our lifestyles is required. Water Fair 2016 is all about providing the Gulf Islands community with tools and knowledge to embrace and benefit from the ‘winter wet’ and the ‘summer dry’ conditions. Attend the Fair to gain access to a range of easy tools and technologies from pond and rainbarrel cons…
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Linda's List: Starting Seeds, Clean Bee Rant

Another early spring looks to be upon us:  Flowering plants I track as indicators in my yard are blooming only 1-2 days later than they did last year. Last year was the earliest I have experienced on the coast and the warmest on record globally. With overwintered broccoli and cauliflowers making heads and chard and kale beginning to grow, it looks like spring is here. At current vegetable prices those overwintered crops are green gold (at this rate, are we going to have to start locking our garden gates!?). Seeds to plant: If you are growing your own seedlings, this is the month to start celery and celeriac (indoors, on bottom heat). They are slow to germinate and the tiny plants grow slowly. You can also start leeks, onions and shallots this month from seed indoors on bottom heat.  Given that this may be another very early spring, starting peppers, eggplants, even a couple of tomatoes or zucchini this early might work out, especially if you have a sunroom or greenhouse to m…
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Linda's List: Pruning Prompt, Resilient Gardens

HERE IS THE BIG NEWS! - Resilient Gardens 2016: Climate Change, Stress Disorders, Pest Update is off the press and for sale through my web site, a few local bookstores, and at all of my talks and workshops this year. Read all about it! Now that's out of my system, here are some tips on what to do right now: First, stop worrying about the garlic: I know it is really shooting up, but the young leaves are very hardy. If there is more cold coming they should be fine (and you can't stop them). If you want, pull away the mulch just enough to let the shoots grow straight. If you don't do this, they will poke through eventually anyway. Pruning: With buds swelling and the snowdrops blooming, it looks like the warm conditions will bring out fruit blossoms early again this year. Usually we can count on having all of February to finish dormant pruning of fruit trees, grapes and berry bushes, but it is a good idea to finish up your dormant pruning sooner, if you can. Several fru…
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Linda's List: Starting Yams and Seedy Tips

The days are getting longer and brighter! I can already feel it (despite the snow covering everything at my house this morning)....which brings thoughts of gardening, seed orders, and new plans for the best garden yet. If you want to start sweet potatoes (AKA "yams") from a tuber, now is the time to get started. Get small or medium-sized tubers of any kind you like to eat from the grocery store or use one of your own tubers if you grew a crop last summer. One root usually produces 5-10 (or even more) slips. Because, sometimes grocery store tubers won't grow, I suggest starting 2 tubers from 2 different sources to make sure you get one that sprouts. I used to recommend only buying organic tubers--until I had a bag of those that wouldn't grow at all (?). Unlike Irish potatoes, which only sprout from eyes, sweet potatoes can produce roots and shoots from anywhere on the tuber. Prop a tuber upright in a jar and fill with water, half-way up the tuber. Or lay a tuber on its side i…
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New Year's Day Calf

We were welcomed to the new year with a fine new Belted Galloway calf. She was born early this morning amidst her herd here at Night Owl Farm. We weren't expecting her so soon so she was a surprise and a joyful beginning to this new year. We've named her “Ahvleen” meaning “new year” in Gaelic; she being a Gaelic breed from Scotland, and some of us being Celts too. She seems strong and healthy – she can stand on her wobbly, too-long legs and nurse from her mother. It's the first birth for her mother. The calf's grandmother, who is an Angus-Jersey cross, is the herd matriarch and was born at Moonstruck Farm. The calf's proud father, Clancy, was the first calf born here on the farm in 2008. She'll be the first birth of six calves expected over the next three or four months. We'll keep you posted on future Night Owl Farm happenings.
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Linda's List: Brace for Cold and Light the Lemons

Well, here it comes: It looks like the first Arctic outbreak of the year could be coming our way early next week. At the moment, the forecast is for the coldest weather to start Tuesday, with lows of -5 to -7oC (18 to 23oF) predicted through at least Thursday over the whole south coast. Don't be lulled by the fact that we are in an El Nino winter, which is supposed to give us a somewhat warmer than average temperatures: the last time we had a 'super' El Nino in 1997/98, there was apparently 2 warmer than usual months and one colder than normal month. We need to be ready for anything! And here's the good new (for some of us, anyway): after next week's freeze our Brussels sprouts will be tasty and sweet... SO, finish mulching around plants this weekend and completely cover over the tops of your root crops with a good thick layer of leaves, straw or other mulch. The hardiest leafy greens are usually fine to about -5oC (23oF), but since the forecast for next week is for…
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Linda's List: Storing crops; ready for winter

I have had several questions recently about storing crops so thought it was time to review storage conditions. The closer you can get to the ideal conditions, the longer the food will keep, but even in less than ideal conditions, much of it can be stored fresh for a reasonable time. Food that must be kept dry: onions, garlic, winter squash, sweet potatoes. It is ideal if it is cool (10-15oC/50-60oF), too, but dry storage is most important. The problem is that the really cool storage places most of us have, such as crawl spaces, garden sheds, detached garages, etc. are too damp. While it is hard to find a place in a modern home that is cool, it isn't hard to find dry storage. Insulated, dry basements and insulated attached garages can work (as long as there is no gasoline smell to contaminate the food), but you can also store these crops in the house, in a back bedroom or cupboard. I am surprised how many people tell me they store these crops in the guest bedroom, which mak…
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Linda's List: Fall to do list

It is the first day of fall and here are some things to do in the garden: Pinch your Brussels sprouts: To force the plants to plump up their sprouts, pinch or cut off the centre top-knot of leaves by the end of September. If your plants are large and already forming nice sprouts, this is optional. If your plants haven't made sprouts yet, then this will make the tiny sprouts grow really quickly. If plants are still quite small (several people have told me they put in late seedlings), you might as well pinch the tips out and see what happens. Brussels sprouts are biennials, which means if they don't make sprouts this fall, they won't make them in the spring either because they will grow flower stalks instead. But the flower sprouts are very tasty and tender, so don't give up on your plants no matter what size they are as there will be something to harvest. Last chance thinning: When I checked my carrots the other day I found some were too crowded and that a flurry of reme…
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Video: 2015 Fall Fair Zucchini Racing

One of the highlights on the Fall Fair. Another great year of zucchini racing on Salt Spring Island. Big crowd, big fun, great times. Thank you to all the racers, organizers Noella and Mike Fraser and Harry Warner for MC’ing the event again this year. Here's some racing highlights from 2014. Here's some racing highlights from 2013. Here's a classic throw back to 2009 when the track was only two runs:
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