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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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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