Garden to Table – Summer Inspired!

Salads, salads and more salads! This is what immediately comes to mind when thinking of summer eating – it’s all about light, crisp and fresh.

Quick and simple is this refreshing looking Minty, Cucumber, Watermelon Salad

Looking for something unique and creative? Who doesn’t love ICE CREAM and what better places to get inspiration than from your garden. Strawberry, Lavender Ice Cream or Tarragon Ice. What about flower power mini cupcakes, Marigold Sipper or Minted Strawberries and White Wine.  These are only a few of the recipes listed by Better Homes and Gardens.

Eat are a few other suggestions from Eat Boutique including Honey Lemon Balm Spritzer and Tomato Basil Jam.

A great suggestion to deal with the zucchini sitting on your counter is to make it into pasta noodles.  You can do this with a vegetable grater or you can buy a vegetable spiraler at a local kitchen shop.  I often mix these with one of my garden inspired pestos, some tomatoes, and some capers or green pickled coriander seeds.  I just came across this recipe from Jenny Shea Rawn that I’m going to try out later this week!

Let’s not forget about everyone’s favourite either the sweet tomato.  From Oven Roasted Summer Tomatoes to something more simple like warming some cherry tomatoes up until they are soft enough to crush and then mixing with olive oil and fresh basil to be enjoyed with bread or crackers and a bit of goat cheese.

Essentially have fun and get creative with your garden ingredients you never know when you will discover your next family favourite this way.

Yes, It’s Time to think about your fall Garden!

Right now you have pile of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini sitting on your kitchen counter that you are spending time every weekend preserving but I’m going to talk about something else to add to your list of garden chores in the midst of this busy harvesting month: The Fall Garden.  This is even more important this year with the warm weather we have been experiencing in Surrey.

This is where succession sowing is so important and time to start putting those cool season crops into the ground if you are growing from seed.  From peas and lettuce to kale, brussels sprouts and arugula there are endless possibilities.  Don’t forget overwintering varieties and what types of garlic you would like for next summer to order soon for September or October arrival at your door.

Here is a great resource from West Coast Seeds which includes there 2014 fall and winter planting guide (the 2015 guide should be out soon).

In order to determine what to plant when you need to know roughly when the first frost date in your area is and work backwards from there with crops suggested days to maturity.  Modern Farmer has some other helpful tips about sowing your fall garden including suggestions of starting the seeds indoors or in a shady area of the garden until the ‘true leaves’ appear.

Trying to decide what pea varieties to grow in for the fall – think varieties that you can preserve for the winter according to A Way to Garden.  As well consider growing crops that may not have time to mature in a fall garden to use as shoots or micro greens instead of for the mature plant.

Let’s Compost!

During yesterday’s monthly work party at Cedar Grove Garden I was assigned the tasks of cleaning out the compost boxes.  This sounds way worse than it actually was and I learned a lot in the process.

Why Compost: improve soil structure, increase nutrient content, use less water, ward off plant diseases. Learn More

What to compost: Vegetable scraps (excluding tomatoes & rhubarb), tea leaves, coffee grounds. Be sure if you are using scraps from home that the vegatables or fruits are pesticide free.

What not to compost: anything too woody (it will take too long to breakdown), metal, glass, meat products, dairy, anything invassive like horsetail, morning glory and other weeds, tomatoes (there is a lot of debate about tomatoes some say no to prevent spread of diseases and to prevent tomatoe plants coming up everywhere) rhubarb, diseased plants.  

How to Compost: Here are a couple of resources to start composting in your garden. The basics are however to have a good mix of nitrogen and carbon, keep it moist but not soggy and turn it over.

Grow Compost

How to Grow Compost

Composting at Cedar Grove Organic Garden: The garden has four compost boxes for communal use by all the gardeners. Since this is used by all of us its our responsibility to ensure that it is kept free of weeds, invasive species and other composting no go’s. The two wooden boxes on the east side are good compost soil and ready to be added to your plot as needed – but dont add any new clippings to the pile! The two smaller boxes on the west side are still in the process of being broken down so if you are walking by and notice someone has dropped some weeds in be sure to remove them right away! There is a large weed pile at the back of the garden in the southwest corner near the woods for these undesirables. It is these two west side boxes where you should place your compostable items that have come from your garden.

Reflections on the Changing Garden

Over the years the Cedar Grove Organic Garden has continued to grow and change both in small and big ways.  Now with more and more people interested in local, independent or organic in a sort of modern variation of back to basics.  It is completly understandable to us that already have a love of gardening that our much beloved activity is once again something ‘cool’ for those in all age groups to participate in.

Here are some reflections from our board on the current status of this garden located in North Surrey.

“When I first joined the garden, there were at least 10 empty plots that had to be taken care of by volunteers.  Over the past 5 years, with an increase in interest in organic practices and more media coverage, we (the Board) have been able to keep the plots filled by having a waiting list and by having thr Parks Department refer people to use. We pestered the Parks Department to install a perimeter fence as we were the second oldest organic garden in Surrey and the only one with out one; we finally got one two years ago.

We hold orientation meetings for new gardeners so we all know what is required to be a good member.  Before most gardeners were over 40 years of age.  Now we are seeing a lot of young people joining us who have some great ideas and a lot of enthusiasm (we are a garden of diverse ethnic members).  There are several families who bring their children out to watch or help at the garden.  We have group work party days which help add a great sense of community to the garden.  Our work parties are now ‘catered’ and the gardeners get to eat snacks and share gardening tips and experiences.  We not only want to grow healthy food, but we take pride in making our community garden look pretty. 

So great to hear about such positive observations and a strong sense of community at Cedar Grove Organic Garden.

Looking to learn more about the changing urban food landscape be sure to check out The Urban Food Revolution by local author and former Vancouver City councillor, Peter Ladner.

For those of you who are garden members looking forward to seeing you this Saturday at our July work party!

Preserving the harvest!

Now is the time to start thinking about how you are going to use up all your garden goodies.  A little advanced planning allows you to ensure you have all the tools and supplies you need so there is no last minute panic as you seek to stretch out the window you can enjoy your harvest into the late fall and winter.  This can be by drying, freezing, canning, pickling or even using some in your beauty routines.

There are many resources out there from books to google that can give you unlimited creative ideas. A few such resources I have come across include all the books by Gayla Trail. Her books, and information on her website are specifically towards urbsn small space gardeners. This is where I discovered garlic scapes, borage, lemon balm, nasturiums and whst to do with corriander seeds, hibiscus punch, herbals salts, chive blossom vinegar and much more and were the first gardening books I bought.

Since then I always have at least one ice cube tray in my freezer full of pesto (this make grest single use portions that can be tossed on top of some pasta while still hot to melt). Garlic Scape Pesto and Lemon Balm Pesto are two of my favourites but I’ve also made regular basil pesto, beet green pesto and have heard of oregano pesto but have never made this one.

Then I was introduced to the book Power Plants by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde. This lead me to make my own oreagano oil, rosemary tea, and toner using thyme from the garden and witchhazel. My kitchen and bathroom are now full of jars and contianers containing these types of garden projects. I also have the urge to grow wheatgrass but havnet gotten to it yet.

Another great resource is to subscribe to the newsletter or podcast of A way to Garden. So much great info and interviews with garden experts that you may not have heard of before.

A few recipies I’ve had Success with!

Crisp Pickled Green Beans

Sweet and Spicy, Honey, Zucchini Relish

Preserving & Canning Books

Canning for a New Generation

Food in Jars – Preserving in small batches year round

Why Garden? The MANY Benefits

We all have different reasons or paths that brought us to love gardening. And in return gardening offers us an abundance of benefits that keep us coming back. There is the obvious ones like the freezer packed with enough Kale to last the winter, a plump ripe tomatoe from the vine and enjoying things only gardeners usually can like garlic scapes, chive blossum vinegar, and pickled green coriander seeds.

However, there are other less talked about benefits that have just as much impact on your well being as eating fresh local organic goodies from your garden do. As soon as I enter the garden there is a sense of peace that comes over me no matter what else is happening in my life. After a long day at work the sounds of the birds, the sight of all the lush gardens with bees, ladybugs and other critters going to and from never fails to instantly bring my stress level down.

I’ve heard about the concept of earthing but never thought too much about it until I saw this article in Alive Magazine (Canadian Wellness Magazine that I highly reccommend). Although I’m not a fan of shoes and go barefoot often and have always as a child as well so likely have received these benefits without even realizing if the studies are true. As a gardener getting up and close with the soil is a given so you have a better chance of benefiting from earthing that many others. According to Earthing Canada ‘the act of earthing refers to a physical connection between the electrical frequeincies of the human body with that of the Earth’s – think barefoot in grass or at a beach. I’m not expert so cant say if the benefits are as good as some research suggests but I like the concept regardless.

This article covers 6 unexpected benefits of gardening . Love the idea in one of the comments a reader left that their home office waiting room is in the garden!

1. Stress Release & Self Esteem
2. Hearth Health & Stroke Risk
3. Hand Strength & Dexterity
4. Brain Health & Alzheimer’s Risk
5. Immune Regulation
6. Depression and Mental Health

Two additionzl benefits are the educational espect and the most important its just a lot of FUN!! I could talk about plants, soil, and bugs for a duration that would have never happened had I not been introduced to gardening.

Summer is here – Let’s Explore!

The rain has left and this goregeous sunshine is forcasted to stick around. The City of Surrey offers a wide range of events and activities when not soaking up the sun in your community garden plot.  On a gardening side note get those cucumbers, peppers, squash, and tomatoes plants into the ground.

What better way to spend a leisurely Sunday morning than The Cloverdale Market (Fleamarket) in search of hidden treasures. From plants, flowers, and produce to garden art, home decor and much much more. Happens weekly at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Looking for a date night activity or some family fun stroll through through the nearly 200 food and merchandise vendors at the Surrey Night Market. With free parking, $2 admission, international foodstalls, pedicures, cosmetics, jewlery, clothing, toys, and handbags this is a must see for this summer. Located at The Cloverdale Fairgrounds every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from 6pm to 11pm, May 29 to September 20.

Starting on June 29th you can enjoy the Sounds of Summer Music Series which are held at various locations throught Surrey from 6:30pm. What better way to spend a summer evening than enjoying beautiful music in a stunning setting.

Enjoy some family friendly fun at the Newton Wave Pool on June 27th with the 20th annual Newton Community Festival

Next Week: June in the Garden

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Garden Critters – Friend or Foe?

Bugs, bugs and more bugs!  I’ve been noticing more and more critters of sorts in my garden and have been trying to do some research to see if I should be worried when I spot a new one.   So far I have spotted what I have narrowed down to a couple of green potato bugs (I don’t grow potatoes so not overly worried about this yet) on my chives and cucumber beetles (I’ll be planting my cucumber plants in the next week or so) mating in my wildflowers.   As an organic garden us members at the Cedar Grove Organic garden do our best to keep our in balance so a few pests are okay as long as you have other predatory insects to take care of this pesky pests without your plot being overrun.

Each time I see one of these critters I take a picture to bring him so I can try and figure out what it is so I can decided what to do from there.   In addition to the critters mentioned above I also had aphids in my garden on some kale plants last year put they were pulled and I haven’t seen any yet this year.

Green Potato Bugs – From what I have been able to determine green beans planted near your potatoes can act as a deterrent as well as add nitrogen to the soil to produce nice big healthy potatoes.  I’ve also read in several places that marigolds and others like yarrow, parsley and basil that attract predatory insects that will eat the green potato bugs. Once you spot these critters manually removing them is best but also remember if you are trying to keep your garden balanced the other beneficials that eat these may not stay if they don’t have a food source so it is best not to get rid of all of them.  Potato’s Best Buddies: Companion Plants for Potatoes

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Cucumber Beetles – Tend to emerge in mid-spring and will also eat your squash, and melon plants.  Row covers are one way to keep them away (as they can spread disease from one plant to another once established), otherwise similar to potato bugs you can grow plants such as tansy, nasturtiums, broccoli, radish, the article in the following link also suggests putting onion skins among your cucumber plants.  Lacewings and lady bugs like eating their larve.  Cucumber Beetle Control

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Aphids – I’ve had these both on my peppers on my patio as well as on a kale plant in my garden plant.  They multiple so often that if you don’t do regular checks of your plants it is easy for them to get out of control.   Everywhere I have read says the best method for control is to simply handpick them or wipe them off your plant with a soft cloth.  Ladybugs in your garden will help keep these under control so it’s best to plant make your garden lady bug friendly – I’ve going to take the fact that I see a couple of ladybugs every time I go to the garden as a good sign. If hand picking does’t seem to control them then it may be best to pull the infested plant out; remember you will need to check the plant daily once you see the first aphids.  Aphids, and How to get Rid of Them

Ladybugs – who does’t love these colourful critters.  Two main ways to attract lady bugs is to plant lots of flowers to attract them and to make sure you have the right bugs in your garden for them to eat.  Some suggested flowers include Chives, Cilantro, Calendula, Cosmos, Dill, Marigolds and Yarrow.  Don’t forget to make sure they have a water source. Attracting Ladybugs

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Bees & Wasps – it is best to plant native plants and heirlooms to attract bees and wasps as hybrids are often sterile and therefore of no use to pollinators. They like blue, violet, yellow and white flowers and would require a constant source so it is best to plan your garden to have early spring blooms through until late fall.  And like lady bugs they need a bee bath and water source, and don’t do well with insecticides.  Create a Bee-Friendly garden

Ground Beetles – these insects dine on slugs, asparagus beetles, corn ear worms and much more so they are considered a friend in the garden.  Provide a place for ground beetles to call home with flat stones or boards, or mulched perennial plants.  Once again do not use pesticides as ground beetles are highly sensitive to them – which aren’t allowed at Cedar Grove Organic Garden. You can also find ground beetles in or near rotting logs and move them for release into your garden but first make sure you create a friendly space for them.  Ground Beetles are Helpful Garden Insects

Next Week: Community Events

Garden to Table – More Spring Inspiration

With all this beautiful sunshine we have been having its time to start using some of the  bounty from our spring gardens.

With an abundance of chamomile in my community garden plot I’ve been thinking about ways to use it other than as straight tea.  Speaking to a fellow gardener who mentioned that she loves the combination of chamomile and peach together…I immediately wanted to try this even though peaches aren’t currently in season.  Here are a few recipes that I came across that I will have to try as soon as I am able to get a hold of some frozen peaches.  Since I have an obsession with smoothies this one is on the top of the list Chamomile, Peach, & Ginger Smoothie, a refreshing drink for a warm spring (or summer) day Chamomile & Peach Iced Tea.  Wondering why you should use Chamomile for more than enjoying how beautiful it look in your garden – Uses & Benefits of Chamomile.

A quick and simple Butter and Sage Sauce can make a fresh garden inspired sauce added to pasta for a light dinner.  Use a pasta made with quinoa or red lentils which are packed full of protein and skip the addition of meat for an even quicker meal.  Learn about the Uses & Benefits of Sage.

I took some fresh cilantro over to friend’s house for dinner last night to add to taco salad and it made the dish giving it just the right pop of flavour.  Another great use for cilantro can be found with this recipe Spiced Peas with Cilantro & Lime.  And of course let’s not forget the spring salad which offers so many possibilities including Spring Lettuces with Avocado and Pistachios or Snap Pea and Radicchio Slaw.

The list of spring treats also includes artichokes, leeks, potatoes and much more.  Happy gardening and happy eating!

Next Week: Learning about garden critters!

The Farmer’s Market’s are Opening – time to start exploring!

Farmer’s markets are a great place to have the opportunity to chat directly with the farmers and producers of various products.  They often have some great tips and new ways of preparing foods that you never thought of previously.  It is also a good way to support local and get to learn about veggies and other local products you may have not known about before.  The first time I saw garlic scapes was at a farmer’s market and now I love this early partial harvest from hard-neck garlic.  I’ve seen everything from tea infused marshmallows, to pickled beets, specialty cheeses, local seafood and beef products, to honey and popping corn.

This article from the kitchn gives some great tips for anyone new to farmer’s markets or just looking for a better way to get the most out of them.  10 Etiquette & Shopping Tips to Help You Enjoy the Farmer’s Market. Some of these guidelines may not apply to the local market you attend so be sure to get a feel for your market.  I personally love the idea of walking the entire market before making any purchases – it’s easy to get excited and buy something at the first stall.

Here are a few local markets that are worth checking out

The Surrey Urban Farmers Market Association is located Surrey City Hall Plaza and runs Wednesdays from June 10th until October 7th.  Although I have never been to this particular market because it is closed by the time I get home from work I’ve always wanted to check it out.   Be sure to look into getting a Membership for special insider discounts and other benefits.   New to the market this year will be monthly feature that include recipe demonstrations, art displays and local vendor showcases.  Their annual general meeting is on Thursday, June 4th at 7pm at the Surrey Nature Centre – meet the board members, learn about what is happening at the market, and sign up for your membership.

The White Rock Farmer’s Market is located on Russell Avenue in White Rock and runs Sundays from 10am-2pm starting May 24th until October 11th.  This market I have been and I have to say it is fantastic.  This was a Sunday adventure that I happened to stumbled upon last summer and can’t wait to get back.  One of my favourites is that they have a vendor that offers grass-fed beef which is hard to find (I’ve only seen one independent grocery store in Surrey offer this but it’s not local).  The person who I went with also purchased some amazing hot sauce. They also have local jewelry, art, soap, fermented products, chocolate, baked goods, cheese, wine, berries, spices, jam, honey and much more!

And although not in Surrey but very easily accessible from North Surrey is the Royal City Farmers Market located at Tipperary Park in New Westminister on Thursdays from 3pm – 7pm starting on May 21st.   I have never been to the summer market again because of work timing but I have been to the winter market on several occasions.  This is a well established market that makes it a must on anyone’s list.  Like the other markets along with a music stage they have a wide variety of local goodies to try from produce to local arts.

Next Post: More Garden Inspired Recipes