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

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