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.

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.

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 – Spring Inspired

It’s arrived! The first harvest of the year that gets all of us so excited; so that we pull something when it is a bit smaller than we normally would just to say we have (I did this over the weekend with my radishes).  This was also in part to a radish inspired snack that I had spotted in a few places that I was dying to try.  My parsley reserve from last year is gone so I’m looking forward to getting some added back in my smoothies as a natural detoxifier, and those chives blossoms are going to be ready to toss in salads and make into vinegar’s very soon as well.  Other items I’ve heard from other gardeners are radiccio, arugula and greens; salad time!

Goat cheese and fresh herbs are meant to go together, often with a bottle of wine and a few friends (I’ve got an out of control oregano plant right now to go along with a crazy electric hair chive plant, and some second year parsley).

Here are a few suggestions to keep your meals and snacks garden inspired.

Perfect Bite: Radishes and Peanut Butter-this tastes as good as it looks and has become my new favourite snack (although I did it without butter for food intolerance reasons)

Chive Blossom Vinegar – here is one of numerous recopies that can be found on-line

Radish & Asparagus Salad – this is inspiration for my next must try salad

Radicchio, Pear and Arugula Salad – this one looks fantastic as well

Let us know about your favourite spring inspired garden recipe.

Next Week: May in the Garden

Community Earth Day Celebrations!

Spring has definitely arrived with green shoots and spring bulbs coming up all over the garden.  In the last week I’ve seen radishes, peas, lupins, tulips, daffodils, chives and much more adding a splash of colour to the landscape. Here is a bit of that to brighten your day.   

  

 

The first Earth Day was held back on April 22, 1970 so this April 22nd will be the 45th Earth day celebrations.  Learn more about why the Earth Day Network credits itslef with launching the modern environmental movement Earth Day 2015

There are so many events happening in the City of Surrey surrounding  this celebration that I decided to do an entire post just on this topic.

1. Spring Releaf Tree Planting hosted by the City of Surrey – Wednesday evenings in April at various parks throughout the city.  Since its inception in 1991 this program has through the help of volunteers planted oved 10, 000 trees throughout the cities parks and boulevards.   Releaf Tree Planting

2. Earth Day Nature Walk hosted by the City of Surrey – Saturday April 18 – 11am – Royal Kwantlen Park Earth Day Nature Walk

3. Surrey Clean Sweep hosted by the City of Surrey – Saturday April 18 – various locations – help with the beautification of our parks, neighbourhoods and streets. Surrey Clean Sweep

3. Party for the Planet hosted by the City of Surrey and various partners – Saturday April 25 – Civic Plaza – Events include light bulb recyclying, an urban market, bike powered smoothie shop, an evening concert and much more. Party for the Planet

4. Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk – Saturday April 18 – meet at Newton Recreation Centre – Learn about not only the benefits but how to identify various plants on this nature walk. Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk

A great book to learn more about the benefits of certain plants, the positive impact they have on your health, some new uses and to help you decide what herbes, edible flowers and veggies in your plot is a recent discovery of mine.  Power Plants by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde. Here pictorial with tips for cooking with herbs once you decide what to grow.  Cooking with Herbs

Next Week: Spring Recipies Inspired by the Garden

More than just dirt!

With 2015 being the International Year of Soil there has been a lot of focus on this diverse topic.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines soil health as ‘the capacity of soil to function as a living system, with ecosystem and land use boundries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health’. Based on this definition soil health it integral to our quality of life and is a non-renewable resource so why isnt this at the forefront? Here are some quick facts about soil and it’s current state around the world International Year of Soil

Often the best way to get involved in helping out the planet is on a more local level and as gardeners we already have a good appreciation of the benefits of good soil. Learn some ‘Secrets of Healthy Soil’, with this community workshop held at the Newton Recreation Centre. In this short workshop, local permaculturist Silvia Di Blasio will introduce us to the wonders of soil.
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Unable to attend this event but still want to learn more about some basics of composting, balancing pH, soil amendments, vermiculture, cover crops, weed control and much more than check out this resource Organic Gardening 101

April in the garden
means spring clean up, seed starting and cool season crops are well on their way. I’ve read a number of April garden checklists in the last few days for zone 7/8 which is what Metro Vancouver is considered and a few things have stuck in my head. First stay on top of those weeds before they get too established (the always invasive horsetail is making its spring apperance). The second one is in regards to snail and slug contol as many sites provide tips on how to get rid of them. However as an organic garden Cedar Grove realizes they play an important overall role in the garden’s ecosystem. These not always favourable garden critters can provide a source of protien for creatures like ground beettles who will in turn also eat aphids. So as long as your garden system is in balance a few slugs and snails shouldnt be considered a bad thing. You could use egg shells (I’ve heard coffee grounds work as well but as a non-coffee drinker I have never tried) around your new seedlings as a deterent or even provide some decaying plant matter nearby which I’ve heard slugs and snails prefer and will in fact help break this down and add some fertilizer to your garden. A fellow gardener who is in a damper location gets his pea sprouts taken out by snails constantly is giving barriers a try havning cut the bottom out of seed starting cell pots and put them over his seedlings as they grow. Essentially you need to experiment and find what works for the conditions of your growing area.

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April also means time to get those potatoes in the ground once overnight temps stay above 6 degrees but make sure the soil isnt too water logged. Here is a how to guide from West Coast Seeds

Next Week: Bees & Honey