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!

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OMG – It’s May! – Time for some serious planting

Okay it is actually May! Not sure when that happened but that means the bulk of your garden clean-up should be done and time to focus on getting some flowers, herbs, and veggies into the ground if you haven’t done so already.

This is the time of the year to plant marigolds, calendula, California poppies, cosmos, nasturtiums (both flowers and leaves can be added to salads as well), sweet peas, yarrow (great for the bees), and wildflowers to add a little splash of colour to your garden in the next few months.  For tastier treats beans, carrots, beets, collards, storage onions, peas, and swiss chard to name just a few to get put into the ground.

I listened to a recent gardening podcast (A way to Garden with Margaret Roach) and she said something that really stuck with me and that was before planting something know what the end game will be.  What she meant was before you plant anything know what you’re going to use it for: ornamental, fresh consumption or for winter storage, or just to try something new.  By knowing the answer to this it will help your choose not only the right veggies, herbs, and flowers but the right varieties that you will get the most use out of.  There is nothing worse with having an abundance of garden goodies and no idea what to do with them or they are the wrong variety for storage and now you have too much for fresh consumption.  Many herbs can be easily frozen for use during the winter months (I did this with chives & parsley this past winter with great success, I also did with Sage but still haven’t figured out what to do with the abundance and even though I already gave one sage plant away this spring i still have three in the garden – let me know if there are any takers!).  Other great advice can be found at A Way to Garden – her podcasts offer a wealth of information and interesting factoids from a lot of different knowledgeable professional gardening or gardening related experts.

May is also the time to start hardening off your seedlings for transplant (if you haven’t started already).  I’m lucky in that I get a decent amount of sunlight on my balcony and it’s covered with glass inserts with narrow openings to limit the amount of wind.  This provides a transitionary environment for my seedlings so they get exposed to the outdoors after being in the climate controls of my grow light but still protected from the rain and some of the wind as they get adjusted to new temperatures. After they have been out on the balcony for 24hr periods for about a week sometimes more I move them into the garden so it less of a full shock to their system.  Here are some tips from Gardening Know How on hardening off your seedlings.  I have also seen many gardeners successfully use row covers and plastic mini-green houses till their seedlings are strong enough to handle the environmental ups and downs that are typical of garden life.

If you are an indoor seed starter this is also a great time to plant your squash and cucumber seeds inside for June transplanting.

Let’s remember the constant in an organic garden stay on-top of those weeds before they get too established and spread all over.  If you are part of a community garden like Cedar Grove this means that being neglicant on weeding can also have an effect on your plot neighbours ability to stay ahead of weeds in their plot. The dandelions between the plots also need to come up or at least be deadheaded when you see them in the common areas.

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