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.

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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

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

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.

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

Become BEE friendly

Save the bees has been a hot topic lately as more research has shown the continued use of various sprays and pesticides are wrecking havic on the bee population which we count on for a fair amount of our daily produce intake.  Learn more about this important issue at Save Honey Bees or view the documentary here Vanishing Bees

There is a lot you can do to help our bees by educating yourself to be an informed consumer and taking this knowlege into your own garden experiences. When purshasing seeds or plants from your local nursery dont be afraid to ask questions like were the seeds pre-treated and if so with what and were the plants treated with any types of chemicals that will cause harm to my gardens eco system balance. It can often be because of consumer demands and interests in this manner that will lead nurseries to offer more environmentally concious alternatives. The last time I asked a nursery if they had organic, non GMO plants I was told no. I grow most of my herbs, flowers, and veggies from organic, non-GMO seeds and would love to have this option to buy similar plants for slow growers such as rosemary. Just last week I saw an encoraging article that Art Knapp Plantland has told its suppliers it will no longer accept nursey plants treated with neonicontinoids Full Story. Learn more about what they are doing to save the bees Art Knapps Blog

Upcoming Honey events
include Honey, Hives and Poetry at the Vancouver Public Library. Public tours and basic bee keeping classes are available at Honeybee Centre and Hives for Humanity offers a number of workshops and bee services.

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Create a bee friendly garden. This artcile from the David Suzuki Foundation gives some great pointers including one I wasn’t aware of which is to make sure your benficials have a place for a drink (water) close to the plants you need polinated Bee Friendly Garden. Of course planting flowers and herbs that attract all kinds of beneficials will not only make your garden look beautiful but also provide a food source.

Next Week: Upcoming Earth Day Celebrations

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