June in the Garden

Garden tasks that you should be doing this June.

June is one of the most enjoyable months of the gardening season. All the months of spring cleaning will really pay off as you relax in the shade enjoying your beautiful handiwork. Small maintenance jobs are what this month’s work consists of. Well, that and harvesting the literal fruits of your labour. Yay!

1. Ornamentals

June isn’t too late to plant more annuals, so fill up those containers, hanging baskets and planters to your heart’s content. Deadheading is key to keeping your ornamentals looking fresh. Removing dead blooms also encourages more flowering so you can enjoy these beauties all summer. Also, pinch back any annuals, such as fuchsias, that are starting to get too leggy.

2. Edibles

If you haven’t already, you should plant your warm season veggies like peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. You can plant more leafy greens too! Go through the garden at least a couple times a week to harvest any ripe fruits and veggies.

Root to Stalk

Overlooked vegetable parts that are totally edible.

Growing your own food is an excellent way to help combat food waste. Honestly, who would want to see the literal fruits of their labour end up in the compost or garbage?! But did you know that some of the plant parts that are ending up in the compost are actually edible and nutritious? Let’s talk root to stalk and find some overlooked veggie scraps to add to the table.

Cabbage Core

Many will say that the core of a cabbage is too tough and fibrous to eat. Well those people are missing out. Cabbage cores are incredibly sweet, crisp and refreshing. They may take some extra prep to truly enjoy them (i.e. finer chopping/slicing, etc.) but they are totally worth it. Cabbage is one of the most nutritional winter vegetables, touting high concentrations of Vitamin C and antioxidants. It is also a great source of Vitamin U. That’s right, Vitamin U. Technically not a vitamin, this substance (scientifically known as S-Methylmethionine) has demonstrated an effectiveness in treating a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, such as peptic ulcers. So, of course, the core of the cabbage would be just as nutritious!

Watermelon Rind

Watermelon Rind

After enjoying the sweet and refreshing taste of summer, those glorified fruit holders would get tossed in the bin, right? You may be surprised to know that the white rind of watermelon is actually edible. It offers a mild flavour and a texture similar to cucumber. Pickled watermelon rinds are popular in parts of the US, and are even commercially available. Watermelon rinds are also great candied, sautéed or blended into a refreshing beverage.

Cauliflower & Broccoli Leaves

The greens from cauliflower and broccoli are much like their heads, totally edible and very nutritious. The leaves are also as versatile as their kale cousin. They can be used in soups, eaten raw, roasted, smoothie-d, sautéed. Pretty much anything you can do with kale or collards, you can do with broccoli and cauliflower leaves.

Cantaloupe Seeds

Cantaloupe Seeds

Roasted pumpkin and winter squash seeds. Yeah, sure! No problem! But cantaloupe seeds?!? Cantaloupe seeds are actually really good for you. They are an excellent source of fibre and protein. They are also loaded with antioxidants, vitamins (like Vitamin A, C and E), and minerals (like magnesium and potassium). In other words, cantaloupe seeds are awesome! It is really easy to roast them but you can also add them to smoothies.

Leafy Green Stems

Whether it’s Swiss chard, kale, collards, or beets, the stems are often cast off to the side. Most people are deterred by their slightly bitter taste and toughness. But, with a bit of coaxing, these stems can be used like any other vegetable. To combat the fibrous and chewyness of the stems, it is often useful to first blanch them before sautéing, baking or stir-frying. Pickling is also an excellent alternative.

Squash Flowers

Squash Flower

This last one is probably not a huge surprise. If you are a regular at local farmers’ markets, you would know how popular squash blossoms are. These beautiful orange blooms have a delicate flavour and texture that lend well to many kinds of dishes. Although the most popular method of preparation is deep fried, squash blossoms are also delicious in pasta, in quesadillas, or stuffed.

 

If you aren’t so keen on using these veggie scraps, you can always save them to make a really flavourful vegetable stock.

Growing Green Thumbs: Brown Thumbs Up

Growing Green Thumbs No. 6

Gardening is one of the best hobbies anyone could have. You get to spend time outside, get physical, get dirty, and just relax. It can be tough work, but it’s worthwhile. Like with anything new, making mistakes is inevitable but that doesn’t mean you can learn from others’ mistakes. Here are some common beginner gardening mistakes that may help you.

1. “Go big or go home”

In most avenues of life, this mantra can apply. Gardening, however, is not one of them. While planting every variety of every type of plant imaginable is tempting, it is definitely not advisable. Starting off too big means a much heavier workload that most often results in frustration and burnout.

2. Not enough space

Plants like having a personal bubble. If they are crowded too close together, they will not grow healthily. Too many plants together will also compete for the vital nutrients and water. Fewer plants spaced further apart will yield healthier plants and better results. If you are unsure how much space a plant needs, check the label. They are great sources of information.

3. Plant compatibility

Potatoes

Some plants like being together. They are like plant BFFs because they help each other grow and thrive. They will attract beneficial insects to combat pests of their buddy plants, or they will enrich the soil with nutrients needed by others. For example, the Three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Corn provides a natural support for beans to climb; beans fix nitrogen in the soil; squash discourage pests from attacking the corn and beans. These three plants make excellent companions.

In the same vein, some plants are like mortal enemies and should never be planted together. They will compete for nutrients, or attract pests that destroy their counterparts. Cucumbers and potatoes, for example, do not play well together. They compete for nutrients and moisture. Potatoes also release substances that negatively effect the growth of cucumber plants.

4. Dirt is dirt

Not all dirt is created equally. Often, new gardeners We did a rundown of soil on our The Dirt on Dirt post. Spark notes version, know what kind of soil you have and add stuff to make it better.

5. Water

Watering

Watering can be a tricky thing. What is considered too much water for one plant may not be enough for another. It is important to know the water requirements of the plants that you grow. Always test the soil before watering, it may look dry on the surface but a few inches down may be moist. Also, avoid watering in the heat of the day to prevent leaf damage.

If you aren't killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener.

Persistence is key. Sometimes plants die and that is okay. The best thing you can do is figure out why. If it was something you did, you know now not to do that. If it was totally out of your control, then you know that too. Don’t sweat it! Happy gardening!

Food Trends of 2016

Top food trends of 2016

I have said this before and I’ll say it again: I love food. And in my passion for palate pleasers, I quite enjoy keeping an ear to the ground for any and all trends in food. Here are some that are making waves so far this year.

1. People of the world, SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!

I won’t be expecting Scary, Baby, Sporty, Posh or Ginger to be dropping by any time soon, but the food party is still going to heat up with some ethnic flavour. Sriracha has held the top spot of favourite spicy sauce for a long time. It even went beyond the condiment category and lent its flavour profile to things like vodka, chocolate, and lollipops. People are crazy about the stuff! But, it may be facing some stiff new competition. As we become more adventurous with food and flavours, we are looking internationally for inspiration. Spicy sauces like sambal (South East Asia), gochujang (Korea), and harissa (North Africa), may be the new successor to the great sriracha.

2. Probiotic Powerhouses

Sauerkraut with carrots, served as a salad, Eastern European style. Photo credit: Kagor at the Ukrainian language Wikipedia

Sauerkraut with carrots, served as a salad.
Photo credit: Kagor at the Ukrainian language Wikipedia

Fermented edibles are fast becoming a popular item as people become more concerned with their gut and overall health. Fermentation boosts the digestibility and nutrition of the veggies. Not only that, but consumption of fermented foods brings beneficial bacteria to your bowels. So be on the look out for more sauerkraut. Get the munchies for yummy kimchi. Other (non-rhymable) yet equally delicious fermented foods include miso, tempeh, kefir, and yogurt. Eating these foods will surely make your gut kombu-cha cha cha.

3. Locavore Movement

There is a huge paradigm shift happening in the way most of us think about our food. Stemming from increased interest in sustainability and eco-friendly practices, more and more people are turning to local growers and food producers. Food grown closer to home will reduce transportation emissions, will be fresher, will not need to as much processing, and will support local farmers!

With this trend, we are also seeing a rise in home vegetable gardens.

4. No Food Wasted


Food waste is on everyone’s minds. Even John Oliver covered it! The staggering statistic that nearly one-third of all food produced is not consumed is eye-opening. In an effort to reduce the amount of food that gets composted or thrown away, people are becoming more active in movements like Ugly Fruit & Veg and nose-to-tail cooking. Similarly, restaurants and home cooks alike are embracing root-to-stalk cooking, utilizing most – if not all – parts of the plant in their dishes. That means that rather than seeing perfectly usable parts like kale stems or broccoli leaves in the compost, they may well be the centre of attention on plates.

5. Power of Plants and Pulses

Meats are moving away from centre-plate as more veggie-centric meals are coming to the forefront. Several veggies are set to make a push and give kale a run for its money. Eggplants are gaining huge popularity. Their meatiness, texture and adaptability are making it a great substitute for meat. Snap peas are in position to succeed carrots as a go-to snack. The easily portable, low-calorie vegetable is not only delicious and convenient, but also great for your health. Collards are often touted as the new kale. The leafy greens are beloved by many in the southern US but haven’t quite made their way up north. Yet, that is. Collards are extremely versatile and highly nutritious. So don’t be surprised when it starts popping up on your plate.

People are also looking to pulses to fill their plates. Pulses are the dried seeds of the legume family. The most common ones are lentils and chickpeas. Cutting back on meat can leave a large nutritional hole that pulses could fill with their high protein values. Pulses also appeal to the environmentally-minded as their production is much more sustainable crops, using up to half the non-renewable energy input as other crops.

May in the Garden

Garden tasks that you should be doing this May.

May is such a lovely time of the year.  Late spring flowers are showing colour and early summer blooms are starting to poke through. It is the perfect time to get out in nature and get inspired by the beauty and colour of everything.

1. Garden Tasks

The battle against ravenous gastropods rages on. All these slugs and snails are out to demolish any and all tasty plants that stand in their way. Stay in control of these pesky peskersons before they reproduce and devour your whole garden.

In the same vein, continue being vigilant about weeds. Weeds compete with your wanted plants for water, light, and nutrients. If left to their own devices, weeds will overtake your garden and reign supreme.

As the temperature heats up, water becomes a hot commodity. It becomes even more precious when annual water restrictions come into effect. Giving your plants a thorough watering once or twice a week is much better than watering lightly more often. You can also look into alternative water irrigation systems and olla pots (like Vancouver-based, GrowOya).

2. Ornamentals

Lots of summer bedding plants are available at your local garden centres and nurseries. Find your favourite snapdragons, petunias, geraniums and fuchsias on shelves this month. In addition to planting up your garden beds, plant containers and hanging baskets to add extra oomph and colour through the summer months. You may need to do some simple maintenance on some of your ornamental plants, like deadheading, just to keep everything neat and clean.

3. Edibles

Strawberries! Plant them anywhere and everywhere! In the ground, in plants, in hanging baskets. If you have problems with birds enjoying your delicious fruits without you, try using netting around your plants.

Continue planting any veggies that you haven’t yet planted from last month’s list. Now, you can also start planting warm season crops, like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Earth Day 2016

Earth Day 2016

It is undeniable that life on our little blue planet is changing. Even this week’s west coast heat wave and east coast snowstorms clearly show that something is amiss. Add that to the vanishing rainforests, melting ice sheets, and record breaking global temperatures and you have an alarming situation. Climate change is one of the biggest and most serious challenges that we are facing; but that doesn’t mean we can’t be hopeful and optimistic about our environmental future.

One way I know this is because of Earth Day.

Earth Day is an annual event held on the 22nd of April (that’s today!). It is meant to inspire and encourage people to take action towards reducing our environmental impact. Since the first ever Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, this environmental movement has grown to almost 1 billion people in over 200 countries coming together for the sake of our planet. That is a lot of people taking notice and actively working towards a cleaner, safer world.

Grow Your Own Food

So what can you do? Well, even the smallest changes can help.

  • Grow your own food
  • Buy local whenever you can
  • Use alternative forms of transportation (e.g. cycling, walking, etc.)
  • Carpool
  • Use reusable water bottles. It takes approximately 3 liters of water to package 1 liter of bottled water so “Skip the Bottle and Save a Life”.
  • Plant something (e.g. trees. Did you know one tree can absorb 13 – 26 pounds of carbon dioxide a year?)
  • Invest in clean energy (e.g. solar power)

Earth Day has not only encouraged people to make small but impactful changes in their own lives. But, by bringing people together with a shared voice in defense of the environment, Earth Day has also inspired systematic policy changes by governments around the world. This year is an especially significant as leaders from more than 155 countries will gather at the UN to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. Ultimately, this is a commitment by world leaders to create a sustainable future for generations to come.

Hundreds of environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, December 6, 2015, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1XF6V

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Let’s take the momentum from this historical Earth Day and make stuff happen! Let’s start now. Let’s not stop. Let’s celebrate Earth Day yearlong…make a commitment to be green all year.

Find an Earth Day event near you: https://earthday.ca/search-an-event/

No Space, No Problem – Veggies for Small Space Gardens

Vegetables for small space gardens

With the way things are going in the housing market, it seems like only a few of us will have the luxury of a spacious backyard garden. But having limited space does not mean you can’t have a great edible garden. Whether you are downsizing your family home or just buying your first, here are some great vegetable plants for small space and container gardening.

Leafy Vegetables

Leafy greens are the number one choice for many vegetable gardens, big or small. Lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and spinach are fantastic additions to vegetable gardens because of their cut and grow again properties. This means that they can be continually harvested throughout the growing season. Plus, the size of the container isn’t a limiting factor in the success of these plants.

Herbs

Much like leafy greens, herbs are a standard for any container garden. They are small plants that will continually produce. Just make sure you are planting herbs that you will use, otherwise they are just taking up valuable space. Great herbs for containers include mint, chives, thyme, rosemary, and basil.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be good container growers but it depends on the variety. Large beefsteak type tomatoes will need much more space than smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes. Some varieties, such as Sweet n’ Neat Red/Yellow, are even created to be extra compact and suitable for small containers.

Amy, our T&T expert extraordinaire, highly recommends Cherry Fountain. They are heavy producers and don’t get too large and out of control. They can also be grown in a hanging basket to save coveted floor space!

Beets

As long as the container is deep enough for the roots to grow, beets are fantastic container vegetables. They do not like to be disturbed once planted so be sure to choose an adequately sized container from the get-go. Beets are easy to grow and will do well in nearly any condition. Don’t forget that beet greens can also be eaten! It’s like two for the price of one!

Eggplant


Eggplants are not only delicious, but their plants look great too! Eggplant plants produce pretty purple flowers that eventually develop into fruit. These flowers also attract bees! Any pot with at least 5 inches of depth can be used to grow eggplants. Plants will need to be supported with stakes as they grow larger.

Peppers

Any variety of pepper can be grown in containers, just be sure to give them enough space to grow. The roots of pepper plants need lots of room to spread out. Smaller peppers need a container at least 2 gallons big while larger peppers need at least 5 gallons. Make sure your peppers are getting lots of sun!

April in the Garden

Garden tasks that you should be doing this April.

It is finally starting to feel like spring. Warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights, and some showers for good measure. April is when everything gardening picks up momentum. It’s full steam ahead with this month’s garden jobs.

0.5 BODY

This technically isn’t a gardening job but it is closely related. As we really start to get down and dirty in the garden, it is important to remember to take care of your body. It might have been a while since your bones and muscles have been worked hard, and, if that is the case, start slowly so your body can get used to the work. It is also important to stretch before and after gardening. Here is a video we made with Bodies4Life Training to guide you through some stretches:

1. Garden Tasks

April’s garden tasks closely mirror those of March. Continue cleaning up the garden to keep it tidy and weed free. Weeding and pest management should be kept under control this early in the season. It is much easier to deal with these now than to combat an infestation at the height of your growing period. Prepare your raised beds and containers with fresh compost and topsoil in preparation for planting.

2. Ornamentals

A lot of ornamental plants should be ready to be planted this month. Hardy annuals, such as bacopa and calibrachoa, can be planted now. A good rule of thumb: if you find them in a nursery or garden centre, they are good to go. Remember to carefully inspect transplants before bringing it home. If you read our Navigate a Nursery post from a couple weeks ago, you’ll remember how to spot good, healthy plants. Choose bedding plants with some flowers, lots of buds, and lush foliage. Also, keep any eye out for insect damage!

3. Edibles

Like with the ornamentals, lots of fruits and vegetables will be ready to plant this month, such as cabbage, kale, beets, spinach, lettuce, etc. Again, if you find it in the garden centre or nursery, it should be good to go. Inspect all the edibles transplants for insect damage before buying. You don’t want to bring an infestation home with you!

Warm season crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, shouldn’t be planted until next month when the threat of frost has passed. If you had direct sowed seeds, be sure to thin them out to avoid overcrowding.

Taste of the Season

Taste of the Season

Story time!

It was late last spring. Melody and I were up to our necks with catalogues and notes, researching potential additions to our Tried & True Edibles line. In all honesty, things weren’t going very smoothly. Instead of finding vegetable plants for the Edibles line, we kept encountering varieties that wouldn’t really fit in. The inspiration of Tried & True Edibles is to provide an accessible and complete collection of organic vegetable plants. These edibles are the everyday, go-to varieties that everyone knows and enjoys. But the vegetables that we were piquing our interest weren’t that. They were new and different and special. Like a cheezie in a bag of carrots!

(Photo Credit: Lily & Val

(Photo Credit: Lily & Val)

Mel and I aren’t “foodies” in the traditional sense. We aren’t critical of every morsel that enters our mouths. We can’t discern subtle flavour palates or identify understated ingredients. We just really love food. And seeing these vegetable varieties, all we could think about were the dishes we could make. We were getting a little disappointed though, because we wouldn’t get to grow them. That is until, Mel suggested something that would change everything: make a new line of these unique and unusual vegetables. Taste of the Season was born.

Taste of the Season is where the love of gardening and the passion for food collide. Rather than growing typical every day vegetables, this line offers you the opportunity to grow unique and unusual varieties that will surely impress. Here you will find uncommon plants that produce colourful cauliflower, kale-brussels sprouts hybrid, mini watermelon-looking cucumbers and more. Plus, they are all 100% certified organic!

We are so proud of this line and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Click here to see our entire Taste of the Season collection.

Click here to see our Taste of the Season catalogue.