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

Get Inspired by these TED Talks – Food Education, Guerrilla Gardening and more.

Last week was the second TED event hosted by the nearby city of Vancouver so what better time to look at some of the great talks old and new that relate to gardening and food security.

A great inspiration to me is well-known activist and chef Jamie Oliver.  Jamie has been a huge advocate for food education his food foundation does everything from encouraging garden projects in schools to encouraging and teaching others to cook from scratch with his Ministry of Food program. I first heard of Jamie Oliver through his Food Revolution television show and got hooked almost immediately because of his passion on this subject.  

 

I just learned about Ron Finely a week ago but had to include this because he is such a great speaker and is sending a powerful message.  This gentleman is a guerrilla gardener who simply wanted to improve his neighbourhood, give them an option for healthy eating and teach them about food.  I’m sure all of us can relate to his comment about just because the city decided to change the name of his neighbourhood from South Central to South Los Angeles doesn’t change anything in context to Whalley being re-branded as Central City.  It takes more than that to change the community.  

 

I mentioned in the gardens first post of the year about a seed library at Kwantlan Polytechnic University and here is a talk by Jonathan Drori about what The Millennium Seed Bank is trying to achieve.  This is the largest seed bank in the world.  Best sure to also check out Jonathan Drori’s other Ted Talks such as the Beautiful Tricks of Flowers.  

 

In this talk by Louie Schwartzberg the real reward is in the last half of the talk with the amazing time lapse video  ‘Wings of Life’ on the beauty of pollinators.  

 

 

Next week: Soil Health

Spring has arrived Let’s Garden!

I’m sure like me most gardeners are jumping at the chance to get into the garden and get their hands in the dirt.  As we live on the west coast we don’t have to worry anymore about the last frost date but still have to contend with the spring rains and a bit of mud.  If you haven’t done so already (I know I started doing this when I received my first seed catalogue of the year back in January) this is a great time to give some thought into what seeds you are going to plant, where your going to place them, and what prep work needs to be done for a successful gardening season.

This is now my third year doing seed starting after many lessons such as how critical the right level of light is which I learned my first year when all my seedlings were too ‘leggy’ and most didn’t survive.  Since then I have used a number of different resources to learn something new each year in addition to just simple trial and error.  One such resource is a blog by Gayle Trail of you Grow Girl who was the author of one of my first gardening books I bought and she is Canadian.  I have yet to find a great garden blogger on the west coast so if anyone has any recommendations please let me know.  Gayle offers some great tips on economical ways to start Seed Starting which is a great way to increase to longevity of the growing season as you can get a great jump-start on what mother nature would normally allow. Learn More…

Companion Planting is another great tool in the organic gardener’s kit that allows you to plant certain crops close together to assist with pest control, pollination and the attraction of beneficial insects to your garden.  A great resource for this is provided by West Coast Seeds.  Where you can learn the best place to plant a patch of basil or is it okay to place my beets near my pole beans. Learn More…

Beneficial Insects are always included in my plans for the garden every year which is why I always plant a little wildflower garden within my plot along with crops like Basil, Chives, Chamomile, Sage, and Thyme which also have the double benefit of being delicious and fresh for meals from my kitchen.  If rumours are true 10 different types of bees have been spotted in Cedar Grove garden last year I have also already seen several lady bugs in my plot this year.   If every garden member planted a little something on their plot for these beneficials we can hopefully see these numbers go up and this will benefit everyone at Cedar Grove Garden.   Mother Earth News put out an article on this very subject.  Learn More…

 Cool Season Crops don’t forget on the coast there are already a lot of cool season crops that you can get into the ground such as peas, lettuce, arugula, spring onions, corn salad, kale, radishes, and spinach.

Off the Beaten Path in our Community

A large part of what makes up any community are the people who live within the area and what better way to bring them together than through special events, classes and workshops.  This is a great way to have some fun, meet others with similar interests and make an impact on how your community is shaped.  Many of these events are well-known and others are what are referred to in travel guide lingo as being off the beaten path.  I recently learned about a few events that would fall directly into this category that occur south of the Fraser.

Many community garden’s are grass-roots organizations that often start off with guerilla gardening taking over a nearby vacant lot either with or without the owner’s permission or even just  a tiny strip on the sidewalk in front of your home.  This provides a spot of beauty in what otherwise would be a dull or trash ridden location and brings a smile to those who pass it daily in the hopes this will encourage them or even businesses in the area to plant a few flowers. Resulting in a more warm and welcoming community showing that the people who live there are engaged, interested and proud of their neighbourhood.  On Sunday, March 29th come and make ‘seed bombs’ from recycled paper at this family friendly neighbourhood beautification initiative. Newton Community Hall between 3:30pm and 5:30pm.  Learn More

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Although I am still what would be considered a new gardener only enjoying this rewarding pastime with the last couple of years I already have a collection of seeds sitting at home.  I buy something to try but can’t use the whole packet for my community plot so often try to give these away if I’m not able to use them to following year.  So I was excited to learn that Kwantlan Polytechnic University’s Langley campus has a Seed Library that you can pick up seeds from with the expectation that you donate some back at the end of the season.  What a great way to spend the afternoon searching for a unique find for your garden and sharing some of your own with the local gardening community.  Learn More…

Not as off the beaten path as those above yet I still drive by this once a week but like many rarely stop to venture inside.  Green Timbers Urban Forest offers everything from a fishing lake, to nature trails and Surrey Nature Centre.  Free Birding walks are hosted by the Surrey Nature Centre within Green Timbers with the next one occurring on Saturday, March 21st.  Learn More…