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Cities Need to Encourage Their Citizens to Grow Vegetables…

August 1, 2012

…Rather than prohibit them from doing so.

This story is making news, as it should. A couple in Drummondville, Quebec are facing fines if they don’t tear down two thirds of their garden that is their front lawn. People should be encouraged to grow their own food, rather than be penalized for it.

Please sign (and share) the petition to tell the Mayor of Drummondville that homeowners should be allowed to use their entire front lawn as a garden!

I could go on and on about the benefits of gardening, but I’ll leave you with the image below.

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Our Efforts Were Not In Vain!; The Organic Potato

July 29, 2012

In the not so distant past, we battled several hundreds, maybe even thousands, of potato beetles by handpicking them off potato plants, one by one, and placing them into a container of water. Several hours were spent trying to save the starchy tuberous crops.

If you were to guess that this ravaged potato plant produced no potatoes, you’d be wrong and that is a good thing! A plant from the row above was harvested a few days ago to gauge its yield…

and were we ever pleasantly surprised. Yes, I’m a dork and quite thrilled about having organic potatoes. Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in Canada, and one of the dirty dozen and thus are heavily sprayed with pesticides. What’s on my Food? lists the pesticide residues found on food (in the US), including potatoes. I imagine its similar in Canada, and have yet to find a comprehensive resource… Regardless, I would much rather handpick potato beetles and have less yield than eat a potato that has residues from as many as 37 different pesticides.

Someone told me about this video yesterday and I had to share it.

It doesn’t surprise me that there’s a difference between organic and non-organic foods. What surprises me  is that there IS a difference between organic food from the grocery store and organic food from a local farmer’s market. Which begs the question, what is “organic”? If food is traveling from so far, something must be done with it to keep it fresh and visually appealing, right? It’s important to know where your food comes from and it certainly helps to know the person growing it. If you don’t have the time (or interest) to grow vegetables, visit your local farmer’s market or join a CSA!

If you are into DIY projects and love watching things grow, then why not grow your own potatoes! You do not need a garden or even much space. All you need is three things: a bucket, a sprouting potato, and some soil.

Instructions:

  1. Get a bucket, soil, and a potato (make sure it has already sprouted!)
  2. Make drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket (with a hammer and nail, or a drill)
  3. Fill one third of the bucket with soil
  4. Place the potato in the soil and ensure it is at a depth of 1 cm
  5. Water the soil until it’s damp
  6. Place the bucket in a warm and sunny spot

And voila! A potato plant.

Some things to remember as your potato plant is growing… make sure the soil is damp, and not wet, otherwise your potatoes will get moldy. You may need to water every 3 to 4 days. When the plant is 10 cm tall, the leafy shoots can be mounded (also known as earthing up) with soil to increase potato yield. For more on potatoes in a bucket, visit this site.

Sweet potatoes are a more delicious, in my opinion, alternative to potatoes and are not a victim of the voracious potato beetle. Due to the extra work brought on by the petty beetle, sweet potatoes will grown next year.

Slimy Slippery Superfluous Slugs

July 26, 2012

Each morning, soon after waking, I make my way to the greenhouse to give the plants a drink and rescue them from their slimy and slippery predators. To gardeners near and far, weeds are often source of frustration, but slugs are heaps worse as they devour the bounty that is your garden! I often find them gnawing on cucumber blossoms which means no cucumbers. This is unacceptable, so the slugs must go…

Slugs can be removed using a variety of methods including: homemade beer traps, copper mesh or wire, or metaldehyde pellets. These methods, however, cost money. If you want to remove slugs on the cheap and keep your garden free of chemicals, then you can handpick your slugs.

This is no ordinary piece of wood…

It’s gold! Without it I struggle to rid the greenhouse of slugs. They are just too slimy to pick up (and kind of yucky).

…She got the slug in a bucket.

As much as I do not enjoy slugs, I do not want their death on my conscience, so I collect them and let them play with the chickens. Slugs make a garden sad, but chickens very, VERY happy.

Slugs on their way to their new home…But not for long…

Because it’s LUNCH TIME!!

For more on slug removal, and a good read.

My, How Things Have Grown.

July 25, 2012

In the short time I’ve been at Fresh Earth Farm I’ve seen a lot of growth, particularly in the greenhouse. This amazing DIY structure is housing everything from tomatoes, ground cherries, cucumbers, peppers, basil, runner beans to bottle gourds. I don’t believe I’ve left anything out…oh, and spiders! Quite a number of eight legged creatures have made their way into the greenhouse and each morning I find myself walking into a newly made web.

 

This picture was taken on July 6th…

 

Fifteen days later, on July 21st, there are blossoms and tiny vegetables a plenty! It’s amazing what can grow from a tiny seed.

A Most Pleasant and Delicious Surprise

July 21, 2012

One evening, a little over a week ago, I went on a most splendid bike ride in the Shepody Marsh along the Trans Canada trail. What an amazing place. The sign even says so…

In this amazing place, there are many amazing things. See the small tree? This tree bears a most delightful berry which goes by many names including: alder-leaf shadbush, pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, juneberry, saskatoon and is known scientifically as Amelanchier alnifolia. The varieties native to eastern North America are known as downy serviceberry or common serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). There may be as many as 15 species of serviceberries in Canada.

Fact: The city of Saskatoon is named after this berry. It’s that good.

This berry is so delicious that we went back to Shepody Marsh three times this past week. The plant is a small tree or shrub and when ripe, the berry is purple and mildly sweet. The flowers emerge in spring and the fruits ripen in summer. The berries are even popular among birds.

As we were reaching for the berries a branch came off one of the trees so we decided to take it home to see if we could grow this plant on the property, as propagation can occur by seed, divisions, and grafting. The branch currently lives in a mason jar with water.

While Ryan was mowing the lawn yesterday, I decided to see what other edibles are growing on their land only to find not one but THREE serviceberry trees growing at the edge of the property!

Can you see the excitement? Even Lloyd is thrilled.

We’ve been eating the berries raw, though I just learned that the pits contain cyanide-like toxins. They are, however, destroyed by cooking or drying so add the berries to soups and bread, for example.

 

Now all I have to is walk a few feet to satisfy my cravings.

Visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation more information.

The Plight of the Potato Bug

July 19, 2012

Who just spent three hours last night and again this morning hand picking bugs (and their nasty little yellow eggs) off of five rows of potato plants? Ryan, Jayson and I. This is organic gardening at its finest. You may or may not have potato plants of your own, but if you’ve had lice, then you can comprehend the tedious process of nit picking. It takes HOURS minus the itchy scalp.

We are currently dealing with the Colorado potato beetle, also known as Leptinotarsa decemlineata. My do they ever procreate. It seems as though their lives consist solely of eating and mating, oh and irritating farmers. The potato bug reduces potato yield by feasting on the plants’ leaves and shoots, thereby reducing photosynthesis.

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The adults are an orange yellow with black spots behind their heads and black stripes on their wings. They spend the winter in the soil and emerge in spring ready to ravage your potato plants. They lay clusters of tiny yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves. All the leaves in that container had those gnarly eggs on them.

The best medicine is prevention. You can create a barrier between the pest and potatoes by placing a lightweight floating row cover after planting and leaving it there until harvest. Mulching also inhibits potato bugs by making the potato plants harder to find. We haven’t used either of these preventative measures and thus we must inspect the plants daily and remove bugs and their eggs… otherwise you will have this…

A ravaged potato plant. These plants have seen better days. But we are working on it.

This is our make shift way of ensuring the bugs don’t get back into the field.

Hopefully you will never have to deal with this pest….

A Wild and Beneficial One

July 18, 2012

I have a new found love for bushcraft AND this amazing site called Northern Bushcraft (Thanks, Tom!) that lists numerous edible plants, berries and mushrooms that grow in Canadian provinces and territories, as well as the Pacific Northwest in the US of A. If you are at all interested in foraging, or finding out which weeds in your garden are edible, then check out this site. Who doesn’t love free food? Not to mention FRESH food. Though my survival skills are quite limited, I love food and I most certainly do not like going hungry, thus foraging is the first of many essential life skills that I shall learn.

Though there is a bountiful garden just to the right (of what you see above), I’ve taken an interest in the edibles that make their way into the garden via wind, water or gravity. Eating weeds also helps to ensure that all Fresh Earth Farm CSA members receive enough food in their shares.

A recent post on The Stay-at-home Scientist about container grown chamomile tea had me craving some chamomile tea, and yearning for a plant of my own. I quickly remembered that there is plenty wild chamomile in the yard! Can you spot it in the image above?

Are you craving some sweet and delicious tea too?  Then look no further than the dry compacted soil in your garden (like I did) from June to July. If you don’t have a garden or a yard then scour footpaths, roadsides and even cracks in the sidewalk for none other than pineapple-weed, or Matricaria discoidea. Similar to Matricaria chamomilla, or German chamomile, pineapple-weed is used for medicinal purposes, including relief for upset stomachs.

There is pineapple weed aplenty in the garden and I will make sure it does not go to waste by making tea daily and drying out the flowers for later use. You should too. Here is want you need to do.

Harvest some plants…

Boil water while you remove the flower heads. Give them a little rinse, though a little soil never hurt anyone, right?

Place them in a mug (add as many flowers as you like, I used about 1 tbsp)…

Allow the flowers to steep for about five minutes.

Use a tea infuser if you have one, though it isn’t necessary. The flowers are edible so I eat them as I drink. Nom nom nom…

Pineapple-weed can also be used as an inspect repellent, though temporary. So grab some plants and rub them on any exposed skin to repel those pesky mosquitos. I haven’t tried this yet, but I definitely will.

More information on Pineapple-weed by Wild Rose College.