Ceres Edible Landscaping’s #TipTuesday. Each week we publish a tip for gardeners, farmers, and fascinated foodies that cover a variety of topics. Our tips are also published to Facebook and Instagram (@cowgreencom) each week. Share these tips and let us know what you think! Written by @cailucci

April 19: Red Flowering Currant

One of the most stunning spring flowering shrubs has to be the Red Flowering Currant a.k.a. Ribes sanguinium.
It is a very versatile addition to any garden being drought tolerant and bees and humming birds love it but deer don’t. The best feature however is the vibrant reddish pink flower clusters that smell and taste fantastic. If you don’t already have one of these native gems in your garden its not too late to plant one and reap the rewards

March 14: Miner’s Lettuce

With spring finally (hopefully) here, we can expect a plethora of weeds to be poking up in our gardens. Before you get all up in arms, consider that you might be pulling up some delicious edibles. This week we discovered a nice patch of Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia peroliata) in our food forest. This is one of the most delectable of all wild greens as it is has a lovely texture similar to butter lettuce and a very palatable flavor making it the perfect intro food for the novice forager. Be aware that, like many wild foods, Miner’s Lettuce tends to grow in disturbed areas that can be less than sanitary. Also we must advise getting your hands on a good plant identification book as there are some plants out there that you certainly do not want to consume.

Feb 28: Cold Stratification

Some seeds require a process called cold stratification to germinate. This is a process that naturally happens when a seedimage (1) drops in the fall and is left outdoors over the winter. We can mimic this process by exposing seeds to cold wet conditions in the fridge. Simply put seeds that need stratification in a wet paper towel and in to a container (like a mason jar or zip lock bag) then place in to the fridge. This can take a couple of weeks for some plants and a few months for others so do a
little research to find out how long your specific seeds need in the cold. Many rare and exciting perennials that can’t be found at nurseries need this process so it is a technique to be familiar with if you are trying to build a collection of unique plants.

Feb 14: Shelf Life of Seeds

Before you throw out that old seed packet you might want to check it’s viability. While some seeds, like Cucumbers and melons can last up to 10 years and others like Onions and carrots only last about 3 years. If you are not sure about the viability of your seeds you can do a simple germination test. Check out Linda Gilkeson’s latest news letter for full instructions on how to conduct the experiment: http://ow.ly/FxSb308LVlE

Feb 7: Seedy Sundays

We are now a few weeks into the “Seedy Saturday/Sunday” event season on the island. It’s natural to feel like kids in candy stores while attending these gatherings which can easily lead to leaving with more seed than we can handle. This year we are going in with a game plan… We vow to work as a team and seed share. It’s easy to grow too much of one plant and get tired of an individual variety, or have too much seed to plant in a season and let the seeds grow old and become tough to germinate. So to avoid this problem! Try buying seeds with the intent to swap with friends or family. This way you will be able to plant many more varieties while spending the same amount of money. It is also a great community building opportunity and can even be worked in to a vegetable or flower challenge!

Jan 13: Hunger Gap Russian Kale

Well that was a DOOZY! We are finally coming out of the longest cold snap on the west coast in decades. As the snow melts and our gardens reveal themselves we are gonna see some sad looking leaves. Next year consider planting this super cold hardy Kale breed for cold coastal climates: Hunger Gap Russian Kale.

Jan 3: Poinsettias

Poinsettias, a staple of the holiday season, are a native plant to Mexico and are in the Euphorbia family. They are always a bone of contention among plant lovers as they are a very valuable crop for nurseries but also a huge waste product. It is great to bring some life in to the home during the holiday season but when all the festivities are over they are usually just chucked with the wrapping paper. Well lets hope most people are recycling their paper and maybe even trying to save their poinsettias for next year. The latter is easier said than done and can be time intensive if you want to get those vibrant colours for the holidays. Here is a guide to get you going.

Dec 20: Mahonia

Feeling a little down at this time of year? Well here is a great solution. Integrate some winter flowering shrubs in to your garden. There are plenty of amazing smelling and vibrant looking plants that will bring a little bit of sunshine to these dark days. Try Mahonia x media a type of Oregon Grape, or Hamamelis x intermedia a Witch Hazel, for their bright yellow flowers that feel like a burst of sunshine on these short days. If you’re interested in incredible fragrance to bring you to a tropical place check out either, Daphne odora a winter flowering Daphne or Lonicera fragrantissima a fragrant Honeysuckle. Both have milky white flowers that have an intense perfume that will bring you to an exotic place. These are only a few of many plants that can help break the winter blues.

Dec 13: Evergreens

During this dark time of year with little foliage or flowers to gaze upon, we can still enjoy the beauty of evergreens. Consider planting a conifer (Cypress, Juniper, Spruce, Pine, Cedar), Rhododendrons (some are starting to flower now), or maybe bamboo. An evergreen can provide privacy screening, character to your yard, and year round foliage in multitudes of shades, from yellow to blue and all shades of green. As they are long lived plants, they also add value to your property. Next spring, consider planting one of these specimens to give you a new view next winter.

Dec 13: Evergreens

During this dark time of year with little foliage or flowers to gaze upon, we can still enjoy the beauty of evergreens. Consider planting a conifer (Cypress, Juniper, Spruce, Pine, Cedar), Rhododendrons (some are starting to flower now), or maybe bamboo. An evergreen can provide privacy screening, character to your yard, and year round foliage in multitudes of shades, from yellow to blue and all shades of green. As they are long lived plants, they also add value to your property. Next spring, consider planting one of these specimens to give you a new view next winter.

Dec 6: Snow

The snow is upon us and gardening is the last thing on most peoples minds. However, winter is the best time of year to prune your fruit trees as they are now dormant. There are different methods of pruning depending on what type of fruit you are growing and what stage of life your trees are in. There is some excellent literature on the subject if you want to do it yourself or you can call a professional to ensure a great harvest next year. If you are pruning your own trees always remember to keep your tools sharp and clean.

Nov 1: Mychorrizal Fungi

This is the time of year to plant fruit trees, shrubs, berries, and almost any perennial you can get your hands on. When we plant anything that is going to be in the ground for an extended period of time, we always use a mychorrizal fungi inoculate… A myco fungi… what did you say?? Lets break it down. Mychorhrizal translates to fungus (myco) and root (rhizal). These fungal roots create symbiotic relationships with plants. The fungal roots dig deep in to soil particles and mine nutrients that plant roots can not access. The fungi use the nutrients as currency and trade them for sugars that the plants make unnamedthrough photosynthesis. It is said that as much as 80% of the sugars that plants make are exchanged with microorganisms for nutrients. Plants and fungi will naturally create relationships in healthy soil but to expedite the process we add Myke to every planting. Some advantages of using an inoculation are:

  • Ensuring faster establishment
  • Reducing watering needs
  • Increasing survival
  • Protecting against pathogens
  • Increasing phosphorus absorption to the detriment of blue-green algae
  • Improving soil structure and prevent erosion
Myke is available at most nurseries and garden stores and should be used within two years of buying.
photo cred: usemyke.com (no myke vs myke)


Oct 25: Broad Beans

So you’ve pulled all of your ugly spent tomato, cucumber and squash plants. You’ve planted your garlic patch. You’ve mulched amply. You have put your garden to bed for the winter. But something just doesn’t feel right. Your brassicas are lonely. Well there is still one thing to plant. Broad beans (a.k.a. Fava beans or Vicia faba). These nutrient rich legumes have been under human cultivation for nearly 9000 years. They are an excellent choice for an over wintering green manure as they are nitrogen fixing, edible and beautiful. The roots attract rhizobium bacteria, which take atmospheric nitrogen (N2) gas and cycle it to make plant available nitrogen (N). While you might not get a huge spring bean crop if you plant this late, you will get a good crop of delicious leaves that are an excellent addition to winter salads and stir fries. If you plant in late winter or early spring you will have a productive bean crop in to the summer. Try planting around fruit trees or berry bushes to nourish the soil and attract pollinators.

Oct 18: Storing Winter Squash

Isquasht’s that time of year to bring your winter squash into the root cellar. But what are best practices for storage?

Cut, don’t pull, ripe squashes from the vines, leaving 3 inches of stem.Cure harvested squash, unwashed, in a warm and sunny spot for a week or two. (Skip the curing step for acorn squash, which can become stringy if it’s not moved to a cool
place immediately after harvest.) Protect the fruits from cuts, scrapes, and dents, as this can affect storage life. 

Winter squashes can last up to 8 months in storage. Store cured squashes in a room that is dry and cool—but no cooler than 50 degrees—and make sure they have good air circulation.

Roasted, mashed, baked, or whipped into soup, winter squash is good food!

Oct 11: Passion Flower

Now, we can talk about beautiful plants all day long. But what makes a plant next level awesome? It’s gotta have a little Ieb2823263bef43d1c56332634f2d2d68something we call the triple threat. Edible, medicinal and beautiful. While there are many plants that fit this description, not many rival the holy hat trick of the all-mighty Passion flower. The fruit fruit is almost indescribably delicious (albeit hard to get to ripen in our climate.(See this awesome post for more on Passion fruit in the P.N.W.) We do however, get amazing full blooms of the most extra terrestrial flowers nature could conjure. The flower itself is highly medicinal, and steeped in symbolism, with each part of the flower said to represent a part of the crucifixion story. If you’re thinking of growing passion flower plants, we recommend planting them against a sunny wall and waiting until late spring, past any danger of frost, to plant. All plants benefit from mychorrhizal soil inoculate and a good dose of complete organic fertilizer. Photo: https://www.pinterest.com/valerieheck/passion-flower/


Oct 4: Hugelkultur

unnamed (1)Hugelkultur. You may have heard the term, your eccentric neighbor might have built a bed, or you might think its the latest fashion trend to come out of Milan. What ever you know, or don’t know, about hugelkultur we are here to get you up to date on the centuries old permaculture gardening technique. Essentially, hugelkultur is a method of building garden bed mounds using woody debris such as fallen branches and old logs as a base, then adding nitrogen rich material such as manure or kitchen scraps. Top it off with a nice garden soil and you’re ready to plant. However,  the beds do benefit form decomposing for a few months so building one this time of year and planning on a spring planting is perfect.  These constantly decomposing beds mimic nutrient cycling found in the forest. As the wood gets wet it acts like a sponge, soaking up moisture and slowly releasing water and nutrients to the surrounding soil. This helps regulate moisture and feed soil organisms which, in tern, help feed your plants. They are inexpensive, convenient and (lets face it) fun to say. Check out this video on CGC’s hugelkultur installation. Photo: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

Sept 20: Autumn Leaves

September truly is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Our gardens are bustling with an abundance of life.The rain is setting in and the renewed moisture invigorates the unseen microbial life under the soil that we must help proliferate. As the season changes plants start to winterise and deciduous trees shed their leaves in anticipation of cold, dry weather. These leaves provide an amazing source of mulch to cover vulnerable plants and soil.  With the plethora of maple, alder, oak and other broad leaved trees there is plenty of free mulch available this time of year. Here are some tips to keep your garden warm and moist all winter long.

  • Start stock piling leaves by filling garbage bags or wire cages.
  • Shred your leaves, to reduce the bulk, by running a lawn mower over them.
  • Spread a 10-15 cm layer of shredded leaves around plants to insulate.
  • Save a few bags of leaves to make “Leaf Mould”
  • Make a large pile of leaves and proceed to jump in it while laughing profusely!

Sept 13: A Challenge to Cowichan Gardeners

This week we do not present you a tip, we present you a challenge. This past weekend, as many of you knoFullSizeRender (7)w, the Cowichan Exhibition took place. Among all the live stock and crafts, the highlight for many of us at the CGC is the fruit and veggie expo. It is always important to see what people are growing in the area, it gives you a good sense of what grows well and a visual of what those little seeds can evolve in to. While this display of abundance is always spectacular, this year’s entries were down by a reported 50% compared to 2015. This may be good for those who entered, as it gave them a better chance to win the big bucks, $100 to the winner of the the Bounty of the Valley, this isn’t good for local food culture. It may seem to be a frivolous thing but we believe in community and celebrating food. The exhibition has been running for nearly 150 years, and we would love to see it more bountiful year after year. Our challenge is to all of you gardeners, help revive the great tradition of displaying the cornucopia of Cowichan. We will be entering all kinds of produce next year… Will you?

Sept 6: Lawns

We don’t usually promote the installation of lawns. We do realize, however, that there is nothing quite like a beautiful, lush patch of vibrant green grass. Whether you plan on downsizing and renovating your existing lawn to make room for raised beds or installing a new lawn for summer fun here are some tips of the trade to help you have the best patch of grass on the block.

Location, Location, Location!

There are different grass mixes for different sites, some do better in the shade and others thrive in full sun, you must choose your varieties accordingly. Keep in mind that most grasses don’t like deep shade and don’t like to live under large trees where they have to compete for nutrients. If starting a new lawn from scratch make sure the site is; clear of any debris and weeds, is nice and level, and you’ve prepared the area with a good soil blend.

Thymus serpyllum in the Herb Garden at Wisley.

Creeping thyme, photo cred: www.rhs.org.uk/.

Seed Vs. Sod

These are the two methods of starting a new lawn. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Seed is much cheaper, lighter and has a better shelf life than sod. However, it takes a longer time to be ready to use and is more susceptible to weed seeds. Although sod is much more harder on the body mind and pocket book, it is ready to walk on much quicker than seeding.


Fertilizing your lawn will help keep it green and encourage vigorous root growth. This time of year apply a “winterize” lawn food, such as a naturally sourced organic fertilizer high in phosphorus, which strengthens the roots, and potassium, which strengthens the blades. You can also add compost tea, mycorrhizal inoculant or effective microorganisms to the lawn to perk it up.

Alternatives to grass

Instead of planting boring old grass you can try and plant a variety of different ground covers including; creeping thyme, corsican mint, micro clover or moss.

Whatever you chose for your lawn keep in mind that the average North American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, about 30 percent of which is devoted to outdoor uses. More than half of that outdoor water is used for watering lawns and gardens. So why not grow something you can eat!

August 30: Cutting Back Spent Herbaceous Perennials

With the intense summer heat nearly behind us, we are faced with the annual task of preparing our shabby looking plants for winter. Herbaceous perennials naturally die down in the winter, their foliage has been feeding the root system since flowering and now we must determine when they are ready to “be put to bed”. While some of our garden gems can be kept for winter interest, others must go! Here are some general rules to keep in mind when considering if or when the aerial parts of the plant should be cut to the ground:
  • Winter interest for you and wildlife is a major consideration when thinking about what to keep. Cardoon, Bee Balm, and Echinacea seed heads are great choices to leave for the birds in to the colder months
  • Grasses and lower sitting leafy plants can be trickier. Some are hardier than others and can tolerate frost (think Catmint or Bearded Iris), while others turn brown after flowering and need to go before the rains set in or they end up getting quite sloppy (think Daylilies or Crocosmia).

Keep in mind this little rhyme when deciding what stays and what goes. “If its brown, you can cut it down. If it is green still, let it chill.”

August 23: Powdery Mildew

It’s powdery mildew (PM) season again. So what exactly is it and what can be done now that it has taken pea_mildew3x1200hold?

Powdery mildew is a common name for many different fungal pathogens that primarily affect the foliage on many different plants. The fungi over winters on plant debris, then travels by wind to susceptible plants in the spring or summer. When the spores find a suitable host plant and have ideal environmental conditions, they proliferate. The white powdery growth consists of the fungal mycelium and asexual reproductive spores.

The first method of dealing with PM is prevention. Try planting resistant cultivars that have built in defense to PM. Give plants adequate spacing to encourage air flow. Try succession planting, instead of letting peas or greens get old and stressed, plant a new crop to replace the old one.

If you already have PM on your plants there are a few “sprays” that are recommended by Linda Gilkenson and can be found here. Don’t stress or think you’ve done something terribly wrong.Powdery mildew is a very common thing on the coast and most all gardeners deal with it this time of the year.

August 16: What to Plant in August: How to Ensure a Plentiful Autumn

As one of the hottest months of the year, your August will likely be consumed by watering and keeping the midsummer weed explosion under control. However, if you do find yourself with a little extra time and resources at the turn of the season, there are some crops that can be planted now to ensure a continuous harvest into the fall and even winter months.

Many salad greens including kale, pak choy, choy sum, garden cress, oriental mustard, arugula, cilantro, mache, and radicchio can be sown directly outside, to be harvested throughout the fall months. Final crops of quick-growing vegetables such as radishes, Adelaide carrots, turnips, Spinach Perpetual, Sugar Ann peas, beets, Muncher cucumbers, or even kohlrabi can also be seeded outside.

If you have a greenhouse available, winter lettuce varieties such as Arctic King or Winter Gem can be sowed in modules to be planted out later in the month. Parsley, coriander, and chervil can also be seeded in trays to be grown inside throughout the winter. A final crop of fast growing dwarf beans (try the Speedy variety) can also be sown inside to give a fall harvest.

Finally, a few hardy vegetables can be sown outside to be harvested come spring time. These can be especially nice to have waiting in the wings, as an early spring harvest can be the boost you need to get moving after a cold winter! Such overwintering veggies include White Lisbon and Performer variety onions, April and Durham Early variety cabbages, Swiss chard, and kale.

The best time to plant these late-season veggies can vary slightly between region and variety, so it’s best to do a quick calculation before you seed anything. Just check the “days to harvest” average listed on the back of your seed packet, and add a couple weeks to compensate for increasingly cooler nights. Then figure out your best sow date by subtracting the number of days to harvest from the first frost date for your region. (Average frost dates can be found at www.almanac.com).

Make sure to water all crops healthily, as even a short drought can be dangerous for fall seedlings. Makeshift shade covers (wooden boards or cloth laid across brick stacks work well) are also a good way to protect any slow-germinating plants, such as beets, carrots, lettuce and spinach. Lastly, a good mulching of dead leaves or spoiled hay on top of newspaper will help the soil retain moisture and keep down weed competition.

August 9: Apples

With fruit picking season in full swing, we are being inundated with all kinds of great problems to solve. Our tip this week is to help solve a couple of the most pressing questions people have about one of our most abundant fruits, apples.

What kind of apples do IIMG_3445 have?
This is a tough one. It can be hard to determine what, of the nearly 7000 varieties of apple, you have. Try the “quiz” at the Apple Name website. If that doesn’t help, try contacting a local farmer or better yet head out to the Salt Spring Apple Fest.
Are my apples ready?
 “Lift the apple in your palm and give it a slight twist.” Says Carolyn Herriot. “If ripe, it should come away easily from the spur.” Apple harvest season is long so if you’re unsure if your apple is ready, be patient.
My tree is overloaded with apples! What do I do!?
If you have a young tree that is overloaded with fruit and it looks like the branches are about to snap under the immense pressure of sweet sweet pomme-y goodness, reinforcements may be necessary. The most common methods of  supporting fruit trees are bracing and tying up. Both methods are a great excuse to up-cycle. We use old bailing twine and recycled inner tubes from bike tires. There are a ton of items you can use to prop up your tree from old lumber to the prop-a-crop. What ever method you use, just make sure to cushion your brace so your fruit tree doesn’t get damaged.

If you think you have too much fruit to handle you can distribute the wealth through our FruitSave program.

August 2: Tips on Not Squashing your Summer Squash Harvest

It’s high summer, and plants all over the Valley are getting well into the fruiting season – including many varieties of tasty summer squash. Although not difficult, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when harvesting these savoury treats.

First of all, while a gigantic gourd may look impressive, it’s best to harvest on the small side when going for optimum texture and flavour. Summer squashes are ready to pick between 50 – 65 days from when they were sown, when rindsIMG_20160725_171826729 are still tender and seeds haven’t yet formed. Zucchini and crookneck varieties should be harvested when fruit is 5 – 10 inches long, 4 – 7 inches for yellow varieties. Scallops and other round summer squash should be picked when they are 3 – 5 inches in diameter. As well as improving taste, harvesting before the fruit is mature insures the plant will continue flowering and increases the overall yield.

(An important note: varieties such as acorn, butternut, and buttercup squash are ‘winter’ plants, and will mature fully before they are ready to harvest. These squash can be picked when the skin of the fruit is hard enough to resist puncture with a
fingernail, although it will not harm them to remain on the vine until well into the fall.)

When you do harvest, make sure not to damage the rest of the plant, as vines can be delicate and easily disturbed. If harvesting by hand, gently lift a fruit until a small ‘snap’ or ‘pop’ is heard; this is the stem separating from its vine. Give the fruit a quick twist left and right until it separates from the plant; do not try to pull or tear. Of course, fruit can also be removed with a sharp knife or secateurs: simply cut the stem approximately ½ inch away from the head of the squash, making sure not to accidentally slice into the main vine.

It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your plants, as in peak season summer squash can grow an inch or more per day, and often go from unripe to inedible within a very small window. Fruiting will likely be prolific, and plants should be checked daily once flowering begins.

Finally, if you miss a few fruits and they end up over ripening, don’t leave them on the vine, as they will sap energy from the plant and limit production. Remove and compost any summer squash whose skin you cannot pierce with your fingernail, as they have matured past their prime and will have gained a very seedy and mealy texture.

July 26: Celery

Celery is a hard crop to grow for most gardeners. It has very small seeds that like to be soaked overnight before planting, FullSizeRender (6)and it is quite particular about the soil it lives in. To grow celery with creamy white stalks, like the celery from the supermarkets, it requires blanching. This is not blanching in the kitchen, this is blanching in the garden. It is a technique that gardeners use to keep light from reaching the plants. This method is also used with crops such as leeks, endive, and cauliflower. To blanch at home, all you have to do is wrap up your celery stalks.  There are a number of up-cycled items you can choose from, such as old milk cartons, newspaper or cardboard boxes.  We find that waxed boxes are best, and can be used year after year (less waste!).  Tie the wrapping material, using a string, bungee or duct tape. Do this approximately two weeks before harvest and you will have sweet and delicious white celery. This technique, however, does reduce the nutrient quantity in your celery so if you like bitter robust flavours try not blanching a plant or two and compare.

July 19: Cinnamon

Do you take a sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee? Or mix it with brown sugar on toast for a tasty treat? If this fragrant spice is a regular resident in your kitchen, you probably don’t need another reason to love it – but we’ll give you one anyway.


It turns out cinnamon doesn’t only tickle your taste buds; it can also act as a non-toxic (and nice smelling!) fungicide, pest control, rooting agent, and plant antibiotic. As a fungicide, cinnamon helps treat and prevent both damping-off disease and slime mold, as well as unwanted wild mushrooms in planters. It can be easily applied by steeping a few tablespoons in warm water overnight, then straining the liquid into a spray bottle and spritzing the stems and leaves of affected plants.

Bugs don’t like it either – especially ants – so if you have issues in home or greenhouse, sprinkling some on the infested surfaces will act as a deterrent.

Although cinnamon doesn’t mimic auxin, the natural rooting hormone found in plants, its natural antimicrobial qualities protect the rooting site so auxin can act without competition. Simply wet the ends of new cuttings, roll them in spice, and plant.

This antibacterial quality can also be used to heal wounded plants. Whether caught under friendly fire by the weed-whacker or nibbled by insectoid invaders, sprinkling a little cinnamon on the affected site will deter infection and promote fast healing.

A cheaper, more accessible, and natural alternative to many commercial options, we hope you enjoy cinnamon as a new friend in both your pies and planters. Happy gardening!

July 12: Winter Prep

That dreaded 6 letter word that no one wants to talk about right now. Like squirrels hoarding nuts, we must prepare! If we want an ample amount of fresh nutritious greens all winter long, now is the time to sow. “Sow what?” you ask. CoFullSizeRender (5)ld tolerant leafy greens like kale, collards, arugula and swiss chard are a great place to start. Root crops such as beets, carrots, turnips and radish can be planted now as well. The idea behind looking so far ahead is that not much growing happens from October through March. We try and have large healthy plants, that essentially chill out over the win
ter months. Some of these plants, namely kale and carrots, become much sweeter after the frost.
As always, look for local and organic seeds. Starts are harder to come by these days but try the farmers markets or your local nursery.

July 5: Grow More Vegetables

Wanna learn “Hoimage1 (2)w to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine”? Pick up a copy of John Jeavons book… How to grow more Vegetables. https://www.amazon.ca/How-Grow-More-Vegetables-Eighth/dp/160774189X. This is truly a master work and one of the best introductions to biodynamic/ French intensive gardening methods. It includes information on fertilization, composting, seed propagation companion planting and much more.

June 28: Composting

We all know what composting is. Most of us do it. But there are a few tips that can help turn those banana peels and apple cores into Black Gold quicker than ever before.

There is a rough ratio of “Greens”(nitrogen rich material) to
“BroFullSizeRender (4)wns” (carbon rich materials), that we strive to achieve. Approximately 1 part green to 3 parts brown is recommended. Nitrogen rich additives include food scraps and fresh lawn clippings while carbon rich additives include dried leaves saw dust and straw. Carbon is the carbohydrate energy bacteria need. Nitrogen builds proteins needed for new cell walls. We also like to add activators such as finished compost and Effective Micro-organisms. These ingredients boost the organisms that accelerate the process. Air and water are the two other, often overlooked, ingredients that quicken composting time. Without proper airflow compost can turn “anaerobic”  and starts to stink. To avoid this cut larger material before adding and turn your compost regularly. Micro-organisms require moisture to live. Compost should be watered in the summer and covered in the winter to achieve proper moisture levels.

June 21: Linda Gilkeson


We are so lucky to have Linda Gilkeson on Vancouver Island. She is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to gardening on the west coast. We suggest everyone own at least one of her books. In her latest publication she discuses the effects of climate change on our gardens and how to help our plants cope with these changes. She also updates us on pest and disease problems that have been on the rise since her last book, West Coast Gardening: Natural Insect, Weed and Disease Control. Be sure to check out her website for updates and sign up for her monthly newsletters!

June 14: Tea Gardening

Growing your own food is awesome! Growing your own tea is next level awesome. The word tea is an ancient Chinese word and technically refers to the plant Camellia sinensis, which is the 13414185_222358901490701_1181801619_nplant responsible for black, green, white and oolong tea. The word is used to describe herbal teas. Tea is also known as ’tisane’, which roughly translates to “barley water” or “medicinal drink” in Latin. Whatever your drinking pleasure may be, there is a climate that can grow your preference. As the Teafarm in North Cowichan has proven, we can grow Camellia sinensis well in our climate. The Teafarm planted their first shrubs in 2010 and are just now harvesting their tea, hosting the “premier tea harvest” on July 1, 2016, at their farm on Richards Trail Rd. Lucky for you, herbal tisane lovers, there are many options to wet your whistle! From camomile to mint you can grow a plethora of plants that are perfect to infuse. Here are a few easy to grow, great tasting favourites. MONARDA spp: This delicious genus has many great tea plants. Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm, and Oswego tea are some favourites. All species exude a fragrant and somewhat spicy essential oil with Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) being reminiscent of Bergamot oranges which are used to flavour Earl Grey tea. OCIMUM spp: Basil has such a wide palate of flavours from the exotic Clove and Cinnamon, to the tropical Lemon and Lime varieties. African blue and Tulsi are perennial species that have such unique flavors that they have to be tasted to fully appreciate. AGASTACHE spp: Anise Hyssop or Korean Mint is one of those plants that has an intense licorice sweetness and is great alone or in a herbal blend. It is very easy to start your herbal tea plants from seed and there are many great seed companies on Vancouver Island to chose from. Camellia sinensis plants can be found at Dinter’s nursery from time to time and really have to be babied. Photo Credit: www.rhs.org.u

June 7: Garlic

Garlic has been in cultivation for over 7000. We use it as a delicious edible and a powerful medicinal. There are many varieties and it can be big business for small farms. It is an excellent crop to get farmers through the winter because it stores so well. Although rather labor intensive to plant, once it is in the ground it is really care free. This is the time o13385640_1613327868959480_484618360_nf year that we start the harvest process. The two main species are hardneck and soft neck. Hardneck garlic produces scapes which can be harvested before the bulb and are great raw in salads, cooked in stir fries or pickled. Soft neck garlic is excellent for braiding and stores better than hard neck. With high temperatures coming earlier and earlier the harvest seems to b following suite. Garlic scapes can be harvested any time after they appear and studies show that, depending on soil conditions, cutting the scapes can increase the bulb size. Garlic bulbs are ready to harvest when two thirds of the leaves turn yellow. Gently pull the whole garlic plant from the ground and soil from the bulb. You can then hang to dry in bunches or lay on screens making sure that there is adequate air flow. Allow your garlic to cure for at least a month then cut the stocks two inches up the neck the of the bulb and snip off the roots. Store in a cool dark place with good ventilation. Enjoy!

May 31: Weeds

What is a weed? Weed is not a technical term, so much as a preferential term. Weeds can be described as a plant in the wrong place. But why is it there in the first place? Well, there are a few things that weeds do better than their rivals, our cherished cultivated plants. They are often better reproducers, and nutrient scroungers. Dandelion, for example, can reproduce through both root division and seed. A single Dandelion plant can produce 2000+ se13267394_286000448409416_332872088_neds, that can be distributed 4+ kms. They also have deep taproots that, when cut, will grow a new plant. The great thing about dandelion is that it is an incredibly useful, tasty and medicinal plant. All parts are edible. Ironically, Dandelion leaves are one of the pricier greens in a grocery store. As well, Dandelion roots make a delicious liver tonic tea. The issue is, when weeds enter our garden space, they seem to invade! How do we manage this? Our first approach is to pull the weed. Like the aforementioned Dandelion, it’s often necessary to pull the whole root, which can be tough. We recommend using a hori hori (see below). While this might work for most plants, one of the worst, albeit beautiful, weeds is the Field Bindweed. This nasty number has deep and long rhizomes, that can be propagated from a tiny cutting, and the seeds can last in the soil for 20 years. We find the best way to get rid of it is to blast it with a Horticulture Vinegar solution:

  • 3 cups Horticulture Vinegar 25%
  • 3 tbsp Natural Dish Soap
  • 1/3 cup Salt

While some weeds can be integrated in to our gardens, the fact remains that some can have an extremely negative impact on native species. Remember to slow down the spread of unwanted plants by pulling off flower heads and take time to familiarize yourself with the invasive species list.