Extend the Growing Season
Season Extension Techniques for Spring, Fall, and Winter Gardening

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
February 20, 2024

Looking for ways to extend the growing season? By warming the soil and protecting plants from the rain and cold, gardeners can gain weeks or months of additional growing time in early spring, fall, and winter.

Season extension does not need to be costly—especially when you use scrap and natural materials already at hand. Mulches, raised beds, wind protectors, and surroundings designed to capture the sun’s heat are just a few of the low-cost and no-cost ways available to resourceful gardeners. (Article continues below slideshow.)

Slideshow: 10 Ways to Extend the Growing Season

Leaf mulch warms a row of parsnip plants in winter. Dark-coloured mulches such as leaves, wood chips, or black plastic will warm the soil more than light-coloured materials.
Mulch, such as straw or dried grass clippings, can warm the soil during cold seasons and help retain soil moisture during hotter months. When mulching around plants, take care to leave air space around the stems.
Burlap coffee sacks, (available free from coffee roasters) make good mulch material or pathway liners. In addition to warming the soil, they also help to suppress weeds.
Water-filled containers, such as 2-liter plastic milk jugs, can help warm seedlings. During the day the sun heats the water in the jugs. This continues to provide warmth and wind protection for the plant after the sun goes down.
Cold frames will stand up to wind, rain and snow to provide warmth and protection for plants throughout the winter. Old windows are excellent choices for cold frame tops. Scrap wood, hay bales, large stones, or bricks make good materials for the frame.
Hoop-style covered supports that span across a garden bed can protect seedlings or established plants. Thick-gauged wire, fiberglass garden rods or bent pvc pipe can form the supports.  Plastic tarps (3 mil or higher), bed sheets, or Reemay (a polyester fabric that allows in light) are common coverings.
Wind protection can make a huge difference, especially in early spring. Planting near existing walls or fences offers protection against cold wind. You can also build temporary wind breaks with plastic or other materials.
Traditional cloches are bell-shaped glass covers placed over individual plants to protect them. Translucent plastic 4-liter milk jugs with the bottoms cut out will serve the purpose. By removing the cap, air can circulate in the cloche, while still providing warmth. A tall stick through the opening helps to anchor the cloche.
Raised garden beds, whether built in neat cedar boxes or by simply mounding up soil, will capture the warmth of the sun and give plants an advantage. The cool air sinks down to the surrounding pathways. Adding stones or gravel to the surrounds is another way to capture heat.
Plants situated against a sunny south-facing wall or fence often bear fruit larger and longer than in less protected areas. With extra warmth and wind protection, these locations are especially good for heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers.
 
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Leaf mulch warms a row of parsnip plants in winter. Dark-coloured mulches such as leaves, wood chips, or black plastic will warm the soil more than light-coloured materials.


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Roasted Parsnips

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 21, 2024

RECIPE

Home fries with an attitude! If you haven’t tried parsnips, you’re missing out on a great local winter vegetable. Similar to carrots, parsnips are root vegetables with a sweet, nutty flavour that mellows when roasted. The trick with parsnips is to steam them first in the oven, and then roast them to ensure they are evenly cooked.

Roasted Parsnips - Recipes and Cooking Tips for Seasonal Winter Vegetables


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Seasonal Eating to Beat High Food Prices
Save on Groceries, Eat Healthy Foods, and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
December 7, 2023

Seasonal eating can cut your food bills and your carbon footprint at the same time.

When energy was cheap and the climate was more predictable, you might have given no thought to eating fresh tomatoes or cucumbers in mid-winter. But times have changed. Now, the high cost of fuel is making it expensive to transport food long distances. And, on the farm, climate-driven droughts and unpredictable weather events are impacting crops. So how can we eat better in these changing times?

Beets and carrots. Seasonal eating to beat high prices.
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12 Vegetables You Can Grow in Winter
A Guide to Planting and Harvesting Winter Vegetables

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
November 1, 2023

If grocery-store produce has you wishing for something fresh from the garden in winter, consider this: you can grow a surprising number of vegetables throughout the winter in our moderate south coast BC maritime climate. (Article continues below slideshow.)

 

Winter Salad Greens include arugula, bok choi, chicories, lettuce, mache, mustards and spinach. They grow slowly due to low light. Mulch well, and harvest as baby greens or braising mix.
Broccoli can survive most cool maritime winters but may not tolerate sustained freezing weather. Plant a sprouting broccoli variety for a continuous crop of side shoots throughout the winter.
Brussels sprouts are very hardy, and frost makes them sweeter. If you plant in June, they are ready to eat by November or December.
Certain carrot varieties, such as Danvers, store well in the ground. Sow in July, size them up by October, and pull them fresh in the winter.
Chard is frost-hardy and will make it through most winters. Sow from April to June for fall and winter harvest.
Collards are hardy and survive all winter in a coastal marine climate. The large leaves make good wraps.
Kale is one vegetable you can count on throughout the winter. It is easy to grow and hardy, even in freezing temperatures. The leaves become sweeter after a frost.
Leeks are a great onion substitute that grow fresh in cold weather. Slow to mature, they need to be planted in the spring for the fall and winter harvest.
Curly parsley reliably survives the cold, even on frosty days, and provides a leafy garnish. Hamburg parsley, grown for the root, can be harvested from September to March and cooked like any root vegetable.
Parsnips are similar to carrots. If well mulched, they will store well under the winter soil and provide a delicious root vegetable for roasting.
Scallions are Spanish onions that due to low winter light do not form a bulb during cold weather. Protect with mulch and pull them fresh throughout the winter.
Turnips can be a good early winter root crop. Pick them small for milder flavour. Best grown under a cloche or tunnel.
 
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Winter Salad Greens include arugula, bok choi, chicories, lettuce, mache, mustards and spinach. They grow slowly due to low light. Mulch well, and harvest as baby greens or braising mix.


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Pumpkin Apple Bread

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
October 6, 2023

RECIPE

This recipe for Pumpkin Apple Bread pairs two fall favourites, pumpkins and apples, in a deliciously spiced bread. Moist and full of flavour, this sweet bread works well with canned or fresh pumpkin and almost any kind of apple. To capture the taste of the season, try using a fresh pie pumpkin (sugar pumpkin)—just bake, scrape out the pumpkin’s flesh, and puree it in a food processor.

Pumpkin Apple Bread
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A Handful of Walnuts Can Help Your Heart
A Rich Plant-Based Source of Omega-3s

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
September 12, 2023

A handful of walnuts a day could make a great difference to the health of your heart, research shows.

A handful of walnuts can help your heart

Walnuts are an important plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

In a study in the journal Metabolism in 2013, German physicians confirmed that walnuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. By eating just a handful of raw walnuts (43 grams/1.5 ounces) each day for eight weeks, subjects improved their blood lipid profiles, bringing about a significant six percent reduction in heart disease risk.

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10 Tips for Year-Round Vegetable Gardens
Best Techniques for a Sustainable Four-Season Garden

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 3, 2023

Gardeners often ask how they can grow and harvest vegetables all year long. Here are our top ten tips for a sustainable, organic year-round garden:

Plant a winter garden. Tips for a sustainable year-round garden.


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Tests Reveal Benefits of Eating Organic
Surprising Pesticide Levels From Eating Conventional Foods

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 2, 2023

Is eating organic worth it? A study in the journal Environmental Research says yes. The research, conducted on four families across the United States, offers a snapshot of how pesticides in our food accumulate in our bodies.

Video: Organic for All  (from Friends of the Earth Action)

The Test: Conventional vs. Organic Diet


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Quinoa, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
June 6, 2023

RECIPE

This refreshing salad combines the tang of sweet cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and garlic with quinoa in a fresh basil vinaigrette. For a sharper flavour contrast, try this salad with crumbled feta or blue cheese.
Quinoa, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. BC Farms and Food.
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Plant a Bee Attracting Garden
Urban Gardeners Can Help Provide Habitat for Bees

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
April 26, 2023

By planting native flowers, plants and herbs, you can create habitat in your garden and help rebuild threatened bee populations.

Mason bee on a pear blossom. Plant a Bee Attracting Garden.

A mason bee on a pear blossom in a bee garden.

Most of us are familiar with honey bees. In addition, Canada has 800 species of native bees, ranging from tiny black foragers to blue orchard bees and yellow-striped bumblebees. The survival of these important pollinators is essential to the reproduction of approximately three-quarters of the fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs we eat.
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How Open Source Seeds Can Increase Food Security
Keeping Seeds in the Public Domain

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
March 22, 2023

Open source seeds increase food security by keeping seeds in the public domain.

Open Source Seeds

As community food movements bloom across North America, their efforts to provide food security face a nearly invisible threat from multinational seed patent holders like DuPont and Monsanto (Bayer)—the loss of public domain seed. Unlike traditional seeds, which have been passed down from generation to generation, patented seeds cannot be saved, replanted or shared by gardeners and farmers.
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