Extend the Growing Season
Season Extension Techniques for Winter Gardening

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
October 1, 2019

By warming the soil and protecting plants from the rain and cold, gardeners can gain weeks or months of additional growing time at both ends of the season.

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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How to Save Tomato Seeds
Slideshow: Saving Your Favourite Tomatoes for Next Season

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 26, 2019

If you enjoy eating tomatoes ripe from your garden, consider saving the seed of some of this season’s harvest for next year. Saving tomato seeds is easy. The basic rule is to choose heirloom and open-pollinated tomatoes for seed saving rather than hybrids, because cross-mated hybrid tomatoes will not produce true copies.

In nature, fruits such as tomatoes ferment before detaching their seeds from the pulp. If you want to save tomato seeds, you need to “wet process” the seeds in much the same way nature does. (Article continues below slideshow.)

Slideshow: Step-by-Step How to Save Your Own Tomato Seeds

 

Choose a ripe, healthy, open-pollinated tomato for seed saving. This is a Stupice tomato.
Cut the tomato and scoop the seeds, gel and juice into a cup.
Add 1/2 cup of filtered water and let the tomato gel set for 3 days to ferment.
As it ferments, the mixture becomes cloudy and the seeds come loose from the jelly.
After 3 days, pour off any mould and floating seeds and capture the rest with a strainer.
Rinse the seeds under running water.
The tomato seeds should be as free from the gel as possible.
Dump the seeds onto a paper towel and spread them out.
When the seeds are completely dry, save them in a sealed container for planting.
Choose a ripe, healthy, open-pollinated tomato for seed saving. This is a Stupice tomato.


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Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Slideshow: Flowers and Herbs that Draw Pollinators to the Garden

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 1, 2019

Beneficial insects can be a gardener’s best resource for protecting crops against destructive pests. Beneficials include pollinators, predators and parasites. By attracting a large enough population of helpful bugs to counteract plant damaging insects, you can keep your garden healthy using nature’s method of pest control.

White, pink or crimson Cosmos are advantageous flowers for the garden. Cosmos attracts pollinating insects as well as hover flies, parasitic wasps, lacewings and lady bugs.
Hyssop is one of the best plants for attracting pollinators like butterflies, bees and hover flies. Strong-scented hyssop repels white cabbage butterflies by masking the smell of brassicas nearby with its aroma. Related members of the Labiatae family, including mint, lemon balm, cat nip, pennyroyal are excellent attractors of tachinid flies, hover flies and parasitic wasps.
Dill and members of the Apiaceae family such as fennel, parsley, coriander, lovage, angelica and flowering carrots are powerful attractors of beneficial lady bugs, parasitic wasps, hover flies, tachinid flies, lacewings—all useful for controlling garden pests.
Yarrow is a good perennial for natural pest protection. The tiny yarrow flowers attract bees, aphid-eating lady bugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps.
Calendula (pot marigold) and other marigolds draw pollinating bees and butterflies to the garden. They also attract protective hover flies, lady bugs, and parasitic wasps. The older varieties of marigolds have stronger aromas. Calendula and French marigolds can repel nematodes.
Bee balm, bergamot, and other members of the <em>Monarda</em> genus attract pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and hover flies, as well as hummingbirds.
Nasturtium, with its showy orange and yellow flowers, is an old garden standby known for its protective qualities. This bright flower attracts pollinators as well as pest-fighters.
Before you pull your weeds, consider— dandelions and other flowering weeds draw beneficial insects to the garden early in the spring before other flowers have a chance to bloom. Dandelions also provide early pollen to bees.
White, pink or crimson Cosmos are advantageous flowers for the garden. Cosmos attracts pollinating insects as well as hover flies, parasitic wasps, lacewings and lady bugs.

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Protecting Mother Nature at the Ballot Box
How Ordinary People Rewrote the Laws to Protect Nature

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 7, 2019

Earlier this year, a group of people showed how quickly ordinary citizens could rewrite laws to protect nature and transition to sustainable farming. It took just four months.

Bavaria’s Campaign to Save the Bees

A bumblebee pollinates a flower - Protecting Mother Nature at the Ballot Box
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Green Pea Dip with Parmesan

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
June 2, 2019

RECIPE

If you want to add more plant-based protein foods to your diet, green pea dip is a simple, nutritious choice. This fresh, light dip is an alternative to chickpea hummus, and is high in protein, minerals and vitamins.

A bowl of bright green pea dip, a fresh light appetizer or spread. Green Pea and Parmesan Dip.Green pea dip makes a good appetizer or a lunch spread, and is a stand-out at dinner parties with its amazing bright colour.

You can make green pea dip with frozen peas, or with fresh shelled peas from the garden. If using fresh, it takes about three pounds of peas in the pod to produce three cups of shelled peas.

Peas, once out of their pods, begin to lose their natural sweetness and become more starchy. So, unless you use them just after shelling, they will lose some of their sweet flavour. Luckily, because frozen peas are quickly chilled just after shelling, they retain their natural sugars and work perfectly in this recipe.
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A Low-Carbon Citrus Greenhouse in Canada
Growing Subtropical Fruit with Minimal Inputs for Heat, Water and Nutrients

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
May 7, 2019

On Salt Spring Island, in Canada’s Pacific maritime climate, oranges and avocados flourish in an innovative, energy-conserving greenhouse. The subtropical fruit greenhouse, called simply “The Garden,” uses renewable energy, thermal mass, nutrient cycling, and rainwater harvesting to grow citrus fruits with minimal inputs. (Article continues below video.)

Video: Growing a Sustainable Citrus Garden in Canada


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

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
March 24, 2019

Is eating organic worth it? A new 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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Did Cooking Make Us Smarter?
The Recipe for Improved Intelligence

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
February 21, 2019

What did the advent of cooking bring to human development? Scientific evidence suggests cooking our food may have made us more intelligent.

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where humans evolved. Did cooking make us human?

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania


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Bringing Back Ancient Grains and Seeds
Growing Old World Grains in Gardens and on Small Farms

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 17, 2019

Ancient grains are making a comeback, as farmers, millers, artisan bakers and diners seek them out for their exceptional flavour, nutrition, and low-gluten content.

The heritage wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa and flax at Dan Jason’s farm come in many colours. In August, at Salt Spring Seeds, the fields shimmer with blue, gold, and purple seeds and grains. Not the kind you’d see on the large industrial farms of the prairies, but old world varieties that grow today much as they did thousands of years ago. (Article continues below video.)

Video: Bringing Back Ancient Grains & Seeds


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Oh No, Not the Beer!
Barley, Hops, and the Future of Beer

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 6, 2019

Beer lovers take note: barley a key ingredient in beer is in trouble around the world.

Glass of Beer. Oh No, Not the Beer: Barley, Hops, and the Future of Beer.A recent article in Nature Plants warns that increasing episodes of extreme drought and heat due to climate warming will cause a decrease in world barley production. Today, beer is brewed most commonly from partially germinated (malted) barley. To find out about the effects of climate change on beer, researchers modeled the effects of more frequent droughts and heat waves on 23 barley-growing regions around the world. Under the worst case conditions, barley yields would decrease by 17% and beer prices would double on average.

In bartender speak, low barley supply means less brew to satisfy the world’s surging thirst for this popular beverage. Beer is the third most consumed liquid after water and tea, and the most popular alcoholic drink in the world. So rising costs for this valuable drink will quickly become visible to consumers.

How Beer Got Started

Farming began 10,000 years ago with the domestication of wild wheats and barley. As these grains became the food mainstay, early farmers discovered grain fermentation, and the resulting alcoholic drink we call beer. By the time the pyramids were under construction in ancient Egypt 5,000 years ago, the workers were paid in vegetables, grain, and alcohol. In 2017 the world produced approximately 140 million tons of barley, 20% of which goes for brewing beer.

Although well adapted to a wide range of climates, barley prefers temperate regions such as the northern prairies of North America. Barley does not like extreme heat and drought, which brings us to climate change…
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Colourful Scalloped Potatoes

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
November 25, 2018

RECIPE
This scalloped potato recipe celebrates the diverse colours and flavours of the much loved, yet humble potato. Red, yellow, blue and white potatoes add colour and nuanced taste to this potato classic. Make with any combination of potato colours and varieties. Topped with cheese, scalloped potatoes are a traditional favourite for special dinners and prepare-ahead entertaining.

Serves 6
Baking time: 1 hour
Colourful Scalloped Potatoes recipe. Sliced red, yellow and blue potatoes in a baking dish.6 to 8 potatoes of varied colours (red, yellow, blue, white), thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
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