Good-bye Port Royal Community Gardens. This would have been my fifth summer gardening with you, but life is taking me in a different direction.
I learned so much from the amazing people at PRCG. Thank-you so much to those that took the time to teach me about gardening on the west coast. The experience was incredibly positive and I am so happy that I lucked out on getting to know such a fantastic group of people.
Below are some pictures from the garden that I took at the last meeting. I have to admit, I was a little teary eyed as I wandered through the beds. A lot of hours have been spent there, digging and weeding and (best of all!) harvesting.
As a parting note, I must say that if you don't have garden space of your own (or if you simply don't have enough!), you should definitely look into community gardens in your area. They are a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow gardeners, learn new skills, and increase your yields.
Of course, there are challenges as well. There are the challenges of pests and disease that do have a tendency to spread from plot to plot and, as in my case, sometimes the gardens aren't located close enough to be truly convienient. However that doesn't mean that you won't find them a good fit for you! Be open minded and see what is available in your area. I know that I will carry my time at PRCG in my heart for the rest of my life. I am a better gardener (and a better person) for having spent time as a member of that garden.
It has been a beautiful week on the west coast! I have been thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. Trips to the aquarium, chinese gardens, snowshoeing and visits to various neighborhood parks have filled up my days. Today I decided to visit Port Royal Community Garden to see if I could catch my tulips in bloom and to check on the garlic I planted back in the fall. On both accounts I was pleasantly surprised!
I will not be growing a garden in my plot this season so this is the last of my contribution to the beautiful Port Royal Community Gardens. That means that there will be at least one plot available next season for those on the waiting list! My time here has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have met some incredible people and learned so much about gardening on the coast. Although I am looking forward to having a little garden plot of my very own, the PRCG will always have a very special place in my heart.
Happy Solstice everyone!
Here it is the first day of summer and already I am enjoying the fruits (well, veggies) of my labour.
Last week it was radishes and this week, lettuce. I also harvested four large ziplock bags of arugula for the food bank, which always makes me smile.
My garden plot is already full, although that is due in large part to the massive carrot I have growing. Interesting thing to note: next to sweet peas, carrot flowers are the best smelling thing in the world.
I'm looking forward to a summer of abundant harvest. Garlic will be coming soon, then hopefully zucchini or squash (I'm not quite sure which it is), and an ongoing harvest of lettuce and swiss chard.
Peas and beans will be not too far behind, I hope. I've planted sweet peas and edible peas together and I'm excited to eat/smell the results.
Definitely have a few challenges facing me right now - my strawberries have leaf blight and I found slugs in my lettuce today - but I kind of like the never ending challenges my garden is giving me this year. I feel like I am constantly learning and growing as a gardener.
My balcony garden is going insane - I have a nasturtium that is probably five feet long and my mint is growing like a weed (although no surprise there, really).
Have a peek at how things look heading into the peak growing months of 2011:
Have you had any successes you would like to share? Questions about things I have grown? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Early May planting is yet another reason I love living in Vancouver. Of course, this year we haven't really seen much sun so I might have been a little preemptive, but I just couldn't wait any longer!
This past weekend the ladies and I got together and harvested the winter crop from the plot, then threw in seedlings and seeds for the first round of summer planting. We had a nice (albeit small) cabbage and tons of gorgeous kale to donate to the food bank.
The first round of summer planting consisted of my zucchini, squash, and cuke seedlings (fingers crossed that they make it!), some marigolds and nasturtium seedlings to attract the good bugs and deter the bad, and radishes, beets, arugula, and swiss chard from seed. I think that's everything! We are still waiting on the garlic to be ready to harvest, and we have left the broccoli sprouts and kale in the ground to flower so that we can save some seeds for next year.
After that I planted my personal plot. Peas, sweet peas, beans (all pre-soaked overnight to encourage faster germination), radishes, carrots, romaine lettuce, and swiss chard seeds all made it into my space. I also put in squash, zucchini, and cucumber seedlings, as well as nasturtium and marigolds. I still have tulips, garlic, and brocolli in my bed that over wintered (not to mention strawberries and pansies) so it's going to be a very full plot this year!
Pictures to come, I forgot my camera on Sunday.
After I got home it was time to tackle the balcony. My amazing husband finally took apart the BBQ and lined it with poly so I could throw in some dirt and turn it into a planter. I have put a nasturtium and some sweet pea seeds in, but will wait until after the plant sale this weekend to plant the rest.
I also planted another round of seedlings (mostly herbs and flowers) and I'm hoping to add them to the balcony garden by early July.
In the meantime, I have some sweet peas climbing on the railing and some night scented stalk peeking out of the dirt. This year I've completely changed the way I've done my balcony garden, so I'm excited to see how it turns out!
Speaking of which, more about balcony gardens next entry - how to deal with common problems and steps you can take to keep your plants healthy and out of harms way.
What a beautiful spring day on the west coast! 14 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
I made good use of my time today, despite being a wee bit under the weather from a rather late night. I went to the garden this morning to put some concrete blocks in my garden and to check on my plants there.
*The concrete blocks are for me to step on when I need to go into my bed to weed, plant, etc. My stepping only on these blocks I can hopefully avoid compacting the rest of the dirt in my plot.
I haven't planted anything in my plot yet since it's still been very cold at night, but I'm hoping to put some plants in very, very soon.
After returning home from the garden I finished cleaning of the balcony and figuring out the set up for the year. I bought a couple pots to put on the outside of my balcony for flowers, and by rearranging a few things I found that this year not only do I have room to sit on the deck with friends, but I actually have more room for plants! I planted a few seeds (Evening Night Shade, Zinnias) and I'm excited to see what they will do.
Then I came back into my "potting shed" (read - kitchen) and repotted my basil and nasturtiums, as well as a cactus that has been looking rather sad lately. I put my zucchinis, cukes, squash, and melons outside for a few hours today as well, to start "hardening them off". If it warms up a bit I hope to have them planted in the garden in a couple weeks.
Lesson learned regarding squash-type plants - they grow quickly and the stems have a tendency to break, so next year I will start them later (maybe mid April) so that they will have less opportunity to be damaged before it's time to plant them in the garden plot.Some of my squash and zucchini startsMore seedlings!My tomatoes - I have about fifteen healthy tomato starts right now.
I was treated to a free and informative compost presentation at my local community garden meet-up last night, yet another reason to love the community garden experience! As far as composting goes, I had no idea it was so simple. Up until yesterday I simply threw things into the community composter bins without thinking much about it. I'd talked to friends with worm bins on their balconies and had even grown up with a compost (my mother was doing it longer before it was cool :)) but honestly until last night I was fairly uninformed about the entire process.
Very simply put, composting is the breaking down of organic matter into nutrients by microbes and macrobes in the soil. Microbes are little bugs you can't see, macrobes are the big guys like worms that you get to pick through when taking out your beautiful, black soil to add back into the garden.
There are a few ways you can compost, depending on how much space you have and how much compost you need. A great start for apartment dwellers are worm bins that you can keep on your balcony. I don't have any personal experience with these, however, but there is a great write up on this Savvy Gardener site, and another more basic one here on WikiHow.
I compost in large bins at my community garden with 75 other households, which is definitely a task in cooperation! Learning what should and should not go in the bins, what the most effective way of composting is (think small pieces! surface area is everything) and how to harvest compost for growing in your garden are all things that I have learned since joining the Port Royal Community Garden.
The entire presentation can be found here (thanks Jean!!) but below are some pointers that should help anyone looking to set up a large bin compost:
1. Decide what kind of bin will work best for you. Cheapest and easiest are the stationary large plastic bins (dark coloured, especially black, work best) but you will need to have tools to turn the compost manually. You can also get rotating bins, but these are considerably more expensive.
2. Place your bin in an accessible, sunny location.
3. Put in food stuffs! A good balance of greens and browns (food waste, yard trimmings, etc) make for the best compost. If you find your compost is too wet, you can add new paper clippings to soak up some of the moisture.
4. Allow the composter to do its work! It's not a bad idea to have a couple composts going that will be at different points in the process. At PRCG we have two that are ready for harvest and two that are currently taking fresh food stuffs. A thermometer can be helpful at this stage as compost naturally heats up and needs to be at a specific temperature (I believe around 140 - 160 degrees Farenheit) for optimal performance.
5. Harvest your compost by sifting it into a bucket and mixing it into your garden soil. Try to make sure all the worms stay in the compost as they are very important in the process!
A great website for all things compost is How to Compost.org.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend two very different but equally awesome seed exchanges in the MetroVancouver area.
The first was at the Terra Nova Sharing Farm in Richmond, B.C. Although a good friend of mine has been working at this farm for over a year, it was my first visit to this agricultural oasis in the midst of Richmond suburbia.
This seed exchange had local vendors, veggie chili by donation, and had the advantage of being held on the farm site, so you could meander through the community gardens, incubator farms and marshes that make up Terra Nova.
And, of course, it had a seed exchange table where I picked up some corn, bean, sunflower, and melon seeds (which I cannot wait to try!!!). Some of these seeds were kind of old, so I'm doing some fast germination to see if they are still viable - more about this in a later entry.
All in all it was a wonderful couple of hours. I was able to see the amazing things that are happening in this pocket of the city. It's well worth a visit if you're ever in the area.
If you are interested in learning more about urban agriculture or becoming a part of the Natural Urban Growers CSA (community supported agriculture) weekly food bins check out these links:
(NUG is also on Facebook and both are on Twitter, I believe, but these links will get you started!)
So that was my Saturday.
Sunday I went to the seed exchange organized by the New Westminster Community Garden group at the New West public library. This was a seed focused event, but the variety of seeds was greater and I was treated to a fantastic presentation on growing your own seedlings.
The New West Community Garden Society is a very proactive and organized group of people looking to create a vibrant and successful growing community in the New West area. Below are some links to contact information for people interested in learning more about this organization.
https://groups.google.com/group/new-westminster-community-gardens?hl=en" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">New Westminster Community Gardens Google Group
Also, here is a link to the New West Community Gardens FB group!
As readers of this blog know, I have already begun my own seedlings. However, I did learn a few things at this event that will definitely guide me in my future planting endeavors. I will go into more detail about the things that I learned in my next entry.
The biggest thing I learned about seed exchanges? Come prepared! If possible, bring seeds with you AND bring little envelopes to put seeds in. That way, you can only take the number of seeds that you actually need (for example, I only took half a dozen sunflower and bean seeds, as I simply don't have room for many plants) and you can share all those extra seeds in your packets with other gardeners. It also helps if you know a bit about the seeds to share; for example, if you've grown them before and any issues you might have had with them.
Also, next year I intend to do seed saving with all the plants that grow well in my garden, so that I can share these next year with other gardeners in the area. The benefit to this is, of course, that we already know these varieties of plants grow well in the area.
There was also talk of a seed saving workshop in the fall - I'll definitely be posting about that if it happens.
We had our annual planning meeting last night at the Port Royal Community Gardens. I am really excited for the year ahead. I am involved with the food bank plot again (yippee!) and I am hoping to organize a garden-wide food donation program to double our donations in 2011.
In addition, I am going to be helping out with the garden compost. I am really excited to learn more about this process as I have been really impressed with the impact composting has had on both minimizing the garbage in my home and amending the soil in my plot.
I will be continuing to do PR work for the garden as well, and I will be using this blog to showcase all the beautiful gardens and exciting events the PRCG has planned for this growing season.
Finally, I will also be helping to organize potlucks for our gardening community. I'm really stoked about this in particular. It's been a long time since I've had a good group of people to potluck with, and going to a potluck where I can enjoy food that I've seen planted, tended, and harvested, well, what could be better??
So here's to the 2011 growing season - may it be even more bountiful and fulfilling than 2010!
This is the first year I've really had to deal with pests in a garden, but I feel as though I am getting a thorough education!
I planted my winter garden at the beginning of September in the hopes of getting my seedlings well established before the frost hits (this usually happen in Vancouver sometime in late October/early November).
What I forgot was that, along with warm and moist early fall weather also comes...bugs. Aphids, caterpillars, mites...I've got'em all right now, sadly.
My poor, poor plants.
But on the plus side, I also have arsenal to fend them off - and don't worry, it's organic.
There are a few ways of getting rid of invasive bugs on your plants.
One way is with "companion planting", when you plant other things (often marigolds, nasturtiams, garlic, etc) near plants that are likely to attract nasty things. This is usually best done before you have an infestation, so for me at this time, not the way to go. I do have plans next spring to plants lots of marigolds from seeds I saved this year, so hopefully that will help make my plants less of a buffet next year.
Another way is by introducing predators into your garden. Spiders and ladybugs are both creatures that will devour things like aphids and caterpillars. (Spiders are in no way related to Spider Mites, so don't kills spiders thinking you are helping your garden, because you are not!!!) Spiders kind of just show up so they aren't really a proactive option, but you can buy ladybugs at most garden stores and introduce them to your garden. However, you can't make ladybugs stay in your garden...as the age old saying goes "you can lead a ladybug to apids but you can't make them eat". Or something like that.
The third option (the one I chose) is spraying.
Not with chemicals, mind you, but with organic pest control sprays. I personally used a potion that was:
1 part vinegar
3 parts water
1 squirt veggie based dish soap (all natural plant products only, got it at Wal-Mart, of all places)
I shook it all up and sprayed it on my plants. I also picked off all the little green caterpillars I saw and took great delight in smushing them.
Little green caterpillar eating one of my plants.
One word of caution about spraying is that it is not selective. It will kill the good bugs as well as the bad, so if you want to attract positive insect life to your garden be sure you aren't killing them when you spray.
I know for next time to be more careful when purchasing seedlings and introducing them to my gardens. I bought the plants from a respectable garden store (that shall remain nameless, although I will say that I have mentioned them before!) but I have learned that is no guarantee against pests.
Ahhh the joys of nature!
New Westminster is a wonderful place to live.
It is a beautiful old city, with character homes, hundred year old buildings in downtown, and beautiful parks with huge trees and gorgeous municipal gardens.
Roses blooming in the Rose Garden at Queen's Park
However, being such an old city means that much of the green space (other than the parks) has already been eaten up by development. Condos are springing up all over the small urban area, completely changing the dynamic of neighborhoods that had been the same - and in many cases stagnant - for years. Lots of young families are squeezing into the city and are finding that, although the living is cheaper and the city is convenient and charming, the lack of greenspace makes it hard to raise active children.
My stepson at a local park.
What can be done? How can we create communities out of condo-dwellers? Where can we find the space for children to play and thrive?
I think the answer is that, as a city, we need to set aside as much green space for community use as possible. This could mean building a park for every condo complex that goes up, adding community gardens to every municipal park in the city, and encouraging people in New West that have space to share it with those of us stuck living in our 800 square foot apartments.
The movement is already happening - three community gardens already exist in New West, two due to the work put in by the New Westminster Community Garden Association (newly formed in 2009). A great write up about this inititive can be found in this article in The Record.
Having a space where people in the area can meet up and develop relationships is essential in building a community. New West already has a head start in this department, with parks scattered throughout the city so that pretty much everyone is within walking distance of some kind of green space.
But I think we can do better! I think we can find more places to grow things and I think that members of the community can take more of an initiative in creating and caring for these green places. We need to make our parks a place that we all care for, not just pretty green areas that we take the occassional stroll through.
New West is a growing, thriving city that is currently undergoing a dramatic shift in its composition. We need to take action now, before people settle back into complacency.
New West at night, looking south to the Fraser River from Queen's Street