What a great idea! Wish I'd thought of that ...

Here are notes from our Gardeners' Information Exchanges. During the growing season, gardeners meet to share ideas and walk about the gardens to see what everyone is doing.

Our Mid-Summer Social and Canada 150+ celebration

Summer Fiddler

.. was held under warm, sunny skies. Just a perfect day. Judging by the number of members (and potential members from the Wait List) who attended (60!), it was a huge success. It was a great opportunity to put down garden tools, relax, and socialize with fellow gardeners. It was also an opportunity to meet wannabe gardeners on the Wait List.

As usual, there was a cornucopia of food including salads, snacks, BBQ hot dogs, with all the fixings, muffins, cookies, fruit, and a beautiful cake (with the Canada 150 theme) from 6-Mile Bakery. Also there was a draw for two plants, packets of seeds, and the grand prize of two passes to Butchart Gardens. Thanks to Judy A. for arranging the passes plus a variety of seed packages.

A huge thanks to our intrepid BBQ Queen, Cathy Wetton, who did a wonderful job cooking up lots of yummy hot dogs for everyone.

Last, but not least, a big thank you to those who contributed to the feast, the set-up, and the clean-up. Without your contributions the event would not have been such a success!

Summer Fare

Barbara, Judy, Nancy, Carole

Garden Education and Socials Team

Our Second 2017 Information Exchange Session

... was held on Saturday, May 27 at 2:00 pm. What a gorgeous, warm sunny afternoon. We had another good crowd - about 30+ gardeners.

Garden Info Session
  1. The first topic of the afternoon was composting. We expect Agnes Street gardeners to either compost their old vegetable matter or remove it off-site. There are several methods of composting -- using a composter, digging in the material, or using the "chop and drop" method. This latter method works very well. Simply chop up the material and cover with mulched grass and/or leaves. By Spring everything is pretty much rotted into the soil. This method works particularly well for corn. Composting was covered in detail on two previous Garden Meet-Ups. In PREVIOUS EVENTS at right, see May 9, 2015 and May 7, 2016. The link above to our Armchair Gardener Series reviews a couple of great library books on composting as well.
  2. Planting Chart
  3. The second topic of the afternoon was planting time schedule and the weather. West Coast Seeds has a good chart for year-round planting in our region. Click here for their Vegetable Planting Chart. We've had a cold, wet Spring this year so the planting time schedule needs adjustment. Cold temperatures = cold soil, which has delayed planting certain crops. There is a very good weather site, called School-Based Weather Network Stations for Victoria weather. The closest station to Agnes Gardens is Glanford Middle School. Click here to see a "Typical Day" for today's date. Shown is the graph that's most relevant for gardeners, Typical Temperatures, which shows maximum, minimum, and average temperatures. What the data shows (since 2006 when weather data first was gathered at this station) is that this has been the coldest Spring since 2012. So, plan your garden planting accordingly! Another great weather site recommended by Judy is Ventusky.com.
  4. There was some discussion of rats and how to at least minimize the damage. Click here for an excellent write-up on our website about Rats in Compost.

    Click Beetle

    Defence against click beetle larvae (aka wireworms) was also discussed. With our cold soil this season, the conditions for the wireworm are ideal. Click beetles (long, thin, black beetles) love grass, so it's not surprising we have them at the Gardens. They lay their eggs deep in the cold soil. The eggs hatch into short, thin beige-gold wireworms. These little worms feast on plant roots of new transplants or seeds by following carbon dioxide gradients from plant material in the soil. Once the soil has heated up, the wireworms dive down to colder regions of the soil and no longer are a problem.

    To test whether you have lots of these suckers in your soil, skewer chunks of a potato with a stick and bury them 2-3 inches deep. The potato will act as a magnet to the wireworms. The click beetle life cycle is 3-4 years. There are 965 species of click beetles in North America. For a detailed Wikipedia article on these pests, click this link: Click Beetle. Judy used beneficial nematodes on her plot right after the southern end of the west side was turned into plots. This solution worked well.

    On a light side note ... Sometimes the Click Beetle serves a useful purpose as it did in Series 4 of Death In Paradise, an excellent English-French crime-comedy drama series set in the Caribbean on the fictious island of San Marie (actually Guadeloupe). The only clue is a dead Click Beetle, that is non-native to Guadeloupe.

    Carrot fly and carrot rust were discussed as well. Many gardeners grow carrots and often-times are disappointed with the results. The best way to keep the carrot fly from laying eggs around the developing carrots is to tightly cover them with fine mesh and/or plant strong-smelling companion crops around the carrot patch. For more information, click this link: Carrot Fly.

  5. Planting more with less work was another topic of our session. Linda Gilkeson, of Salt Spring Island is an advocate of this way of gardening (also known as the Ruth Stout Method). Here is an article on Ruth Stout for more discussion of her gardening legacy. In Mother Earth News there is an excellent article about Intensive Gardening by Linda which we can highly recommend. See Intensive Gardening: Grow More Food in Less Space (With the Least Work!) (takes a while to load).
  6. Judy brought a 3-year old (!) shark fin squash (Cucurbita ficifolia). Lanna (plot 41) grows these cool squashes. Nothing is wasted with this squash -- besides the squash fruit, the seeds and vines are also edible. It's known for its good storage qualities. See Wikipedia, Cucurbita Ficifolia for a picture and further information. A lot of people at the meet-up took the seeds to try out. We'd like to know how this squash worked out for you.
Garden Info Treats

The afternoon was capped off with a draw for several garden-related items, a plant exchange, and a wonderful spread of goodies brought by a number of gardeners. Thanks to all who contributed. Another Gardener Meet-up and Social event will be probably be sometime in late June or early July to coincide with Canada's sesquicentennial. Stay tuned.

Barbara, Judy, Nancy, Carole

Garden Education and Socials Team

Our First 2017 Information Exchange Session

Garden Info Session

... of the season was held on Saturday afternoon, April 1st. About 30 new and returning gardeners showed up for the Welcome Tea and Seed Exchange. The weather was cool and wet in the morning, but by the afternoon it cleared up and it was a delightful afternoon - just for us. It was gratifying to reconnect with everyone and welcome the new gardeners after what seemed to be a never-ending winter. The Gardens are extra-wet this year, so people in low-lying plots may not be able to get in and plant for a while.

There was a short orientation for the new gardeners to start off the session. Our Gardens are part of Saanich Parks. We have a lease from Saanich to operate the Gardens and have responsibilities to live up to the terms of the lease. Jan R., head of Garden Management, spoke about what's expected of all gardeners and the inspections she does periodically throughout the gardening season. Some key points: keep pathways mowed and your plot weed-free so weed seeds do not drift into your neighbours' plots. Currently we have 50+ people on the Wait List, so it's incumbent on all members to have their plot under cultivation by May 15th. By and large the Gardens look in terrific shape throughout the season.

We talked about mulching our plots to make it easier to control the weeds. The Garden has made some arrangements with local garden services to drop off clean (ie no pesticides) grass clippings. We are always in need of more. If anyone knows of a garden service that could provide us with this mulch, contact Nancy Wood @n55wood@gmail.com, who is coordinating this effort

Fancy Dog

We also talked about our wonderful website and all the great garden resources, including reviews of garden books available at the Greater Victoria Public Library. We urge all gardeners to continue visiting this website periodically. Thanks to Jan R. for the website design and lovely pictures of veggies.

Volunteering is a key component for keeping the Gardens running smoothly. There are no paid positions. Get involved, meet other gardeners and at the same time contribute to the greater good of the Gardens. See the Volunteer Task Sheet under the Members Page on our website. If you are interested, please contact one of the executive members.

All gardeners get a membership card with their plot rental, which entitles us to discounts at a number of area garden stores including Borden Mercantile, Garden Works on Blenkinsop, and Integrity Sales & Distribution.

This is the time of year to start seeds, either direct planting in the garden (cool-weather crops) and/or indoors (warm-weather crops). The West Coast Seeds catalogue has tons of useful information for gardeners. In particular there are How To Grow Guides for veggies, herbs, and flowers and the Garden Wisdom Blog.

The Seed Exchange was a huge hit as usual. Gardeners are urged to donate their excess seeds. These are kept in the blue plastic camp cooler in the wooden shed. Thanks to all who donated seeds as well as two boxes of seed potatoes. Thanks also to Diane W. for bringing a box of interesting, edible plants.

Delicious Cake

To top it all off, there were great treats (a cake from the 6-Mile Bakery, and homemade muffins & cookies that Carole W. made) and hot tea brought by Nancy W. Also, Maureen M. and her husband moved and arranged the picnic tables so we had a place to use for these treats. Thanks to you all!

Another Information Exchange session will be sometime in May. Stay tuned.

Happy Gardening -- Barbara, Judy, Nancy, Carole

Coordinators of Garden Education and Special Events

Our Final 2016 Information Exchange Session

Was held on Saturday September 24th. The day started out overcast and gloomy, but by the afternoon the weather turned bright and sunny -- just for us!

Summer Squash

We talked about a wide range of topics. People shared their harvest stories. Once again the summer weather helped big time in producing copious amounts of veggies. Unfortunately we did have theft -- peas and winter/summer squash seem to be favourites. No one bothers with the potatoes -- too much work to dig them. We also talked about preparing our garden beds for the winter (The Big Sleep). Unless there is active fall/winter gardening happening on your plot, all plots must be cleared and grass cut around the plots by the end of October. To keep the weeds from taking over, either cover plots with black plastic or lumber wrap, or mulched leaves which Saanich will be delivering later in the Fall. Preserving our harvests and fall/winter gardening were other topics discussed. All our gardener session write-ups can be found under Notices and Events above. Specific garden topics can also be found under Advice and Tips.

Baby Rates

The big topic of the afternoon was controlling the burgeoning rat population. One gardener pointed out that two factors may have contributed to this increase: the past two winters have been mild and we no longer hire a haulage company to take away compostables. However, there are specific things gardeners can do to make the rats' lives less cozy. Harvest everything is #1 otherwise we're just providing a nice smorgasbord all winter long. Be mindful of what is put in compost heaps -- avoid bread and grains, greasy foods, or those containing animal products, such as meat, fish, or dairy products.

For more information on rodent control see this write-up on our website: RATS IN COMPOST.

Do not store attractants such as fertilizer and blood meal in tool chests. Growing mint (if contained because this plant is invasive) is one natural remedy that is effective as well. Agnes Street Gardens are part of Glanford Park. Saanich does not allow pesticides and herbicide use -- so DO NOT use rat poison or any other poison. It will kill rats, but it will kill any other animal (dogs, cats, birds) that ingest the dead rats. Our lease on the land can be revoked by Saanich if we do not follow the rules.

We had two special guests -- Bob and Tika, Judy's and Wendy's little dogs. They were so cute following each other around - doggy soul-mates. :-)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Of course we had treats as we always do at these sessions. A big thank you to Carole who has volunteered to organize the refreshments at these events. She will be part of our Garden Education Team next year. Thanks also to Wendy and Judy who also brought treats to this session.

Stay tuned for our first 2017 session in late February or early March. In the meantime, there will be more gardening books posted on the Armchair Gardener Series over the winter.

Coordinators of Garden Education and Special Events

The Annual Community Garden Mid-Summer Social

Party Food

was held on Saturday afternoon, August 13th under warm, sunny skies -- just a perfect day. About 50 people attended, including some from the plot wait list. Lots of fun was had by all.

It was a wonderful opportunity for people to take a break from harvesting their bounty and socialize with fellow gardeners and, of course, partake in lots of delicious food including BBQ hot dogs with all the fixings, a wide array of snacks, watermelon, a beautiful cake from 6-Mile Bakery, muffins, cookies, and cool drinks. There was a draw for the "The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide", two passes to Butchart Gardens. Thanks to Judy Aldridge for arranging the passes plus a variety of seed packages.

Hot Dogs

A special thanks to our BBQ Queen, aka Cathy Wetton (our President), who slaved over a hot barbeque cooking up yummy hot dogs for everybody. :-) Also, thanks to Anita and Maureen who helped to select plots for inclusion in the "Explore Your Garden! A Summer Garden Treasure Map" produced by Jan Redekop (thanks Jan!). And, last, but not least, a BIG THANK YOU to all who contributed to the feast, the set-up, and the clean-up. Without your contributions the event would not have been such a success.

Coordinators of Garden Education and Special Events

Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca)

Judy Aldridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca)

Nancy Wood (n55wood@gmail.com)

Our Third 2016 Gardener Info Exchange

Third Get-Together

was held under sunny skies on Saturday afternoon on July 16th. We had a laid-back afternoon, enjoying the treats and discussing a variety of gardening topics. We talked about gardening methods - some gardeners like to mulch their plots so they do not have to be cultivating and pulling weeds on a weekly basis. Others like to get down and dirty and cultivate the soil on a regular basis. Whatever works for you is the key. Gardening, while hard work, should be fun.

We also talked about composting. There are a variety of methods that work -- the chop & drop method (chop down your veggies at the end of the season and cover with mulch); use a compost bin; or dig trenches. 18" deep should keep the critters from digging and feasting on your plot. The other alternative is to take your plant material off-site.

Most of the discussion centred around plant diseases and pests (besides the usual rodent ones) common in our Gardens. Garlic rust was a biggie. The important thing here is to rotate where garlic is planted; use sanitary practices -- clean tools used in the infected area, cut off the foliage and do not compost; and clean garden gloves and clothes after working in the area with the rust. Generally the bulbs are not affected by the rust, but it's unclear whether one should use the cloves for planting. Some websites say it's OK and others do not recommend this practice.

Squash in July

Another big problem is clubroot. Fellow gardener Diane Whitehead has written up helpful and detailed information on this disease that affects members of the cabbage family. Click on ADVICE AND TIPS above, and then on the Clubroot link. Thank you Diane for sharing this with us.

An insect that is a problem for many gardeners is the whitefly. Non-chemical means is the best way to control this insect, which feeds on the underside of leaves. In great numbers it can completely overwhelm plants, so it's important to catch it early. They are attracted to the colour yellow, so use yellow traps with sticky tape or yellow buckets filled with water. These are effective measures gardeners can take. Wikipedia has an article on whiteflies here: Wikipedia on Whitefly Companion Plants.

Happy Gardener

West Coast Seeds kindly donated about 22 copies of their 2016 Planting Guide: Spring and Summer Planting for Fall and Winter Harvests. This will be available on their website later. Spare printed copies are in the blue plastic tub that houses our give-away seeds in the wooden shed. Also, there was a nice selection of free plants donated by gardeners. The plants all went to happy homes. A big thank you those who donated the plants and brought treats and beverages. Thanks to Nancy Wood, our official photographer, for taking picture of our get-togethers throughout the gardening season.

We invite you to further explore our website. There is a wealth of garden information here!

Judy Aldridge, Barbara Irwin, Nancy Wood

Garden Education and Special Events Team

Our Second 2016 Gardener Info Exchange

was held on a gorgeous, warm Saturday afternoon on May 7th. About 25 enthusiastic gardeners attended. The afternoon started off with a discussion led by Nancy on composting techniques. One of our big initiatives in 2015 was composting, since the Garden is no longer footing the bill to have organics taken away during the annual Fall cleanup. Nancy reviewed composting basics and provided the attendees with printouts of composting techniques and companion planting. Cathy Wetton described her trench method of composting: dig trenches 18" to 24" deep and put old plant material, fish remains, crushed meat bones, etc., cover with soil, and let Mother Nature do her work. The "chop and drop" method of composting is an excellent way to compost corn stalks. Some of us tried this method last year and it's working a treat. Simply cover the pile with black plastic, mulched leaves or grass and by the next season the area is ready for planting. Thanks to Judy for this tip.

For more composting information, you can read the notes from our May 9, 2015 Information Exchange with composting expert David Stott, by clicking the link in the box at right. Another resource is the Compost Education Centre website. For a terrific book on composting basics, you can read "Composting for Canada" by Suzanne Lewis. It's available at our local public library (gvpl.ca) and is reviewed in the Armchair Gardener Series link here: Composting Book Review.

Barbara reviewed tips for controlling rats and other rodents, which are big pests at the Gardens. Now that gardeners are doing more composting on their plots, it's important we do not provide free accommodations for the rats! Do not store aromatic materials, such as blood meal or dry, organic compost in your tool boxes. It was suggested by one of our members that onions and mint repel rats. Last year Marika Smith, Executive Director of the Compost Education Centre (in Victoria), provided us with some best practice tips for rat prevention. These tips can be found on our website here: Advice and Tips: Rats in Compost

Judy reviewed the planting time schedule for our area. West Coast Seeds has a terrific chart to guide us on the optimal times for planting. The gardening season has started extra early this year so adjust the timing accordingly. The chart can be found here: West Coast Seeds Catalogue.

One of the members asked about how to control the pests nibbling on young pea plants. The plants will basically outgrow the nibblers, but a good, organic control was suggested: food-grade diatomaceous earth. It's inexpensive and can be purchased at Borden Mercantile, 3960 Borden Street. This local store (in business for 79 years) has all manner of gardening supplies. They also give Agnes gardeners a 10% discount. Remember to bring your garden card!

This session also featured a draw for 4 items, including plants and Vermi compost. The Vermi compost was donated by Laura Friesen, manager of the EARTH Gardening Program at Camosun College. Thank you Laura! Also, thanks to Cathy, Branka, and Judy for donating plants for members to take home. This is always a hit at these sessions.

Thanks to Nancy for bringing her pop-up exhibitors tent providing much-needed shade and making garden information sheets available for gardeners. Last, but not least, thanks for the treat donations! Much appreciated.

By the end of the afternoon, all plants went to happy homes. A good time was had by all :-)

Judy Aldridge, Barbara Irwin, Nancy Wood

Garden Education and Special Events Team

Our First 2016 Gardener Info Exchange

First Get-Together

Was held on Saturday afternoon March 26th. It was a combined welcome tea for new and returning gardeners and our annual seed exchange. About 25 enthusiastic gardeners attended.

Judy Aldridge, Nancy Wood, and I will be coordinating the garden education sessions throughout the 2016 season. We welcome suggestions from members on topics for future sessions. Also, if any of you have an area of garden expertise, we'd love it if you would share this expertise with other gardeners in a future session.

The Seed Exchange was a hit, judging by how many gardeners were crowded around the Seed Exchange table! Thanks to all who contributed their excess seeds. Seeds will be stored in the blue tub in the shed which houses the spare garden tools and lawnmowers. Unfortunately Diane Whitehead was unable to attend to share her great selection of heirloom tomato seeds. If you want any of her seeds, log in to the Members Page above and click the link "Diane Whitehead's List of Heirloom Tomatoes". Email her your requests (email address is on her list).

Chatting Over Seeds

We had a short orientation about Agnes Street Gardens. Our Gardens are part of Saanich Parks. We have a lease from Saanich to operate the Gardens and have responsibilities to live up to the terms of the lease, including ensuring your pathways are mowed and your plot is weed-free so weed seeds do not drift into your neighbours' plots. We have a Wait List of 52 people, so it's incumbent on all members to have their plot under cultivation by May 15th (see The Rules link for more details).

Also, all gardeners get a membership card with their plot rental, which entitles us to discounts at a number of area garden stores including Borden Mercantile, Garden Works on Blenkinsop, and Integrity Sales & Distribution. Gardeners were also reminded that there are reviews of excellent gardening-related books under the Armchair Gardener Series link above. All these books are available at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

We also talked about volunteering at the Gardens. Everything is done by volunteers (there are no paid positions). It's fun to get involved and meet other gardeners and at the same time contribute to the greater good of the Gardens. See the Volunteer Task Sheet under the Members Page. If you are interested, please contact one of the executive members.

More Chatting

Another topic discussed was getting started in the garden. If you've inherited a new plot which is not up to scratch (ie weedy), either get it rototilled before the weeds go to seed, mulch the area, or cover in black landscape cloth or plastic which is available at most lumber supply places. Usually about a month covered is sufficient to kill off most weeds. For the new gardener (or experienced gardener for that matter), it's best to plant your favourite crops, and keep the number of varieties to a minimum. As you gain experience, you can always branch out to more varieties. Let the soil dry out before working. If you can squeeze a handful of soil which crumbles, it's time to get working!

There are many ways to garden. However, the main thing is to have fun. Happy gardening!

Coordinators of Garden Education - Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca) and

Judy Aldridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca)

Nancy Wood (n55wood@gmail.com)

Last Event of the 2015 Season

Pop-up Awning

Our fifth and final Gardener Information Exchange session was held on a pleasant Saturday afternoon with about 20 people attending. There was a slight threat of afternoon showers, but once again we lucked out. Nancy very kindly brought her pop-up awning so that must have done the trick weather-wise! Thanks, Nancy. Since this was our last session of the season, we looked back at some of the topics covered in our earlier sessions and shared stories and experiences of the growing season.

Keeping the Gardens tidy: At the beginning of the session Cathy talked about the importance of keeping Agnes Gardens looking well-kept. She reminded us that we lease the land from Saanich Parks and must follow their rules and regulations or risk losing our use of the land. That means no dumping garbage and compost in the bushes and the ravine between the east and west sides and being mindful of the fact that the Gardens is part of Glanford Park and is used by a variety of people, including dog walkers

Volunteering: There was also a discussion of volunteering. The Gardens is run strictly by volunteers. Many of the current volunteers are doing multiple jobs. We need more volunteers! Please contact anyone on the Gardens Executive to volunteer. There will be sign-up volunteer sheets available at the upcoming AGM on October 9th

Composting & Winter Prep: There was lively discussion on composting and the variety of methods to use when doing insitu composting on our plots. This was one of our initiatives for garden education in 2015. It appears that most gardeners are taking advantage of this readily available compost material on their plots. We also discussed putting our plots to bed for the winter (The Big Sleep). The key is to ensure we do not allow weeds to take over during the off-season. Mulching with leaves is a good option to mitigate the growth of weeds and builds up the soil. Another option is to cover your plot with either black plastic or lumber wrap, which is available free at lumber yards.

Bountiful Peppers

Preserving the Harvest: Everyone had bountiful harvests this year, which is very gratifying. The last couple seasons we have been blessed with above average temperatures, which is great for crops such as corn, aubergines, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Preserving the harvest (one of our topics in an earlier session) generated a lot of discussion. Some gardeners do a lot of dehydrating veggies. Dehydrating garlic makes excellent garlic powder according to one gardener. We also talked about harvesting and preserving dried beans. Scarlet runner beans are a great dried bean for winter eating. Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be used to keep mould from forming on the stored beans. Another method is to dry the beans in the oven @120F for one hour before storing. There was also a good discussion on fermenting veggies

Winter Lettuce

Winter Gardening: We also discussed growing veggies over the winter. Some Agnes gardeners are doing this - particularly those who have plots on the dry side. Easy stuff to grow include lettuce (most lettuce will tolerate -10C temps. if covered with Remay), Swiss chard, and kale. Kale tastes better after a hard frost.

Of course we had treats as we always do at these sessions. Thanks to Wendy who provided hot water and tea for us. We had a draw for a Belgian mum. Cathy was the winner, which is very fitting considering all the effort and work she puts into the Gardens as President. This was our last Gardener Information Exchange session of the season. Stay tuned for our first 2016 session in February or March. In the meantime, there will be more gardening books posted on the ARMCHAIR GARDENER SERIES over the winter.

Coordinators of Garden Education - Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca) and

Judy Aldridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca)

Thank you to Nancy Wood for photography.

Mid-Summer Garden Social, August 8, 2015

Back

Social time

The Agnes Community Garden Mid-Summer Social was held on Saturday afternoon, August 8th, from noon until 3pm. It was a mostly cloudy day (unusual after all the brilliant sun we've been having for days and weeks), but the forecasted showers held off until the last half-hour or so. The event was a big success with about 50 people attending, including some from the plot wait list. Lots of fun was had by all.

Party cake

It was a wonderful opportunity for people to take a break from harvesting their bounty and socialize with fellow gardeners and, of course, partake in lots of delicious food including BBQ hot dogs, watermelon, a beautiful cake from 6-Mile Bakery, muffins, cookies, and cool drinks. Butchart Gardens donated free passes for our draw. Thanks to Judy for arranging this.

BBQ dogs

Thanks to our BBQ Queen, aka Cathy, who did yeoman's work cooking up the hot dogs for everybody. Also thanks to Nancy who brought her pop-up tent to protect us from the predicted rain and took pictures of the event. Also, thanks to Anita and Nancy who picked out selected plots for inclusion on the Garden Treasure Map Tour produced by Jan. And, last, but not least, a BIG THANK YOU to all who contributed to the feast, the set-up, and the clean-up. Without your contributions the event would not have been such a success.

Coordinators of Garden Education - Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca) and

Judy Aldridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca)

Jul 18/15 Gardener Information Exchange

Back

Our fourth Gardener Information Exchange session was held on a hot, hot, sunny Saturday afternoon. We gathered in the shade under the trees at the picnic tables. About 20 gardeners attended.

The first topic of the afternoon was preserving the harvest. Agnes Gardens produces an amazing amount of food, so unless the food is just given away, it's important to know the basics of food preservation. At the start of this session Judy and Barbara, coordinators of Garden Education, let everyone know that they are not experts and advised gardeners to consult reputable books and websites on preserving food safely. Barbara produced a list of recommended book titles (all available at the Greater Victoria Public Library) and helpful websites. If anyone wants a printed copy of this list, please email Barbara at the address below. The book titles have been posted in the Armchair Gardener Series above and the websites are posted under Great Links - Preserving the Harvest. The best book on preserving food (in my humble opinion) is Putting Food By. This is the classic book on food preservation that has stood the test of time.

Judy led off the session with a mini-talk on the methods she uses to preserve her harvest. These include drying veggies for ~1 day, and then popping them into sandwich bags for the freezer and direct freezing some of her harvest. Usually produce will last ~1 year if kept very cold in the freezer. She also grows winter squash and explained how she preserves these guys. Once the squash is ready to harvest -- she uses the "fingernail test": try to cut into the skin with your fingernail. If you cannot, cut off the stem leaving about 4", wipe off the soil, and store in a cool, dry space (a basement is ideal). Sometimes for various reasons the squash must be harvested earlier. Follow the same procedures for washing them, etc., but leave outside to cure for a week or two before bringing them inside. Immature squash will ripen inside. Check frequently for any sign of spoilage. There was some discussion about different methods of preparing the squash for storage. Some gardeners wash the squash in a mild bleach and water mixture. Squash lasts usually until the late-winter -- Buttercup longer than Butternut.

Harvesting and curing garlics was also discussed. Once the tops are mostly dried, it's time to dig up the bulbs. If garlic rust (orange-coloured speckles) is on your garlic leaves, cut them off ~2 to 3 inches above the ground and bag the leaves up for disposal. Do not compost these leaves. The bulbs will not be harmed by the rust. Clean as much of the soil as possible off the bulb and cut off the roots. Let them cure in a shaded area outside for a couple weeks. Store in mesh bags in a coolish, dry area.

Other food preservation topics discussed included drying and freezing of herbs (one neat idea was to freeze basil pureed with water into ice cube trays -- great for soups) and drying beans, such as scarlet runners and other beans. One gardener mentioned that diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide (but not harmful to humans) that protects stored food against insects that can cause damage, such as beetles and weevils.

Corn was also discussed, in particular issues regarding germination. Barbara uses thermal plastic on the squash hills and corn rows to hasten germination. Usually the seed germinates in 7 days or less. Then it is removed. She uses IRT Mulch from William Dam Seeds (http://www.damseeds.ca). It can be reused from year to year.

* * *

The second part of our session was year-round gardening led by Jeff Diekmeier, who has kindly volunteered to research this topic for us with the aim to 1) get more gardeners at the Gardens keen on gardening year-round; and 2) draft reasonable terms and conditions on what kind of structures can be left over winter for active gardening. Along with the array of books he brought to our session on this topic, he produced an excellent, detailed document on techniques for year-round gardening and building a cold frame. Here is a link to the document: Year Round Gardening.

Topics covered in this document include: planning the garden year; amending your soil; crop rotation; season extenders; many charts on gardening schedules, salad greens growing chart, organic and mineral solid feeds chart; companion plants chart; and detailed instructions for building a cold frame. Jeff also has a few extra printed copies. If you'd like one, please call him at 250-598-1738.

To assist Jeff in drafting up the terms and conditions for year-round gardening, we would love to hear your thoughts on year-round gardening, and ideas about how to support our gardeners. Please either phone him or drop by plot #26.

An annotated list of books on year-round gardening will be posted soon on the Armchair Gardener Series. After these presentations, there were tours of Cathy's, Debbie's, and Jeff's gardens. I'm constantly amazed at how creative our gardeners are. Thanks for the tours!

Last, but not least, there were scrumptious eats (as always) including fresh figs from one gardener's 17 year-old tree grown at his home. Thanks to all who contributed and special thanks to Judy who suggested watermelon. Just the ticket for a hot afternoon.

Coordinators of Garden Education -

Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca)

Judy Aldridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca)

Jun 13/15 Gardener Info Exchange and Plant Swap

Back

Our third Gardener Information Exchange session was held on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon - perfect weather. About 23 keen gardeners attended. This session featured a plant swap and a draw for garden-related giveaways, including 2 planters of flowers, summer bulbs and garden gloves. Our gardeners are always *very* enthusiastic when there are free plants on offer. The plant swaps may become a regular feature of our Info. Exchanges.

The first topic of the afternoon was a continuation of our discussions about composting and rats from our previous session on May 9th. See here for a write up on this subject plus an email from Marika Smith, Executive Director of the Compost Education Education Centre who kindly send us some advice about controlling rats in the garden and in compost bins. We shared our experiences with composting.

For those who hadn't looked at our website lately, we pointed out some cool changes Jan, our amazing website guru, made. She has made it much easier to find garden information and tips from our Gardeners' Information Exchange sessions. In Jan's words: "Advice and Tips (changed from Advice and Events) is a compilation of the tips/advice from various garden sessions with an quick-link index for each topic. Notices and Events (changed from Announcements) has the announcement for our upcoming event and links to prior events." Thanks to Jan for making our website attractive and easy to use.

The second topic was no-till till gardening, aka lazy gardening. A Google search for "no-till gardening" turns up a lot of good information. The following sites are of particular interest.

To illustrate what a no-till garden plot looks like, we toured two sites - Judy's and Barbara's gardens, plots 39 and 36 respectively. Both gave a short talk about their gardens and answered questions.

Notes on Judy's Plot

Hi everyone! At our last community gardening get together we went out as a group to look at my plot. I wrote an article about it in 2013 and basically everything is about the same except with a bit of changes. So I am using my article from 2013 and just making the necessary changes to it.

Well, about my plot. It's not tidy that's for sure, so sorry about that if that bothers anyone. I'm following no dig (sometimes called no till) and permaculture methods. Lots of info about this type of gardening on YouTube. Some people call it lazy gardening. That's okay with me as long as I get lots of food from my garden which is my goal. I was the first person to garden my plot. It was a grass field before I got it and had been rototilled only once. I forked out all the roots and placed them at the low end of my plot then I started mulching. I have only had it rototilled once in the fourteen years I have had my plot. That was about year five because I was getting some peer pressure so I tried it. I didn't like the results and it wrecked my soil structure. So I had to start all over again.

I have my Permaculture Design Certificate. People can look up permaculture on the internet and view YouTube videos if they want to learn more. I used to shallow till with my Mantis small tiller for putting in smaller seeds but I no longer even do that. I have to start my garden fairly late because I'm one of the waterlogged plots in the spring. I don't mind that, as it's also one of the ones that stay more moist in the summer hence less watering. My garden produces abundantly for the amount of effort and time I am able to give it. I have lots of perennial plants, some for food, some for the birds and bees, and lots for biomass. I have mint, Jerusalem artichokes, day lilies, gladiolus, lovage, phlox, sedum, lady's mantle, comfrey, lemon balm, four honeyberry shrubs, red currant, grape (I know I haven't trained it properly but I still get grapes), horseradish, rhubarb, raspberries, etc.

For annuals this year ... well you'll probably be able to name most of them if you come by to look. New plants I'm trying this year are some different squashes. One is supposed to last over two years in dry, cool storage. I'm also growing regular yellow corn (not my blue corn as usual), tomatillos and sunberries. I grow the nasturtiums mostly to trap black aphids but the hummingbirds love them too. I pack everything as close as I can because it keeps down weeds and plants seem to be okay with it. This is called intensive gardening (also on YouTube). Some people think of it as square foot gardening but I don't follow that actual method. I leave some areas fallow either under mulch or ground cover cloth to be used next year. That way I rotate out some perennial weeds (mostly grass) and any plant disease. I plant my tomatoes in the little wooden things so I can easily put up a cover in August to keep the late blight off them. I plant fava beans mostly to add nitrogen to the soil but I've eaten them also and they are pretty good.

What else? I have some wood there but another gardener is going to take it off my hands and build me a little tool box as a trade. Fabulous! Grass seems to be the biggest problem on my plot because I don't have the wood around the edges. I'm very happy with my little plot. I guess I believe in three things that work well: 1) No bare soil; 2) Get as much from my garden as I can; and 3) Do as much as I can with the time I have there. I hope everyone gets lots of produce from their plots this year and has some fun doing it. I'm already enjoying one of my favourites - new potatoes. Yum!

Notes on Barbara's Plot

We got our plot in early March, 2011. It was a total mess with weeds and old crop plants everywhere. Rather than dig and pull out the weeds, we knocked down tall plants and then put down black plastic and left it for two months. The plastic was removed in early May and much to our delight, there were only pale yellow-green dandelions left, which we dug out. A kind neighbour delivered several bales of peat moss and rototilled the whole plot for us. That was the last time we have rototilled our plot. Since then we have mulched with grass and leaves. Collecting and hauling mulching material is a fair bit of work, but in the end, it saves tons of labour weeding and watering. Since our plot tends to be damp anyhow, mulching is the perfect solution. It's also beneficial for the soil. The earthworms continue to do their thing under all the mulch and they aren't disturbed by digging. When it comes time to plant, we only cultivate the spots where crops are planted. We pick veggies we love and do well in full sun -- tomatoes, corn, winter squash, zucchini (natch!), pole beans, and eggplant (a little fussy, but it can be successful here). To hasten germination, we use thermal plastic on the squash hills and corn rows. Usually the seed germinates in 7 days or less. Then it is removed. I use IRT Mulch from William Dam Seeds (http://www.damseeds.ca). It can be reused from year to year.

This year we are trying floating row covers over the row of tomatoes and eggplant to help retain the warmth and protect the eggplant from the strong UV. Because it's been so dry this year, we do more moisture testing -- no elaborate gadgets - just our index fingers! If the soil still feels quite damp, no need for watering. One of the common mistakes in watering is to over-water and only near the surface. Brian Minter, B.C.'s gardening expert, recommends deep watering (4 to 6 inches deep once a week). Also, it seems counter intuitive, but squash - both summer and winter squash, do not like tons of water. If your zucchini fruits are yellowing at the ends and look somewhat shrivelled up, you've given them too much water. In Brian's words, "we kill our plants with kindness".

* * *

A message of encouragement for the new gardeners from Judy and Barbara. If you haven't gardened before, it is a steep learning curve with a time commitment until you get your own routine going. Find someone that gardens the way you'd like to garden and ask them questions. Learn their little tricks of the trade so to speak so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Everyone is very willing to help out -- you just need to ask. We are a community garden and we are here for each other!

Another gardener at our session recommended a method for killing weeds if you inherit a plot with lots of weeds. Chop down the existing weeds and then use the "quagmire method" which involves wetting down an area, wait for the weeds to sprout a little, then put down plastic or landscape cloth to do the rest of the killing. Works a treat.

Thanks to all who donated plants and brought some good eats. Greatly appreciated. When all of us went on the garden tour, the crows tried to help themselves to the treats, but Cathy saved the day. Thanks, Cathy! Our June 13th session was lots of fun, good treats, and socializing with our fellow gardeners. What's not to like? See you next month for another fun afternoon.

Barbara Irwin and Judy Aldridge

May 9/15 Gardener Info Exchange and Compost Workshop

Back

The second Gardener Information Exchange was held on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday afternoon, May 9th. About enthusiastic 25 gardeners attended. Thanks to Camosun College's EARTH Gardening Program for donating 70 large, sturdy (12" or taller) tomato plants for giveaway at our Saturday session. By the end of the afternoon, all plants went to happy homes.

Treats, including a variety of cookies and a scrumptious cake from 6-Mile Bakery were on offer as well. There were no leftovers.

The primary focus of this session was composting. We were pleased that David Stott, a fellow Agnes Street gardener, took time out of his busy schedule to share his considerable knowledge of composting with us. About half of those in attendance currently do composting in one form or another. David showed us what good compost should look like. He discussed the basic components of compost -- green matter (grass clippings, old, disease-free plants), brown matter (leaves), and activators (manure, soil, or seaweed). Coffee grounds are an excellent additive to a compost pile or box. Small amounts of shredded newspaper (no high-gloss paper) are fine as well. He does not recommend composting diseased plants or pet waste because smaller composting efforts cannot achieve high enough temperatures to kill all pathogens. He recommends equal parts greens and browns plus an activator with ~6" of largish plant stems at the bottom of the compost pile to provide air circulation, which is critical for successful composting. He also discussed composting times from 1 month to 8 months (during the winter). Some gardeners dig trenches (6" deep as a minimum) for the compost material.

There was a lot of discussion about using pallets for composting boxes. It was suggested that a demonstration compost box (pallet style, lined with wire to discouraged vermin) be built following design specs from the Victoria Compost Education Centre). There were many questions from the gardeners throughout the session, which lasted almost to 4pm!

Our thanks to David for a most informative session. He urged us to consult the Compost Education Centre website at http://compost.bc.ca, and click on the Fact sheets link. Tons of information on composting can be found there. Compost bins + compost bin parts are available for sale at the Centre.

Barbara Irwin and Judy Aldridge

Mar 28/15 Welcome Tea and Seed Exchange

Back

The first 2015 Gardener Info Exchange session of the season was held on Saturday afternoon. Twenty-five new and returning gardeners showed up for the Welcome Tea and Seed Exchange. The weather forecast was a little dodgy, but the predicted rain held off until later in the evening. Thanks to Ralph Clark for offering his place as a backup venue in case of rain. Thanks also to the people who brought goodies.

Judy Aldridge and I will be coordinating the garden education sessions throughout the season. If the first session was any indication of enthusiasm for these get-togethers, it'll be a fun year learning more about gardening from our fellow gardeners. The objectives of these sessions is to take a break from our labours in the garden and meet and share information with other gardeners.

At our session today we talked about the two primary initiatives for this season: composting and winter gardening. On the composting front we want to reduce the amount of organics that are hauled away in the fall by a commercial service. This costs our association a lot of money which could be put to better uses. A number of our members have expertise in this area so we will be inviting them to give mini-presentations at some of our Information Exchanges, as well as demonstrating their composting methods in action on their plot. The Compost Education Centre (http://compost.bc.ca) at 1216 North Park Street has free two-hour workshops on Composting Basics. There are two sessions in the next few months: April 11th @10am and June 27th @10am. We urge you to register for this workshop. Winter gardening techniques will be discussed at our later sessions. If anyone has expertise in this area, we welcome you to share your experience with other gardeners. Please email Judy Alridge (chittin_art@yahoo.ca) and Barbara Irwin (beirwin@shaw.ca) if you want to share information about either composting and/or winter gardening at our Information Sessions.

We also talked about volunteering at the Gardens. Judy gave an excellent presentation on the importance of getting involved beyond just working your plot. Everything that gets done at the Gardens - maintaining the lawn mowers, keeping the water system in good shape, assisting at gardener events, etc. - is all done by volunteers. See the Volunteer Task Sheet under the Members Page on our website. If you are interested, please contact one of the executive members.

Gardeners were reminded that there are reviews of excellent gardening-related books under the Armchair Gardener Series link on our website and write-ups of previous Gardener Information Sessions below.

Happy Gardening!

Barbara

Oct 18/14 Harvest Tea

Back

The afternoon Harvest Tea + Gardeners' Information Exchange was held on October 18th in conjunction with the annual Fall clean-up weekend. During the week the weather was gloomy and wet, but we were blessed with sunny skies and warm temperatures. Thanks to Ralph Clark for offering his place as a backup venue in case of rain.

There was a mini-seed exchange and garden stories shared, but the main event was the Harvest Tea, which proved to be very popular judging by the empty trays of goodies at the end of the afternoon :-) The gardeners appreciated the chance to socialize and take a break from their garden clean-up chores.

This was the last session of the season. They will resume in late February or early March 2015 with another seed exchange.

Hope you all are enjoying the bountiful harvest from your gardens. In the meanwhile, watch this website for the continuation of the Armchair Gardener Series, which features gardening books of interest available at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

Barbara

July 19, 2014

Back

Another Gardener Information Exchange session was held on July 19th. The topic for this session was Fall and Winter gardening. Free booklets, "Planting Guide for Fall & Winter Harvest" were kindly provided by West Coast Seeds. Diane brought a small subset of her seeds (she has a huge collection of saved seeds) for the upcoming Fall and Winter seasons to share with other gardeners. Thanks, Diane

We combined the gardener session with an afternoon tea, complete with a delicious cake from the 6-Mile Bakery, cold drinks, and a variety of wonderful treats brought by the Agnes gardeners. They are not only great gardeners, but also great cooks. :-) It was very pleasant to take a well-deserved break and socialize with other gardeners. We also toured around the gardens to see the other garden plots. What an amazing variety of gardens and the tremendous amount of produce!

Thanks to all the folks that contributed goodies. A special thanks to Ralph who graciously allowed us to store the fruit drinks in his spare fridge. He's also storing the surplus drinks for us until the Open House on August 10th. I thought it only fitting that he got the left-over cake! Afternoon teas are definitely a hit with our gardeners.

I plan to have another Gardener Information Exchange sometime in late August or early September. We will have another seed exchange then.

I think it would be a good idea to have another Afternoon Tea -- an end-of season event as the gardening season winds down.

Happy gardening. Barbara

June 7, 2014

Back

The latest in our ongoing Gardener Information Exchange sessions was held on Saturday, June 7th under sunny skies. It was a small group this time, but the discussion was lively on a variety of subjects. The following items were discussed.

  1. DEER

    Gardeners (plot 42) reported that the tops of their lettuce had been nibbled. Hoof prints were also spotted. Hopefully this was a one-off incursion. Continue to report any deer sightings to any member of the executive.

  2. ANEMIC-LOOKING PLANTS

    There was a long discussion on this subject. Some gardeners have reported that their plants, especially beans, have rather pale to yellowish leaves after the initial emergence. It turns out that if the leaves that are spread on garden beds in the fall are not thoroughly dug in at the beginning of the season, the beans (which have long roots) and other veggies will have a hard time getting enough nitrogen. I obtained advice from Borden Mercantile on this subject. They recommended blood meal, which has a very high nitrogen content, to give the plants a boost. It has. On this subject we also discussed the importance of ensuring your soil has the correct balance of nutrients, and looked at some examples of poor soil on our walkabout

  3. COUGARS

    With the recent sightings of cougars in the region (some quite close to the Gardens), gardeners are reminded to keep an eagle-eye out for these big cats especially if you garden early or late in the day.

    Here is an excellent B.C. site about cougars: Ministry of Environment, Cougars

  4. COVER CROPS

    George (a long-time gardener and garden mentor on the east side) recommends planting buckwheat as a summer-early fall cover crop after some areas of your garden have been harvested. It's a quick-growing plant which should be dug under after flowering. The bees love this plant. Follow this up with hairy vetch and/or fall rye.

    See these sites for more information:

  5. SWEET POTATOES

    A number of Agnes gardeners have successfully grown sweet potatoes. They are a little tricky however. Helen Chestnut gives excellent instructions on how to grow them in one of her recent columns in the Times-Colonist. See: Helen Chestnut, Times-Colonist, June 3/14

  6. PROTECTING OUR BERRY CROPS

    Now that berry time is around the corner, it's time to start thinking about how to protect your berries from the ravenous birds (and other critters). During our walkabout we looked for structures that might do the trick, but didn't find anything beyond the usual netting over the bushes.

    Here are a couple sites that might help:

As usual we did our walkies around the gardens to see what other people were growing. Always a treat to do this. The garden plots look terrific. I reckon my plot (in the boggy area on the west side) is at least 3 weeks ahead of last year. We had lots of rain at the right time and then the warm sunny weather broke out. :-)

Happy gardening. Barbara - West Side Garden Mentor

April 26, 2014

Back

The latest in our ongoing Gardener Information Exchange sessions was held on Saturday afternoon, April 26th. Once again the weather cooperated and it was sunny. Any sunny and dry day is a good thing especially for those of us who have plots in low-lying areas (aka the bogs)!

The following items were discussed.

  1. RATS

    Not a nice subject, but these critters can do a lot of damage to our garden supplies, which are often stored in tool boxes, and our crops. A gardener thought there might be rats digging holes on her plot, but after inspection we determined the holes were from old posts used for raspberry supports. Cathy Wetton, our president, would like gardeners to report any sightings of rats (or damage) to any member of the Agnes Street Gardeners Association executive (ASGA).

  2. DEER

    Another pest that gardeners have to cope with. So far we've escaped a deer invasion. We suspect the dog walkers that routinely go through the gardens may scare off the deer because they do not like the scent of dogs. Long may that continue. During the winter I usually walk (or wade!) through the Gardens and didn't notice any obvious signs of deer dropping or browsing. Cathy Wetton would like gardeners to report any sightings of deer or damage to any member of the executive.

  3. MULCHING WITH GRASS CLIPPINGS

    A few gardeners have asked about grass clippings and why use them. The ASGA has made arrangements with some lawn service companies to drop off grass clippings. None of the grass clippings we get are from lawns that have had herbicides or pesticides applied on them.

    There seems to be two camps regarding use of grass clipping as mulch in vegetable gardens. Some avoid them like the plague, and others embrace using the grass clipping on their gardens. There is no middle ground.

    Those that do not use grass mulch cite these problems:

    • Introduction of weeds.
    • Too much nitrogen is added to the soil.
    • An attractant for pests.

      Click beetles can be a problem. These beetles lay their eggs underground and morph into wire worms, a short, thin beige-colour worm which can decimate young transplants. The beetles love grassy areas, particularly those spots that have just had sod turned, but the grassy walkways also provide an ideal venue. One solution which works well is to bury bait -- old potatoes skewered on a wood or metal stick (as a retired librarian, I use old card catalogue rods!). Every few days pull up the stick and dispatch the wire worms that have collected on the potato and replant the bait. This method works a treat.

    A Google search for information on grass mulch suggests that on balance grass mulch is good for vegetable gardens with a few caveats: applied too thickly it can get slimy in wet weather; too much nitrogen is added particularly if the gardener uses additional nitrogen amendments; and beware of possible herbicide and pesticide contamination. However, as noted above, the grass clipping we get are free of this contamination.

    The advantages of using grass clippings as mulch are:

    • A fantastic weed suppressant. Most gardeners don't relish hoeing and weeding their plots over and over again during the growing season. We've got better things to do!
    • Grass clippings retain moisture so watering is kept to a minimum.
    • It's a great compost for your garden.
    • It's particularly effective when you use minimum tilth methods. Some Agnes gardeners only hoe and dig areas that will be planted with crops. I've subscribed to this method for the past 4 years with great success.

We concluded our session with a walkabout to look at garden plots which utilize grass as mulch. We were impressed to see how good the plots look with many veggies growing happily. Our gardeners sure have been busy!

Happy gardening. Barbara

March 30, 2014

Back

We had our second Gardeners' Information Exchange session on Sunday afternoon under sunny skies with about a dozen gardeners eager to get the season underway. We welcomed three new gardeners to our group.

Once again we had a seed exchange, which has proven to be very popular. A wide variety of seeds were once again on offer and eagerly snapped up. Thanks to all who brought seeds to share with their fellow gardeners. Ralph kindly donated a secure, rat-proof camp cooler (blue) for surplus seeds. Thanks, Ralph! It is stored in the wooden shed which houses the lawn mowers (behind the door). Feel free to take seeds for your use and donate any excess seeds you might have.

It was great getting together with our fellow gardeners after what seemed to be a long winter. It was a sight for sore eyes seeing all the activity happening at the gardens. As usual we nosed around the gardens to look at the garden plots to see what crops were already started. A number of plots had garlics, broad beans, and peas up. Once again, Giovanni (an experienced gardener on the west side) is way ahead of most of us with his tomato greenhouse already erected, and broad beans and peas growing like crazy! He planted his peas in late February when there was a dusting of snow on the ground. Some of us down in the boggy areas can only dream of getting stuff planted this early. The ducks are still enjoying trundling around these plots. The saving grace is that the "boggers" don't have to water much in the summer.

We plan to have several of these information sessions during the season. They will probably alternate between Saturdays and Sundays. Upcoming sessions will be announced via email.

Happy gardening. Barbara

March 15, 2014

Back

The first Gardeners' Information Exchange of the 2014 gardening season was a great success. Despite the gloomy forecast, about a ten gardeners came out for our first seed exchange. The rain held off until after our session

There were lots of seeds on offer. Many brought seeds, but Judy A. (plot 39) had us all beaten. She brought *tons* of seeds complete with a detailed list, which made it easy to find seeds in their various boxes. It was fun looking at what was on offer. We're ready to rock and roll and get planting, but unfortunately we will have to wait for some time until the plots get drier. With all the rain we've had over the last few weeks, the soil is soggy. The mallard ducks sure like it and could be seen in various plots and walkways rooting around in the mud. Everyone enjoyed themselves and were satisfied with their respective seed hauls.

It was suggested that spare seeds could be stored in an airtight, plastic bin in the new shed for garden members to access. Hopefully this will be in place by early April.

We also enjoyed nosing around the gardens to see what was happening. Unfortunately there are some plots with lots of weeds. (Chickweed and red dead nettle are lush, in full bloom, and ready to go to seed. Not good!) The best way to get rid of unwanted weeds is to cover the plot with black plastic (or landscape cloth). Cover your plot now. Our experience with this method starting this late in the winter season was it was still effective in killing the weeds by planting time. It spells the end of unwanted weeds and saves a lot of back-breaking work. Covering with a thick layer of mulched leaves Saanich brings to the Gardens every fall works a treat also.

We plan to have another seed exchange and information session at the end of the month -- probably March 30th. Stay tuned for the announcement

Barbara Irwin, Garden Mentor - West Side

August 25, 2013

Back

The wonderful summer weather has continued, although August saw the usual "monsoon" weather (rain showers) pattern develop by mid-month right on cue. Those gardeners who chose not to erect a greenhouse to protect their tomatoes from possible blight had to decide whether to chance it without plastic.

We had a surprise visit from two Saanich police officers who were doing their patrol of the Gardens to ensure that all was well. They assured us the problem some gardeners experienced with a young man was being taken care of, and we shouldn't experience any more problems on that front. They urged us to phone 911 right away if there were anymore problems.

Before continuing on with garden tours a group of us discussed the following topics:

After our general discussions the group toured around the Gardens to see what is happening. We looked at some of the garden plots that were highlighted for the Open House on August 11th. Garden 28B on the west side features a really cool greenhouse complete with temperature controlled window on the top of the greenhouse that automatically opens and closes depending on the inside temperature. Garden 40 has an elegantly constructed compost bin. Check it out. At the time of our tour the gardener was harvesting some huge, honking pumpkins with his daughter. It's always such a positive experience to see all the variety of gardens at our community garden.

July 20, 2013

Back

Before the garden tours a group of us discussed the following topics:

After our discussion the group nosed around at some gardens on the east side (thanks Alan and Helen for showing off their garden plots) and on the west side (thanks to Jen, Wendy, and Carole for showing off their plots). It was great taking a break from the gardening and looking at other gardens. We are truly blessed with a lot of great gardeners at our community gardens.

Below is a write-up from Judy ( west side) about her garden. She was unable to attend our session but thought people would be interested in what she's growing and her gardening methods.

Judy's Garden. "Well about my plot. It's not tidy that's for sure, so sorry about that if it bothers anyone. I only have one day a week to go there because of my schedule. I'm following no-dig (sometimes called no-till) and permaculture methods; I have my Permaculture Design Certificate. You can look up permaculture on the Internet and YouTube videos if you want to learn more.

"I only shallow till with a little Mantis tiller when I want to put in small seeds in the spring. I have to start my garden fairly late because it's one of the water-logged plots in the spring. I don't mind because it stays more moist in the summer, hence less watering. My garden produces abundantly for the amount of effort and time I am able to give it. I have lots of perennial plants, some for food, some for the birds and bees, and lots for biomass. I have mint, Jerusalem artichokes, day lilies, gladiolus, lovage, phlox, sedum, lady's mantle, four honeyberry shrubs, red currant, grape (I haven't trained it properly but I still get grapes), horseradish, rhubarb, raspberries, etc. I grow nasturtiums mostly to trap black aphids but the hummingbirds love them too.

"I pack everything as close as I can because it keeps weeds down and the plants seem to be okay with it. Some areas are left fallow under mulch or ground cloth, to be used next year. That way I seem to rotate out some perennial weeds and disease. My tomato seedlings were terrible this year so I have only two tomato plants and some peppers and eggplants. I planted them in a little wooden container so I can easily put up a cover in August to keep the late blight off them. Fava beans are planted mostly to add nitrogen to the soil but this is the first year I've eaten them and they were pretty good. What else? I have some wood there that I am hopefully going to finally build my new tool box out of this summer. Wish me luck. Ha Ha. Grass seems to be the biggest problem on my plot because I don't have wood around the edges.

"I'm very happy with my little plot and all I get from it, though I do wish I had more time there. I guess I believe in three things that work well for my plot: 1) No bare soil; 2) Get as much from my garden as I can; 3) Do as much as I can with the time I have there.

"Also I forgot to mention the Kamut grain I'm growing. You might be interested in it. It's really beautiful. I'll be using it for eating, I'll save some seed for next year and even use some stalks for decoration. It's an ancient grain that has an unique history (Google it if you want). Supposedly from King Tut's tomb originally. I've seen it for sale at Country Grocer in the bulk aisle. Also my corn is short because it's a blue corn. It can be used for regular eating or drying and grinding. Tastes good but the cobs are smaller. Plus it's pretty also when dried on the cob. I also save a lot of my own seed. Lots of successes but a few failures. Pretty easy to do and saves a LOT of money; seed is very expensive now a days. When I use my own seed I think the plants are better acclimatized to my garden and growing conditions."

June 22, 2013

Back

This warm, sunny weather should get all our gardens growing. Long may it continue. :-) Before the tours of 4 gardeners we discussed the following topics:

After general discussion the group were treated to a tour of 4 gardens. Cathy W. showed us what she is doing to curtail the club root by planting brassicas in pots sunk into the ground with container soil. Barbara showed the group how the thermal plastic, put over the hills of squash to get earlier seed germination, was working. It worked a treat. Sheila showed us her tomato greenhouse and many of her raised beds. She asked for advice about what soil amendments she should add to her soil. Rock phosphate, green sand, manure, and lots of grass clippings were all suggested. Monike showed us her garden of raised beds with all manner of companion planting throughout her plot. She's trying out the red plastic under her tomatoes in her greenhouse this year. So far it seems to be working.

Thanks to all who were willing to show their gardens this time. More tours will be conducted at the next session- likely Saturday, July 13th. An announcement will be send in the next week or so.

ANSWER FROM BRIAN MINTER:

Hello Barbara: There are two issues with raspberries.

  1. Wet feet - their roots do not like to be wet - root rot could be the problem
  2. Cane borers - look at the bottom of the canes to see if any lesions. If yes, cut them out. Any dead canes should be cut back and feed the remaining good ones.

Good luck, Brian Minter ~ July 29, 2013