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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wheelbarrow Kids

There was a short orientation at the beginning of our meet-up. 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. Jan does periodic inspections and gets in touch with gardeners who need to smarten up their plots. This is a big job, so if you want to volunteer with the inspections, get in touch with Jan. Currently we have 60+ people on the Wait List, so it's incumbent on all members to have their plot under cultivation by May 15th.

Agnes Street Gardens is run entirely by volunteers. Each member is expected to volunteer in some way. Find something you'd like to do on the task sheet on MEMBERS PAGE above and then get in touch with one of the Executive members. We'd love to have you!

Give Away Plants

There was no formal seed exchange at this session because most of the seeds in the blue, plastic tote were disposed because they were too old. However, there are a few packets left and some gardeners brought some seed potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. The seeds are housed in the wooden shed where the lawn mowers and garden tools are kept. Gardeners are urged to donate any excess seeds they have on hand. Also, Diane Whitehead (plot 77) has a vast collection of tomato seeds. Her list is on this website under GREAT LINKS above. The first line under "Seeds and Accessories" has a link to a list of Diane's Tomato Seeds. Get in touch with Diane if you want to try some of her tomato varieties.

Road access to the garden plots has now been restricted by Saanich. White bollards have been installed at all road access points. Cathy W. spoke about how we are going to handle this. Gardeners that need access to their plots for dropping stuff off (or hauling great harvests home!) must make arrangements with either Cathy Wetton, Jan Redekop, or Dale Thayer who all have a key. Bottom line: no parking in the Gardens while you work.

Great Treats

We talked about getting started in the garden and tips for a successful garden. Right now it's hard to get going because of the excessive moisture and cold temperatures. It's important to check planting guidelines for individual crops you want to grow. A great resource is Westcoast Seeds. See their How to Grow Guides (westcoastseeds.com/grow-guides/) and also the Garden Wisdom Blog (westcoastseeds.com/garden-wisdom/). Also, another invaluable resource is Linda Gilkeson of Salt Spring Island. You can subscribe to Lindaslist" mailing list by sending her an email to (lindaslist-request@lists.resist.ca). Past emails can be accessed at (http://www.lindagilkeson.ca/gardening_tips.html)

Gardeners were urged to explore our terrific website. Here you can find all sorts of info. including book reviews of gardening-related books at the Greater Victoria Public Library, advice, tips and much more. Thanks to Jan who has created this website.

There was a draw for several garden-related items. Vera, one of our youngest gardeners (daughter of Chloe F.) won a geranium. Also, Nancy W. donated a lot of tomato plants. She also brought hot tea. Thank you.

Last but not least, there were great treats. A special thanks to Carole, our resident baker on the Garden Education and Special Event Team, who brought her yummy rhubarb muffins and cookies. Thanks to everyone else who brought treats as well. Much appreciated by all.

September 30, 2017

Garden Info Session

The afternoon kicked off with a discussion about our upcoming AGM on Thursday, October 5th and volunteering opportunities. There are no paid positions at Agnes Gardens -- everything is done by volunteers so we depend on people stepping up to help. In the AGM information package there is a volunteer sheet listing all the jobs that need doing.

A wide variety of topics were discussed including the 2017 harvests (an excellent year except for the rat damage to crops), preparing the gardens for winter (mulching or covering the plots with plastic/landscape cloth to suppress weeds), and rat control. Rats are a huge problem, especially this year. See our website under ADVICE AND TIPS, "Rats in Compost" for an excellent write-up, courtesy of the Compost Education Education Centre - Victoria. One of the key control measures is to harvest *all* crops. Rats will eat anything so don't leave food on the ground. Buckwheat, which has been used as a summer/fall cover crop and a pollinator, is not recommended because rats *love* it. Another control measure is to encourage birds of prey, including owls. It was recommended by a bird expert at Saanich to leave perching poles in your garden over winter (not plastic-covered greenhouses which must come down by the end of October).

July 15, 2017

Summer Fiddler

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

May 27, 2017

  1. COMPOSTING. We expect Agnes Street gardeners to either compost their old vegetable matter or r>emove 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. PLANTING TIMES. 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. Click Beetle
  5. WIREWORMS (Click beetle larvae). 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. SHARK FIN SQUASH. 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.

April 1, 2017

Garden Info Session

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. 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.

MULCHING makes it easier to control the weeds. The Garden has made arrangements with local garden services to drop off clean (ie no pesticides) grass clippings. We are always in need of more!

Fancy Dog

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.

September 24, 2016

Summer Squash

Many gardeners shared their harvest stories at this session. 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.

Baby Rates

RATS. 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.

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.

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

August 13, 2016

Party Food

Today 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 R. 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.

July 16, 2016

Third Get-Together

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.

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.

PLANT DISEASES & PESTS. 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.

Happy Gardener

CLUBROOT is another big problem. Fellow gardener Diane W. 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.

WHITEFLY is a problem for many gardeners. 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 them 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.

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 W., our official photographer, for taking picture of our get-togethers throughout the gardening season.

March 26, 2016

This was a combined welcome tea for new and returning gardeners and our annual seed exchange. About 25 enthusiastic gardeners attended. 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).

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!

Jul 18, 2015

Back

This 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.

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. 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.

DRYING VEGGIES. 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.

CURING GARLIC. Once the garlic 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.

* * *

YEAR-ROUND GARDENING. The second part of our session was year-round gardening led by Jeff D, 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.

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.

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.

June 22, 2013

Back

This warm, sunny weather should get all our gardens growing. Long may it continue. :-) Before a tour of 4 gardens 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.