Seedy Saturday

Library

At summer’s end, I like to pass along some of the seeds I’ve saved from my favourite beans to other gardeners. I originally got them from my Great-Aunt Vivienne, whose family brought them from Belgium generations ago. They’ve been sharing them ever since. Gardeners have always shared seeds in this way, promoting varieties that they like or that show some genetic advantage in the area in which they’re being grown. Over generations, farmers and home gardeners alike would save seeds from the plants that showed the most promise, or cross varieties with different strengths until they came up with a new strain that held the desirable qualities of both and bred true.

Seed libraries are a formalization of this process, in a world in which the competencies of seed-saving and plant breeding are disappearing. They provide a place to house and lend out seed stock, along with providing public education and outreach, just as a traditional library does.

Seeds

I got to experience this first-hand this past weekend, when I attended a Seedy Saturday event hosted by the Kensington-Cedar Cottage Seed Sharing Library. A guest speaker gave a lecture on permaculture and companion planting, we had a hands-on seed starting workshop, and we ended with a seed swap and an opportunity to check out seeds from the seed library. I chose nasturtiums and a “Bee Blend” of wildflowers, as one of my goals this year is to make my garden more pollinator-friendly. The idea is that at the end of the season, I’ll collect and dry seeds from these plants and then return them, so that they can be passed on to another patron. It is a library, after all.

Hands

I’m confident in my ability to do so with the nasturtiums, but I’m a little worried about some of the wildflowers – their seeds came in a wide variety of sizes. I’ll be watching them carefully to see what sort of seeds they produce and try and come up with some strategies for collecting them.

If you live in the Vancouver area, there’s another seed swap this coming weekend, at Strathcona Community Garden. I may stop by, to see if I can find some heritage seeds to fill in the holes in my planting schedule for the year. If you don’t have any physical seed swaps in your area, don’t despair. Like almost everything else these days, seed swapping has gone digital. You can join sites like this one and have access to a world of different plants and varieties. Just make sure the seeds you’re asking for are suitable for your growing region.

I’m still a novice at seed-saving, which limits my seed swapping activities. So this year, I’m reading up on seed-saving, so that I can expand my own end-of-season activities beyond poppies and beans. I’d like to plant a heritage variety of tomato this year, so that I can try the method of seed-saving I learned from Janisse Ray’s The Seed Underground. I’d also like to see what results I can get from plants like cucumber and squash. I’ll save the biannuals like beets and carrots for the future, when I have a little more practice.

Leeks

Here are a few selections from my reading list:

Seedswap
Seeds
And a gem from 1977, which was send to me by the wonderful Cher of my French Fridays crew, Vegetables Money Can’t Buy, But You Can Grow

So, now it’s your turn. What are you growing on your balcony, patio, or garden? Do you save and share seeds? What resources would you recommend to a novice seed-saver?

Let me know in the comments.

Seedtopia

Seeds

My gardening goals for this year are concentrated on learning more about seed saving and increasing the variety of foods I grow in my vegetable garden. I’d also like to keep extending my perennial flower collection across seasons, eventually having colour in the garden year-round.

I’ll be replacing a few plants, like the thyme that died mysteriously last summer and perhaps building a vertical squash structure if I’m feeling ambitious. Mostly, though, I’m going to try and take advantage of some of the workshops and seed swaps that are happening in the next few weeks. I think it would be great to connect with some Vancouver gardeners.

Here are some of the things on offer around here this growing season:

Garden Basics

Village Vancouver offers gardening workshops across the city

VanDusen Botanical Garden has a range of courses for the budding horticulturalist

City of Vancouver workshops are affordable, basic skill-builders

The World in a Garden has great workshops throughout the season

Farm Folk City Folk‘s Knowledge Pantry is full of wonderful resources

A little farther afield, North Van has GardenSmart Workshops

There are a number of neighbourhood-specific workshops that are tied to food security and food justice: Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute, the Edible Garden Project, and Cedar Cottage’s Seedy Saturday and Planting Workshop are a few examples

Victory Gardens’ workshops are well-regarded

Getting the Goods

Treekeepers provides $10 fruit and decorative trees to Vancouver residents

West Coast Seeds is a great source for organic seeds and their website is full of information – they also offer workshops

Salt Spring Seeds focuses on heritage and heirloom seeds

Sharing the Wealth

Plant a Row – Grow a Row

Vancouver Fruit Tree Project

Sharing Backyards

Advanced Adventures

City Farm Boy is for the ambitious urban farmer

Vancouver Urban Farming Society is a great resource if you want to make growing your business

Beekeeping courses

UBC’s Landscape & Garden Design Programs

Extending the Season

UBC Botanical Gardens’ Year Round Harvest Workshop

Winter Harvest resources

There’s a lot more, but that gives you a sense of the Vancouver gardening landscape. Now, tell me, what’s happening where you live? Are there plenty of resources, workshops, and community connections? Or do you rely on online resources to find what you need?

Domestic Dreams

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The weekend before last, I was lucky enough to win tickets to the BC Home and Garden Show, courtesy of Tracey from Fashion Forward 40. Thanks again, Tracey, for the tickets!

The show took place on the enormous floor of BC Place, while Portobello West took over the upper concourse.

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There was plenty to see and not all of it was aspirational. I enjoyed talking to the gardening exhibitors and got some contact information for contractors our housing co-op might be interested in.

What struck me, though, was how geared to suburban living the show still seems to be. There were gorgeous indoor and outdoor kitchen displays, backyard living rooms, and everything one could dream of for the kind of single family home that I grew up in. There wasn’t as much for apartment-dwellers like me. I think with the ascendance of condos in this region, that this focus will change.

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In the meantime, there were plenty of lifestyle booths to peruse, with kitchen gadgets being near the top of my list. I had a great day exploring and managed to exit the show without emptying my pocketbook too terribly.

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I’d love to hear what you’re looking for in home and design shows. Or, are there other sorts of trade shows that get you out the door?

Aspiration Season

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Thoughts of spring come a little earlier around here than in most places in Canada. Shoots erupt and trees start to bud in January, even though we often have a final bout of cold weather (and occasionally snow) in early February. In about a month, though, it will well and truly be spring. And all that garden cleanup I procrastinated on last fall will become an urgent task.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy my newly arrived seed catalogues, making overly ambitious lists of varieties I’d like to try growing, while studying my charts of gardens past.

Do you have space for plants where you live? Are you a balcony gardener or a backyard farmer? Do you grow for show or for food? What new plants or varieties have caught your eye this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Nearly Fall in the Garden

Beans ripening

Canada is generally thought of as the land of ice and snow, but that’s not true all year ’round, even in the North. Vancouver is especially an exception to this rule. We generally get about a week of snow each year, which sends our road systems into a tailspin. (We’re infamous here for not being able to drive in the snow.) All this is to say that my garden is still going strong, though I’m looking up recipes for green tomatoes, as I know a lot of them aren’t ever going to fully ripen this year.

Enormous dahlia

We’re in the last few weeks of the summer growing season. If we’re lucky, the good weather will last into the first few weeks of October. I’ve planted some winter garden vegetables, but I’m mostly reflecting on what worked and what didn’t this season. I won’t be growing tomatoes in the backyard next year and am going to invest in some big tubs so that I can grow them on my south-facing balcony, instead. I think they’ll ripen much faster there. I’m also going to build some new vegetable and herb beds this fall, for next year. The flowers mostly take care of themselves, but I want to add plants that will extend colour through the seasons. These are my reflections so far.

Petite dahlias

So tell me, what did you love about your outdoor space this summer? What would you change? I’ll leave you with some more of the photos I took yesterday afternoon, out in the garden.

A cucumber, behind garden netting

A blaze of purple

Purple flowers

Gorgeous, leafy dahlia

Food Trucks and Summer’s End

Bikes locked to the railing at the Waldorf Hotel.

The Labour Day weekend has just passed and for many of us, that signals summer’s end. Though summery weather around these parts (barring early torrential rains) seems to last into October some years, September usually marks the end of community celebrations and summer programs.

Mid-afternoon crowd at the Waldorf's Food Truck Fair.

With that in mind, I decided to stop by the last day of one of my neighbourhood’s most popular events this summer – The Waldorf Hotel‘s Food Cart Festival, which has been taking over their parking lot every Sunday since the end of July. I took a few photos there and indulged in a double-decker cone from Earnest Ice Cream – their salted caramel was perfect and the strawberry-basil made me want to run home and roast some strawberries right away to recapture the flavour. But I digress…

Earnest Ice Cream Truck

The Food Truck Festival is a great example of the zeitgeist in Vancouver these day – a nice selection of local food (in those trendy trucks); pedestrian and bike friendly; a neighbourhood event that attracts folks from all over the city. Along with VIVA Vancouver and the community celebrations funded by Neighbourhood Small Grants, Vancouver’s summer street scene is becoming a lot more vibrant.

Some of the offerings at the Food Truck Fair.

Speaking of Neighbourhood Small Grants, a group of neighbours planted this herb garden I passed today. I thought it was a lovely concept.

Salsbury Herb Garden.

So tell me, does your community promote street-level interaction? What are the community events that define summer for you?

The line up clearly shows which truck was the winner of the day,

Yet another post about the garden

Scarlett Runner blossoms

Holy thunderstorm, Batman! It’s hard to believe that just yesterday (and this morning, for that matter), it was sunny. I’m hoping things don’t get too exciting out there – my eggplant and most of my tomatoes are quite little and fragile at the moment. I think my beans could survive just about anything, though. The photos I’m sharing aren’t the best I’ve ever taken, but they show how things are coming along.

So many tomatoes!

Tonight, I’m making kale pesto (inspired by Cher), with some leaves I took to thin out the almost scary growth it’s been having – amazing what a little sun will do for the garden. Tomorrow, I’m going to make a Swiss chard quiche, I think, since those leaves are in need of picking next. There are radishes that need picking, too, and I think I’m going to leave off making pesto with the leaves so that I can make some furikake instead. I made that for the first time last year and loved it. My cucumbers and zucchini are taking forever to grow and I’m afraid that I won’t get any this year. We won’t starve, though, because there’s a ridiculous amount of beans on the way (five varieties, as I keep mentioning), along with beets, carrots, onions, leeks and a few other things besides.

Inching up to the top of the fence.

What have you been growing this year? What keeps getting your attention at the market? What are the recipes you can’t get enough of this summer?

The beanstalk

The Progression of the Garden

Future eggplant.

There’s nothing so interesting to me this summer as my vegetable garden. I’ve had some difficulties (mostly of the nocturnal animal variety), but overall I’m pretty pleased with it. I harvested tomatoes today, with more to come. There will be beans and cucumbers, kale, Swiss chard, beets, and radishes – perhaps even an eggplant or two. I’m going to try again with lettuces for September harvest and there’s late-planted garlic growing, which I’ll pull up in October, dry out, and sow for next year’s harvest.

Marigold, with tomato in the background.

Kale, behind marigold.

In the meantime, I’ll keep taking photos, so you may have to endure one or two more of these posts before the summer’s through. I’d love to hear about what you’re growing, in backyards, windows, or balconies.

Another view of the eggplant blossom.

In the Swing of It

Lovely baskets of strawberries

It’s truly summer here and I’m spending a lot of time fussing over the plants in my vegetable garden. That’s not all that there is to do, though. Summer’s a busy time around here.

For instance, while I’m typing away in my stuffy apartment (what am I thinking?), there’s a hyper-local honey tasting at Salt Tasting Room; folks are finding a spot for their blankets to watch a movie in Stanley Park (courtesy of Fresh Air Cinema); and elsewhere in the park, folks are settling in to watch a live presentation of The Music Man.

This week’s Main Street Farmer’s Market is featuring a pie contest as part of their Berry Festival and The Salty Tongue’s brought back their Long Table Supper series with a fruit-focused Pit for your Supper theme. If that’s not enough berry goodness for you, Gourmet Warehouse is tempting folks (well, me) by stocking Bernardin’s Home Canning Starter Kit. If you’re needing a canning primer, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank‘s Community Kitchen program is hosting a Safe Canning Basics demonstration. If you’re more of a grow-your-own sort, there’s Mid-Season Gardening workshop coming up, too. I think I may need a little help on both counts – I got a little carried away with the five(!) varieties of beans I planted and I think freezing all the extras would be a bit of a shame. I’m also trying to figure out what to plant in my newly freed up garden squares – ah, Square Foot Gardening, you really know how to keep a body hopping.

There’s tonnes more going on, with all the festivals, block parties, and outdoor events of the summer. I’m hoping to take in a goodly portion of them. But for now, I’m off to water my garden before it gets dark.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods this summer?

Oh Summer, Where Are You?

Marigold with someday-to-ripen tomatoes in the background

We’ve had a long wet stretch from late winter until, well, now. The forecast finally promises a stretch of sun, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The funny thing is that I’m a mild weather girl. Having been raised here, rain doesn’t bother me. But, since I’ve started vegetable gardening, I’ve found myself longing for some sunshine.

Tarragon, with more herbs in the background

There are things growing in my garden and, truth be told, there are a lot of things germinating in my garden right now, too. The one good thing about this very late summer is that my procrastinating self has been able to stretch out the planting portion of the season to its limits. But, my tomato plants are sad and I’m feeling a little fear for the eggplant plants I finally put into the ground. I’m not worried about the zucchini. I suspect that it would over-produce in a nuclear winter (though I hope never to test that theory).

Bean seedlings erupting from the earth

I love looking at my vegetable beds, neatly marked off into square foot plots with wooden barbeque skewers and hemp twine (I’m rather proud of myself for repurposing those skewers). The flower beds are a challenge, sometimes, with the constant threat of morning glory, buttercup, snails and slugs. The vegetable garden, though, is easier to weed and brings out a love of orderliness I didn’t know I possessed. If only that would extend to the storage cupboards…

Along the line one of my square-foot beds