Sunday, 22 April 2012

Earth Day giveaway! Win our eco-friendly cutting board, 80$ value!

Happy Earth Day everyone! To celebrate Earth Day, we're out in our garden, digging and mulching and planting. Here's a shot that made my heart melt the other day-Daniel bringing me the first dandelions of the year! He and Elijah have sort of a running contest to see who can give me the most dandelions all day long. So sweet, these boys...and we can't forget Lily!

We want to celebrate Earth Day and this new blog with everyone from far and wide, so we're doing our first fabulous giveaway contest!
We're giving away one of our lovely, eco-friendly heirloom cutting/serving boards, made from sustainably harvested Black Walnut wood, with beautiful live edge, valued at 80$!

We sell this board on our Etsy site, and it's a best seller, as it's so versatile-it's 12" x 22", and 1" thick, so it's great for use as a cutting board, but also doubles as a serving board. It's perfect for entertaining and serving appetizers, cheese, bread, and is so large that you can serve your Thanksgiving turkey on it!

 This contest is to celebrate this new blog and also our relatively new Etsy stores, full of eco-friendly  reclaimed & sustainably harvested wood items and our salvaged vintage treasures!

The contest will run until May 18th. All you have to do is sign up to subscribe to this blog. Once you're a member, then just visit one of our Etsy shops:

Pick an item that you like and come back and leave a comment here with this post saying which item  you like best from any of the Etsy shops. Please leave your email address so I can contact you when you win.
On Friday May 18th I'll use a random number generator to pick a number, and whoever has that place on this blog post will win the board!
We'll mail it anywhere in North America, at no cost to you! If you're outside of North America you can still participate, and we'll pay up to 30$ in the shipping costs.

We would so love it if you would share, like, pin and twitter this contest!
Happy Earth Day everyone! Now get out there and hug a tree!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sloooow gardening

So you've heard of Slow on our farm we practice Slow Gardening. Whether we want to or not!

We're starting the huge task of preparing the soil in the garden and planting the seeds that can go in early. I had two eager helpers, so we got lots of planting done quickly. Not exactly.

After two hours of working in the garden, with three trips inside for snacks and drinks, one poopy diaper change, one rescue of a crying explorer from the woods, one kiss on a hurt knee of another intrepid adventurer, countless admonishings to " Stop wandering away", numerous splittings up of battles with rakes and shovels, we had two partial rows planted.

Only twenty-nine more to go! Thus was born the Slow Gardening movement.

This is how baby Lily helped.

Starting our garden last year was completely different than this year, as we were starting from scratch last year. That meant that the soil was similar throughout the garden, and so we planned the placement of the vegetables in the garden according to their benefit to each other. Many plants have companion plants that aid in detracting or fending off harmful insects or other pests, and some plants do poorly placed next to certain plants, so we planned our garden based on these facts.

This year will be different, as we'll be placing our vegetables in a four-year rotation plan, using the soil needs of each plant to determine the placement in the garden. Companion planting and pest control will also factor in, but soil needs come first!
We'll divide our crops into groups on the basis of their nutrient requirements, growing the 'hungry' ones in the most fertile soil and the lighter feeders to follow. Also, some families of plants are prone to particular diseases and specific pests. By rotating the crops each year, certain diseases and pests won't take hold and we give the soil a chance to replenish itself.

We're still working on the perfect placement of each vegetable in the plan, but our starting point is maximizing the benefits of the nutrients left in the soil by the peas and beans we grew last year.

Legumes such as beans and peas fix nitrogen in their roots for future crops. For this reason, it's best to leave the roots of these crops in the soil when they're harvested. The brassica group, consisting of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radish, turnip, rutabaga, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard and oriental brassicas, are leafy crops that need nitrogen-rich soil.

In order to capitalize on the nitrogen-rich soil created by the peas and beans last year, we started by planting lettuce, kale and radishes in these rows.

First, we cleared away the branches used to support the peas and beans last year.

I had some help clearing away the branches!

Elijah and Tucker supervised.

Next post: preparing the soil

Thursday, 12 April 2012


We have seedlings! We also have very ardent seedling waterers. Hopefully our young plants will survive our two exuberant gardeners!

We planted these seedlings in mid-March, and most of them are doing pretty well. We're growing three types of tomatoes, peppers and cauliflower. They're upstairs in a south-facing window where they're in sunlight all day. The most important element in their survival is that they're upstairs, away from unsupervised watering!

While we start the early seeds in the garden, these plants are growing inside in preparation for transplanting later in May, when the danger of frost has passed. They definitely won't be lacking in water while they wait!

 We've found that most plants do better when planted directly in the garden, as they naturally become accustomed to their environment, and don't have to re-condition themselves when moved. However, there are vegetables that do best when started inside as seedlings, such as tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplants and peppers, among others. The optimal indoor growing conditions indoors is below lights, as then the plants will grow straight up and won't get as 'leggy'. We don't have a light system set up, so we set our plants in a south-facing window, the next-best growing environment.
Be aware that the seedlings then have a tendency to turn towards the light, which creates a longer, or 'leggy' stem. We try to remember to turn the trays each day, so the plants balance out and don't permanently strain in one direction.

Different vegetables need varying lengths of time indoors; typically, tomatoes need to be started indoors eight weeks before the last frost, and the Snowball Cauliflower we're growing needs to be started indoors six weeks before the last frost.
Last year we found that some of seeds didn't grow at all, so we bought organic seedlings from a garden supplier, and those plants did great. As it's only mid- April, there's still time to start many varieties of plants indoors, but if you don't get around to it, don't despair, as you can always purchase seedlings to transplant when all danger of frost has passed in May. When those big luscious plants are thriving in your garden in July, no one will know which ones you grew on your own and which ones you bought and transplanted!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


This past weekend we left the farm to visit the city for Easter weekend; two days overflowing with visits with family and friends. We squeezed in an important stop on Saturday, however, to pick up some more seeds for our early spring planting. This will be the third year that we'll been using organic seeds from Urban Harvest in Toronto for most of our planting, and we've been super happy with these seeds...and the bounty they produce! Since our life sort of revolves around our garden, we have to love the seeds we're using!

The Urban Harvest store has just moved to a new location at 1604 Queen St. West, situated in the rear of Coriander Girl, a floral and gift boutique run by Alison Westlake. Alison's entire shop is simply charming, embracing a refreshingly natural country aesthetic that blooms in every detail throughout the shop- from the fresh floral arrangements the peek out of every corner to the assortment of vintage sea blue mason jars that line the shelves of an antique white cupboard.

Her floral arrangements are simply beautiful, especially when displayed in vintage milk glass vases and mason jars tied with her signature gift tags and rustic twine. I really can't think of a shop that is lovelier in Toronto than this one, and Alison's warm and welcoming personality makes the shop fairly glow with good vibes! Despite the long list of orders that she was conjuring into spectacular arrangements, Alison was incredibly friendly and full of information about the shop during my visit.

The aesthetic of this shop is genuine to the core-check out Alison's blog with photos of the recent reno that stripped this new space down to the vintage bare bones...the exposed original floorboards really make the space, so it was all worth it I'd say!

Both Urban Harvest and Coriander Girl are in brand new locations, our family is preparing for a new and even more fabulous garden than last year...and our whole life has been changed for the better with our new baby seems that rebirth and new beginnings was the theme for the weekend. Perfect in keeping with the symbolism of Easter... resurrection, rebirth...this weekend had it all!

Clearly, I was a little distracted by Alison's shop from my quest to buy seeds...but I finally made it to the back of the shop to find the perfect seeds for our spring planting from Urban Harvest.

Urban Havest is our seed store of choice, as it has an amazing selection of a wide variety of certified organic, open pollinated seeds, many of which are heirloom seeds with a long and interesting history.
Now in its sixteenth season, Urban Harvest offers over 350 varieties of vegetable, herb, flower and native grass seeds & seedlings, as well as garden amendments and natural salves.

When I researched organic seed providers, I found that Urban Harvest had the best prices (only 3$ for each package), the best variety, great online shipping service, and in- depth and informative descriptions of each variety in their seed catalogue.

Although we've left the city, Urban Harvest seeds are still our favorite for all these reasons, so we continue to use them; they're like us-grown in the city, and transported to the country where they grow and thrive!

Colette Murphy is the ever -friendly and knowledgeable owner of Urban Harvest, always ready to give advice on seed choices and planting. I was sorry to miss her the day I visited the shop, as she was at an organic market selling seeds. Her great employees Thea and Jordan were just as helpful, taking lots of time to guide me in picking the right assortment of seeds to start planting in April-and the seeds were on special, 4 for 10$!

These girls have loads of practical knowledge regarding organic gardening, as both of them have spent time training on organic farms. I left with a great assortment of seeds, looking forward to the rebirth of our garden!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Using cold frames for early planting

Our experiment with early planting worked! We have some young greens sprouting up in the new garden bed we dug in March.

It's hard to tell if everything we planted is growing, but this Red Flame Lettuce is growing well. We'll thin it out as it grows larger. We also have some radish plants sprouting.

The week of crazy summer-like weather we had in mid-March sadly did not last, so we built a cold frame to protect the row of seeds we planted.
There are all sorts of tutorials online for building cold frames, many of which are somewhat labour intensive, and involve building a unit with hinges and glass. We opted for a simpler version as we knew the weather would soon be getting warmer, and it's worked out relatively well. 
One resource that is helpful to wrap your mind around the concept of gardening using cold frames is a manual by Eliot Coleman, called ' A Garden for All Seasons' which you can access here.

Andy nailed two lengths of wood together, repeated along the length of the row on each side. He then simply stretched a heavy sheet of plastic over the row, weighed down by rocks so the wind wouldn't disturb it. The plastic must be clear so the light can reach the plants, exactly like a greenhouse.

We remove the plastic on days when it's warmer, but will keep covering the row until the temperature at night stays above 4C ( 40F).
It looks like we'll have baby greens to eat by the end of April!