Category Archives: Growing Food

Beats Peat Coconut Coir for Growing Potatoes 

Last year during the gardening season I tried to make a pallet garden. Sadly that did not work out as well as I had hoped and I have basically given up on it in favour of planting potatoes in bins full of coconut coir.

Beats Peat
Beats Peat

We are using 68 L Rubbermaid bin’s half filled with coconut coir (a more ecologically sensitive replacement for peat moss) and planting seed potatoes in the bins.

coconut coir
coconut coir

The package of coconut coir says it rehydrates almost instantaneously and I have to admit, it was amazingly quick to rehydrate. I simply broke the slabs into hand sized pieces and then added cold water from the hose. With a little bit of manipulation the coconut coir soaked up the water and turned into what looks almost exactly like peat.

coconut coir
Bins Ready for Planting

I then transferred the rehydrated coconut coir from the mixing bin into the bins we intend on planting the spuds in. Of course before we put anything in the bins we drilled 6 or 8 holes in the bottom of the bins so that they had some drainage.

We ran out of time today so we didn’t have time to do the actual planting but the bins are ready as soon as we get a chance to fire some seed potatoes into them.

As an aside, we bought two extra packages of peat replacement for when the potato plants are ready to be “hilled”. All we have to do is pack more material in around the plants and that is in essence, hilling the potatoes.

The coconut coir is available at your local gardening supply store. Each package cost about $15.

I will let you know how this new form of potato growing works out.

 

 

Planting Asparagus 

It was a warm and sunny morning so my immediate impulse was to get outside and do some gardening.  

Yesterday I was at Gardenworks over in Burnaby and I picked up a bag of asparagus roots. Today I prepped the garden bed and planted the asparagus roots. 

Funny thing, in order to fully understand how to plant the asparagus I first went to YouTube to see how it is done. 

Now we wait a year to see if enough grow to feed me and my family.

 

Pallet Garden Update

My pallet garden “experiment” has not gone as well as I had hoped.

Pallet Garden Early Days
Pallet Garden Early Days

I managed to get a few feedings of spinach, radicchio and kale out of the garden but it quickly dried up whereas the spinach and kale growing in the other garden boxes have continued to flourish and produce.

Another problem with the pallet garden is that no matter how I have tried to water it, the watering process makes the soil run out of the pallet.

Pallet Garden Now
Pallet Garden Now

At this point of the summer I have snipped off the spinach and kale plants and planted a special type of ball carrot in each of the rows.

I’ll update later in the summer how this new “crop” progresses.

 

Front Yard Gardening

I have blogged Front Yard Garden and I will probably blog about it again in the future but quite simply, I love my front yard garden. And if anyone tells you they don’t have time for gardening, they don’t understand how easy it is to grow food.

Because we live along a very busy street, our front yard is not a fun place to hang out nor a safe place for the kids to play. We do that sort of stuff in the yard behind the house. So, a couple of years ago or more I built a couple garden boxes. I took some old 2x6s I had and made a garden box. Just small ones, about 42″x30″.

The Garden Box
The Garden Box

I placed the garden boxes right on top of the lawn and covered the lawn inside the box with a thick layer of cardboard.

On top of that I emptied out the contents of our composter. Then I added a layer of grass clippings. And then a couple bags of mushroom manure or some other soil that I bought at our local garden centre.

Then we planted some seeds: carrots, beets, spinach, kale, radishes and a couple of potatoes. And that was it.

I didn’t need to weed the garden because the seeds were planted so densely that there simply wasn’t room for the weeds to grow!

In the fall I collected up piles of leaves from the backyard and piled them, actually mounded them, on top of the garden box. Like three feet deep on top of the garden box!

In the spring the leaves had shrunk down so that I was able to dump a couple more bags of mushroom manure on the garden box before planting again.

In the second year I built a couple more garden boxes as supplies came available. A guy was doing a renovation a couple houses over and he had some extra lumber – quickly turned into garden boxes. Same process to get them productive.


We now have seven productive garden boxes (Pallet Garden) in our front yard to grow a wide variety of vegetables including potatoes, kale, spinach, peas, beans, carrots, beets, a variety of squashes, monster-size sunflowers and many fresh greens.

It really takes no time at all once the boxes are built. We do not turn the soil over – ever. In the fall we still heap the boxes with leaves and in the spring we get a few bags of manure or garden soil delivered to our home from a local high school that is doing a fund raiser.

Having a home garden is very simple and straightforward – once the garden box is built and it is a great way to connect kids to the source of their food. I encourage everyone to grow food – even if it is just a a handful of green onions or herbs, grow something!!

Chayote Squash

I have discovered (much like Europeans say they “discovered” North America) a very tasty and intriguing new vegetable – the chayote squash.

Chayote Squash
Chayote Squash

Next to my mother’s home lives a Chinese family and the grandmother from that home is wild about gardening. They have every single inch of their backyard growing some kind of an edible veggie. It really is a site to behold.

The grandmother speaks virtually no English and so when she comes over to my mother’s place they communicate with sign language and smiles. Anyway, the grandmother from across the lane is the one who gave my mother the first chayote we tried. And I will say, it is was delicious!

The chayote is a kind of summer squash typically found in Mexico. It grows on a wild, sprawling vine that will attach itself to anything in a yard. The family across the lane let their chayote grow along the fence between their yard and the neighbouring yard.

You have to peel the squash with a sharp knife or potato peeler and any peel that you leave on the squash, even after cooking, has a strong, bitter flavour. Once peeled though, the chayote squash has a dense, firm texture softer than a potato but but more firm than a cucumber. The flesh holds together very nicely when cooked in one inch cubes in a spaghetti sauce or soup.

The grandmother gave my mother a couple of the chayote squashes and we decided to plant them. They are in buckets of dirt in our climate controlled greenhouse for now. I will update you in the spring when we transfer them to our gardens.

Urban Digs Farm in Burnaby

Today we went on an urban-farm adventure in our neighbouring city of Burnaby and visited in real life a place that I frequently “visit” online – Urban Digs Farm.

Urban Digs Farm
Urban Digs Farm

Yesterday I read a news piece about how the ongoing drought in California may drive the price of broccoli up to the $7 a pound mark. Right away I thought of all the beautiful farm land in Burnaby along Marine Way. When I was a kid we would drive along what was then Marine Drive and marvel at the small market farms with the land being worked so intensively. Those lands were and still are rich and fertile and should have been better protected.

Instead, much of that land is now covered with massive churches, temples or big box retailers.

However, it is very cool to see the small pieces of land in that area not covered by churches, temples, or big box retailers still being farmed. And that is what the people behind Urban Digs Farm are doing – intensively farming a small patch of that beautiful, rich and fertile soil along Byrne Road between the Fraser River and Marine Way.

Berkshire Pigs
Berkshire Pigs

A farm in the city. Pigs, goats, chickens, and ducks all being raised with a mind to the philosophy of permaculture.

Two Day Old Ducklings
Two Day Old Ducklings

Daniel, one of the farm workers who took me on a guided tour of the working farm described the pigs raised on the farm, a Berkshire crossed with another breed, as well suited to the wet and muddy land that the farm is situated on. Their breeding also makes them longer in the stomach meaning more bacon is produced – bacon that is made by the good folks at one of my favourite barbecue joints, Re-Up BBQ.

An interesting point about the pigs though, Daniel says they are basically carbon neutral seeing as they are born on the farm and live their entire lives on the farm doing much of the work that a diesel fuelled tractor would normally be required to do.

After one season of being pastured on a section of field the pigs are able to almost eliminate all the couch grass that is so quick to infiltrate farm fields. They also turn over the soil and eat all the pests and grubs that are found in the soil.

Vegetable Garden
Vegetable Garden

Of course as well as all of the animals that are being raised at Urban Dig Farms, they have a significant sized market garden where they grow all the usual veggies including kale, carrots, beets, squash and a variety of gourds, cucumbers, potatoes and more.

While Urban Digs is a supplier of fresh, local and organic vegetables and meat to a number of local restaurants, they also supply farm produce to the public by opening up the farm gates twice a week – Thursdays from 1 – 6pm and Saturdays from 10 -2pm.

Urban Digs Farm in Burnaby is beautifully chaotic example of how small scale farms can supply nutritious and tasty food into our local homes. Food does not have to be trucked in from California. The folks at Urban Digs Farm are living proof of this.

Zero Mile Diet Workshop at Coquitlam’s Inspiration Garden

Although my frontyard garden is sort of coming to a close, the reality is, growing veggies isn’t just for the summer. Many veggies (read that as kale) benefit from maturing over the winter and harvesting in the spring. As well, our mild west-coast climate allows gardeners to grow and harvest over the winter season with limited protection. 

Frontyard Garden
Frontyard Garden

Coquitlam’s Inspiration Garden, located at the corner of Guildford Way and Pipeline Road, in Town Centre Park is hosting a Zero Mile Diet workshop on planting for fall and winter, on Saturday, August 23 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The workshop is hosted by Roberta Ward, a red seal certified gardener with over 30 years of experience. Participants will leave the course with knowledge on what to plant, how to plant it, and how to protect it over the winter.

If you are interested in registering, go online at coquitlam.ca/garden or by calling 604-924-4386 quoting barcode 472319.

Sprouts

I remember when I was a kid living back on the family farm, we didn’t gave good and reliable refrigeration or access to fresh veggies so we always had jars of sprouts in a variety of stages of readiness.
Alfalfa, radish, cabbage, broccoli and fenugreek were some of the sprouts we would have.

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These fenugreek sprouts will be ready to eat in the next couple of days.

Raspberries and Whipped Cream

Yes, I have been away from my eating in the burbs blog for far too long. I have been doing my part and eating, I just haven’t had a minute to sit down to write and share photos.

So to tide you over until I can do my review of Earnest Ice Cream (brought to me by an Angel), here is a photo of my dessert from Wednesday’s lunch. Raspberries picked from the front yard garden with whipped cream and gold flake on top of a sweet dollop of custard.

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