Yesterday, the temperature dipped to minus 15, a real shocker after Thursdays two degrees above zero and Friday’s minus five. So imagine our surprise when tons of people began streaming into the Verdun municipal greenhouses for the borough’s first ever Seedy Saturday.
In the end, we counted 357 visitors to Seedy Saturday, though probably more came given that busy volunteers used the click counter.
What a great day! The sun and conversations with amazing people kept us toasty and comfortable all day.
Tons of conversations took place throughout the day. Typical topics revolved around practical tips to grow healthy food, ensuring food security and entrepreneurship and jobs.
Many of the tips emphasized how to take advantage of small spaces and combating wildlife. How can you keep the squirrels from damaging and eating all your crops? Use small and large caging to keep them out.
Which seeds provide the best-tasting fruits and vegetables? Heritage seeds for sure, although getting people to give up nicer-looking fruit and vegetables for better taste can be a challenge.
How do you plant them to make sure they produce? Choose the right time and the right medium for each variety.
Lots of workshops took place at Seedy Saturday, but one-on-one conversations contained the best tips.
Which seeds should I plant now? Tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.Which ones go direct in the garden? Beans, carrots and peas. When? Peas go in as soon as the ground can be worked, while beans get planted after last frost at the end of May. Kale and carrots benefit from either treatment, although they should be staggered over the summer.
There were some diverging opinions on all points, and since I had the worst growing summer ever last year, I tried to listen more than I spoke. Not sure that worked though. I talked a lot.
Food security and using local entrepreneurship to build abundance formed the backbone of many conversations. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that yesterday’s Seedy Saturday was organized by Grand Potager. Grand Potager is a nonprofit organization that includes many of the Verdun-based organizations who are trying to use urban agriculture to ensure that no one in Verdun goes hungry.
Our urban agriculture solidarity coop CAUS is a member of Grand Potager, and our main focus remains building a local economy via markets. We now have spring markets, our farmers’ markets from July until October, and our winter markets.
Our next market takes place Saturday, April 8 at the Church of the Epiphany, 4322 Rue Wellington, Verdun from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Hope to see you there!
Shortly after moving into a 4 ½ apartment in Villeray, my husband and I got our first shared garden plot. We sought out some assistance about what we should plant in the 20 x 10-foot space and found “The Organic Gardener” by Bob Flowerdew. The book was two years old when we bought in in 1995.
It’s still my favourite gardening book.
Flowerdew gardens in the United Kingdom, so the seasons and the growing schedule doesn’t match Montreal. Still, his experience and confidence about gardening as a way to improve society crosses geographic boundaries.
A healthy soil is the key to organic gardening,” he writes. “Not only does it provide plants with the food they need to live, it also confers health and vitality, making them much more able to withstand outbreaks of diseases.”
He then explains that the best way to create good soil is to “add as much organic matter to the soil as you can get.”
More than thirty years later, and that advice continues to hold true.
Most of organic gardening centres around improving soil through green manures, mulches, and composting. Flowerdew doesn’t focus on permaculture, but he does explain how to design a garden with the ecosystem and human requirements in mind.
There’s a whole chapter on beneficial insects and wildlife and lots about choosing the correct plant for any location.
He goes into types of plants, sowing and growing, plant species and many types of food that can be grown in any garden.
This isn’t a basic guidebook, although that’s its primary role. Organic Garden is extremely well-written and Flowerdew’s slightly persnickety personality shines through. It’s evident that he really cares about food and has thought out his presentation in detail. For example, he explains why nasturtium leaves, celery and marigolds are in the chapter about herbs.
I define an herb, whether it is eaten raw or used in cooking, as one that is added to dishes rather than served as a portion on its own. Thus some minor crops are included here rather than in the section on vegetables.”
To finish off the book, Flowerdew provides a monthly list of chores that can be combined slightly for a Canadian climate.
Unlike many garden books, Flowerdew’s includes a full index and chapter outline.
Recently, I examined all my garden books to see which one I would recommend most. Flowerdew’s Organic Gardening still wins handsdown. Flowerdew has updated his work considerably in the last twenty years of course. If you want a compendium of his latest thinking, consider purchasing his Organic Gardening bible (2005) or his guide to Going Organic (2008). Links to the first are available above through the Amazon and the Abe Books links. The Indigo link goes to the Going Organic book.
You can also just read his blog or join me as one of his 3,050 Twitter followers. Don’t expect him to care about you though. He only follows 35 people.
The Organic Gardener, London: Reed International Books Limited, 1993, ISBN 060057461X.
It’s time to begin thinking about harvesting dandelions. They haven’t appeared yet, but with today’s warm weather, they’ll be popping up any minute now. For some ideas about eating them, consult Euell Gibbons’ 1962 book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” The classic would make an ideal mothers’ day gift for a gardening mom.
Normally, by the time I begin harvesting dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) the flower buds are already on the plants. Not this year. The leaves don’t taste quite so bitter when I pick the plants before the flowers bud, so I’m making a special effort to get them early this year. I’m going on the prowl for these little babies beginning today.
Thinking about the task as a harvest—and actually eating the leaves I pick—makes the task slighter more rewarding than it would be if the idea were simply to make my lawn look nicer. Most years, I begin the task on a rainy day. Again, not this year! Yippee!
The key to enjoying this activity during this time of the year is to have a great recipe.
Gibbons recommends six different ways to eat the plant. This year, I’m hoping to finally try Gibbons’ dandelion crown salad and boiled unopened flower heads recipes. I’ve never been able to try them before because they both require a much earlier harvest than I usually manage. Roasted ground roots made into a coffee-like beverage has never appealed to me, because I don’t like coffee much, but I might try it anyway just for the heck of it. I’ve also never bothered either to harvest the roots and peel them to serve boiled or fried as a vegetable and that’s not likely to change, since the plants I harvest are usually too small. I’ve never bothered to gather the bright flowers and make wine either, although that’s something that might be possible from the church weeds. We’ll see.
My definite favourite recipe is wilted greens fried with garlic and bacon with a mustard sauce. This was recommended by my PWAC colleague and buddy, Steve Pitt, who posted the recipe on a list serve a few years ago. I’ve revised it slightly, and it still tastes great. Hope you like it as much as I do.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Put it into a steel salad bowl.
Pour off extra bacon fat, leaving just enough to cook the greens in.
Pour in the vinegar and heat to scrape the pan.
Add Dijon, honey and olive oil to make a sauce.
Add the greens and cook until they wilt. Toss everything together and serve.
I officially became an urban agriculture entrepreneur in 2013, after joining friends to co-found the Urban Abundance Solidarity Cooperative (CAUS) in Verdun.
Our company created and manages: