Welcome to your Winter CSA
~ Ending the First Year Week Seven
Thank you so much for being part of the first year of the Winter CSA program! Your support and encouragement means a lot and makes it possible for me to do what I love and share what I grow! As we all work to become more responsible environmental stewards, we are faced with many options and opportunities in how we approach the greater issue of living sustainably. Eating locally produced food is one way to ensure the growing success of our immediate economy, the protection of our land – as long as the food is grown in accordance with respect for the land- and to build a thriving community of entrepreneurs, organic food advocates and overall healthy individuals. Your contribution has made my work possible and together we are a part of a much larger movement of building accountability; Accountability to ourselves in an efforts toward self care and accountability to our families and future generations as we make it a point to be role models for healthy, sustainable living! A very important venture indeed. So Thank You again!
In this newsletter you'll find some inspiration to take into the next growing season. With this (crazy) balmy weather, it's easy to want to jump into seed starting and garden preparations in anticipation of the Spring season. I would say hold your horses for just a little bit longer but, there is never any time constraint on dreaming and planning. Hopefully you'll be able to use some of these variety suggestions and growing tips to keep you motivated or even get you started in planting your first garden. No green thumb is necessary just a bit of interest, curiosity and willingness to experiment.
Bolero Carrots ( 4lbs )
Bolero is the standard organic storage variety that I've been planting for the last few years. When we do our seed searches, most organic farmers are looking for a plant that will have disease resistance produce uniform roots or fruits, have a high yield per plant and take a moderate amount of time to grow. Cold hardiness, ability to stand in the field without going bad and heat tolerance are also characteristics that we look for. Everyone is looking for a specific mix of these characteristics to best serve their own purposes depending on whether or not the farmer will be planting early, selling in mid-summer or trying to extend the season for as long as possible. So I always hope to be able to find an organic seed that can produce a plant that will offer me everything that I need. Sometimes conventional varieties are just stronger than the organic varieties that are available. Some plants are not as common and so no organic variety is available. It's important to support the production of organic seed, but if you find something that you really want to grow and cannot find the organic seed, buying conventional seed and growing the plant within organic standards still creates an organic plant!
There are yellow, white, purple, red and the standard orange carrot; Blunt root tips, pointed root tips or cylindrical root tips to choose from! There are many organic varieties available that are adapted to suit your growing needs.
For juicing carrots try Bangor from High Mowing Seeds
For early carrots try Yaya from Johnny's Seeds
For storage you can grow Bolero or Napoli, both available in organic fro Johnny's Seeds.
Merlin Beets (2lbs)
Beet seeds like to germinate in cool soil, which makes them easy to start in early spring and for Fall storage. I started my beets from seed last July, and even though it was the height of summer, I had no problem with germination. As with any seed it's important to keep the soil moist and avoid cracking or hard-pan on the surface of the soil while the small plants are trying to come up.
For early beets try Organic Early Wonder Tall Top. They grow quickly, especially in a hoop house in the Spring and they produce huge tops that are great for adding beet greens to salad or smoothies. You can get this organic seed for several different seed companies.
If you are looking to grow just beet greens,
And I have been planting Organic Merlin Beets for the past few years. I like the uniform round shape making them easy to wash and they seem to store quite well. This year they stayed well in the field without rotting or cracking. Rhonda beets from High Mowing Seeds are also supposed to be excellent storage beets.
Organic Boro beets from High Mowing Seeds boast the sweetest flavour. I have not tried this variety yet, but am intrigues by the claims! And for something a bit different, you can try Organic Touchstone Gold for yellow beets. They grow incredibly big if left in the field, but last year attracted a lot of mice and other little critters.
Jerusalem Artichokes (1lb)
Not at all difficult to grow and could be considered an invasive species! The Jerusalem artichoke grows from it's own tuber, much like a potato or garlic,where you plant the root in the Fall, allow it to overwinter under a protective cover of mulch and then watch it grow throughout the following season. You can harvest the nutty tasting roots in early Fall and then save some of the roots as seed stock to plant. Because Windy Hill Farm has been saving and reusing our own seed stock, I'm not sure about the best place to buy the tubers for planting.
If you want to try to grow your own you can plant one of the tubers from this share in a large pot of soil and cover with mulch or blankets to avoid the freeze-thaw pattern that will cause the root to rot. It is not exactly the right time to plant, but the root still may have enough time in dormancy to come up in the Spring.
I'm interested to see what effects this mild weather will have on the garlic that was planted on the farm in the Fall. Hopefully it is safe from the weather fluctuation.
Lancer Parsnips (2lbs)
Parsnips are an interesting breed, though not at all difficult to grow if they are properly thinned. It is always heartbreaking to pull out the tiny little plants when they are only a few inches tall in hopes that the ones left to grow will produce large, juicy roots. It's inevitable though, because if they are crowded, parsnips will not just push one another out of the way like beets can do, they will simply not grow. When the small plants come up, thin them to at least 2 inches apart to ensure that you have good sized roots for harvest. You can also continue to thin as they grow
Parsnips stay in the ground much longer than carrots or beets and take nearly the whole growing season to size up. You can also leave them in the ground until late Fall as long as you find a variety that is resistant to canker – a fungal rot. High Mowing Seeds sells Organic Lancer Parsnips, the only variety that we use for organic production.
Other varieties include Harris and Hollow Crown, neither of which I have tried as of yet.
Mix Kennebec, Corola & Yukon Gem Potatoes (3lbs)
Around mid March, you can start sprouting your own seed potatoes as long as you have organic stock. Conventional potatoes that you buy in the grocery store will not sprout because they have been treated with a chemical that inhibits sprouting so that they are more resistant to changing storage temperatures and transportation. You can use these organic potatoes to sprout and plant in your own garden. Often you can maximize on your seed stock by cutting large potatoes in half or even in three, as long as you have a few eyes on each peice they should sprout. You need a dark, cool place for sprouting to occur. Right now the potatoes are stored at 1 C which is too cold for sprouting, but putting them in an environement between 4-6 C and they shold begin to sprout. Planting happens in May once the soil is drained and can be worked. The seed potatoes are planted so the little sprouts are facing up, about one foot apart in a single row down the center of the bed, wth plenty of soil on either side for hilling later on. The tubers grow off the sides of the stalk, so the more you gather the soil around the stock of the plant, the more environment you create for the potatoes to develop. There are other methods including mulching with straw or compost or planting right on top of the soil and adding a heavy layer of mulch for the potato plants to grow up through. Harvest happens sometime in August for storage potatoes and they should be cured for a few weeks in a completely dark, dry 10C environment before being stored in the cooler (1-2C) for prolonged storage in cardboard boxes.
Mix Nero Tondo & Myashige Spicy Radish (0..5 lb)
These radishes are not available in organic seed. Though, there is another variety of the black radish from High Mowing that is organic but I have not tried it yet. It seems the trick with these radishes is planting time, thinning and covering to avoid pests. Both of these varieties grew much better in well drained soil that had been amended with a bit of compost and the bed tilled before planting. If you are going for no-dig gardening or a no-till method, you can use a broadfork (see “The Market Gardener” by Jean-Martin Fortier) to aerate the soil or you can pile on a few inches of compost and plant directly into that (make sure you use well cured compost and not fresh manure). Damage occurs most often from pest pressure. Covering the plants as they germinate and then begin to grow work wonders for keeping the cabbage moth away from brassicas (radishes are in the brassica family along with broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale). Other than watering well as the seeds germinate and thinning when needed, radishes, whether early Spring or late Fall for storage are relatively easy to grow! If you are storing, take the leaves off and wash thoroughly the radishes before leaving them in a 1-2C environment. I found storage is best in a closed Rubbermaid bin. It may have helped to drill a few holes in these bins in the bottom for any water drainage....but I wanted to re-use the bins for nest season's harvest!
Melford Rutabaga (2-3lbs)
I always start rutabaga as seedlings, in a tray, and put them out into the field as transplants after they are about three-four weeks old. These also benefit from being covered by a row cover because the flea beetle love to eat the young leaves.
I have had great success with the variety Melford from Hope seeds. Traditional rutabaga have purple tops, so for some, at the farmer's market the green topped rutabaga are hard to identify. I love this variety because the rutabaga are huge, stay well in the field and don't sustain too much damage from wire worm. Though, roots that stay in the ground for long periods are much more susceptible to damage from pests. Carrots tend to attract carrot rust fly, slugs and mice like to chew on beets and radishes are effected by wire worm as well. The more you know about insects the more you can do to prepare your garden and to live in symbiosis with this little creatures.
Other varieties to try include Joan – grown at Windy Hill Organic Farm - available through High Mowing Seeds and Helenor from Johnny's.
Vital Source Nutrition Mix Microgreens (100 g)
I'm very excited to have just set up my indoor grow tower so I can grow my own lettuce and microgreens during the off-season. I would recommend ProMix from MacArthurs Nursery or from the Dieppe Hydroponic Shop. If you are growing sunflower, wheat-grass or pea microgreens, the seeds have to be soaked overnight before they are spread onto the tray of soil. If you are using smaller seeds like broccoli, radish, clover, alfalfa or beet, those seeds can just be spread on top of the soil, watered so the seeds and soil are quite damp and then put on your shelf. There are many comprehensive guides to growing your own microgreens online. Here are a few helpful videos, if not to inspire you to start your own operation then just to provide a little more insight into the process:
Spiced Plum Jam
A simple cooked jam made from Fleur Du Pommier plums, Pemona natural pectin, local honey and true organic cinnamon. I love jam a little bit too much, but Pemona pectin allows you to use honey or agave or very little sugar in a variety of recipes. It's worth it to do some research into the natural pectin content of many different fruits so that you can combine fruits to create the desired consistency. Apples for example as well as hawthorn berries have tons of natural pectin. So much so that if you use them together in a recipe you don't need to use any pectin at all and hardly any added sugar. Enjoy!
Resources for Buying Organic Seeds
Veseys Seeds – They have an outlet at Feeds & Needs on Mountain Rd in Moncton, so you can order from the Veseys catalogue and go pick up at the store making shipping free!
Johnny's Seeds – From Maine. Definitely the best selection of organic seed though the exchange rate has made ordering from them much more expensive. They often have sales and promotions are have excellent information on all of their varieties including growing tips and comparison charts for picking the best variety
High Mowing Seeds – From Vermont. They supply only certified organic seed which makes them worth supporting. Some of their seed is a bit nore expensive and comes in interesting quanities that are not always ideal. For the home gardener, you can get small quantities of seed and they are currently shipping to Canada free of charge!
Hope Seeds – Canadian seed company that also offer only organic seed. Their selection is quite a big smaller but the prices are fair and they have some interesting varieties
Halifax Seeds – A Maritime company! You have to visit their website to request a catalogue and their website is not as easy to naviaget as some of the larger companies
Annapolis Seeds – From the Annapolis Valley, and run by my friend Owen! They specialise in strange varieties and a huge assortment of medicinal and culniary herbs as well as flowers, heirloom seeds and unique vegetables and fruits.
Richters Organic Seeds – This company has been around for a long time and has a large varietiy of culinary and medicinal herbs.
Mumm's Seeds – The best place to order large quantities of organic sprouting and microgreens seeds. They have a great website, you can order online and they have a large selection of everything from Fenugreek to Red Clover to Beets and custom mixes.