Time to begin sowing a new season

Bees Knees columnists Dawn Moorhead and David Lang offer a compendium of preseason gardening resources

The local food movement is burgeoning, spring is right around the corner, and we’ve compiled a medley of (mostly) local resources and activities to keep growers and consumers busy for the next several weeks.

Seed

If you’re shopping for seed to start on the window sill, in the greenhouse, or out in the yard, placing an order online this month almost guarantees timely arrival. Seedy Saturdays are another source of seed, plants, information, and growing aids, and we look forward to development of a regional one. If you’d like to be involved with a North Island Seedy Saturday, add your voice to the “North Island Farmer’s Market” facebook page.

Down Island, the Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers 14th annual Seedy Saturday and Horticultural Trade Show is in Courtenay on March 1. Lots to learn, swap, and buy. Details online at cvgss.org/seedy-saturday/.

February in the garden

We sow broad beans, also called fava beans, outdoors in February, about 30cm (1 ft.) apart, not too crowded. They germinate at a temperature as low as 5EC. Laying floating row cover over the bed expedites germination. We use, and recommend, a cover that reportedly increases the temperature by 3-4.5EC. When the soil warms sufficiently, the plants shoot up. By late May they are covered with blossoms, if not beans.

Favas are one of the most nutritious vegetables, and a valuable source of protein. Plus, bacteria in their root nodules add nitrogen to the soil to the benefit of your next crop. If you’re taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, being treated for Parkinson’s Disease, or have the condition known as “favism”, check with your physician before eating broad beans.

It’s a great time to dig up Jerusalem artichokes and eat something fresh from your garden, even though it’s the dead of winter. These humble vegetables are a natural for North Island growing. Once you’ve got them started, its unlikely you’ll ever need to buy another one as they will spread and endure. They’re economical and healthy. The roots have negligible amounts of fat and contain zero cholesterol. They are one of the finest sources of dietary fibers and contain small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Further, Jerusalem artichokes are a very good source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, and copper. They also contain small levels of some valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin.

With everything going for them except, perhaps, their appearance – don’t judge this book by it’s cover!

Growing with and for the community

With the increased interest in local food, this is the perfect year to grow something extra to sell, swap, share or donate. If you need more space, check out availability of garden plots at the community gardens in Sointula, Port McNeill, Fort Rupert, Tsulquate Reserve, and Port Hardy.

Growing to share? Connect with others on local facebook pages, such as “North Island Farmer’s Market” or “HardyLocalFoods FoodShare”.

For information and community around food security issues, join and participate in the Mt. Waddington Food Security listserv, supported by BC Food Systems Network. Subscribe to “mtwadfood” by going to bcfsn.org/our-listservs/.

If you’d like to sell some of your produce, don’t worry about starting small, or very small. Why not form or join an informal co-operative in your community or neighbourhood — pooling your produce for sale with others leads to an abundant and inviting market stall, shared expenses, and support in selling to the public, something not everyone is comfortable doing.

Sales venues abound, from booking a table at long-standing community festivals and fairs, to participating in new ones. The North Island Farmer’s Market will launch its third season in Hyde Creek this spring, there’s a market at Fort Rupert on March 2, and there‘s the new Seagate Market Sundays in Port Hardy — look for their Facebook page: “Seagate Market”.

Learn

North Island College is sponsoring a free two-day workshop on food safety practices, especially geared to those who collect plants, grow herbs, spices or natural health products and/or process those items. The workshop takes place February 19-20 and pre-registration is required. Growers and wild crafters attending will address risks surrounding safety, quality, traceability and ethical practices. Regardless of the end use of your raw material, this program may be an asset to your operation. To register, contact Naida Brochie at 250-949-7912 ext 2811.

The provincial organic community gathers in Nanaimo February 21-23 for the COABC conference with workshops, organic meals, networking, and AGM. Online registration: certifiedorganic.bc.ca/infonews/conference2014/.

More information

We all use different communication methods — print, digital, Facebook, email, phone, post, and/or meetings. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information to directly connect to the people and events mentioned above.

Dawn Moorhead and David Lang are affiliated with Grassroots Learning Centre in Port Hardy.

Comments and questions are welcome at organic9@telus.net , 250-230-4243, or Grassroots Learning

Centre, Box 2015, Port Hardy, V0N 2P0.

 

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