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Thursday, September 12, 2019
Posted By: Marian Vaughan in Pollinators

The days are unmistakably shortening. We are heading breakneck towards the equinox (Sept. 23), and after that, we embark upon the triumph of the night and the days begin to shorten.


In the meantime, our gardens are alive with bees, hummingbirds and even a few butterflies. There are still many annuals & tender perennials to keep them fed, all the various daisies that brighten the garden: cosmos, tender fuchsias, tender sage & geraniums keep them coming back for more.


Bees

Kept fairly happy with Albizzia, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) & aromatic herbs such as Perovskia (Russian Sage), Limonium (Sea Lavender) & the second blooming of Lavender & Centranthus. I notice them haunting the roses as well, especially the single ones, as do the butterflies.


Butterflies

Adult butterflies are dwindling, but they & their descendants need our help more than ever. Somewhere there has arisen a mania for “Fall cleanup” of perennials in the garden. This is a horticultural disaster, since you are encouraging the frost to kill the perennial growth you want to keep by exposing the tender new growth and removing their refuge from the cold. By cleaning up you also eliminate host plants for chrysalises of butterflies and shelter for pollinators.

If we leave the garden be until spring, we can expect them in greater numbers. Even if leaving your whole garden doesn’t appeal to you, for visual reasons, leaving just a small area can go a long way in helping pollinators.


Hummingbirds

The Rufous hummingbirds have fled South, but we now have over-wintering Anna’s who have followed the feeders North as the climate warms. This time of year begins the season of their real need for our care. There is still food for them: Fuchsias, both hardy & tender, Petunias, red Salvia and a smattering of other plants; But feeders fill the gap as the flowers fade. 


If you like to feed hummingbirds, be aware this is no light commitment. These little birds need feeding in the dead of winter too, at the crack of dawn, from feeders free of snow and ice. We will have more on this later, several of us can show our bare footprints in the snow; But for the moment it is just time to be aware of changing needs.

Although not technically pollinators, native birds: juncos, chickadees, nuthatches & towhees also bring life to the fading garden. These birds greatly need shelter & warmth from now on into winter. The method of leaving the garden be in fall provides this and as a bonus, the birds do their own ‘weeding’: collecting weed seeds from under the canopy.


Although it can seem depressing as the days begin to close in, September is historically a time of preservation of summer’s bounty; a time to nurture all we care for, so that we all emerge triumphantly into the new year to come.
 

Sunday, August 4, 2019
Posted By: Marian Vaughan in Recipes

August is upon us and, almost to compensate for this wistful reminder of summers end, we are rewarded with an abundance of ripening stone fruits. What better way to enjoy your final summer days and this fruitful bounty than to do a little baking?

This is a family recipe passed down to me from my mother, and it came to her from my grandmother. Every woman in my family makes it, for the simple reason that it is the essence of delicious and the soul of easy. Basically, it is fruit combined with whipped cream.


 

Fruit Fool  


3 Cups

¼ to ½ Cup
2 Cups
 

Chopped Fruit - Any combination of peaches, nectarines, apricots or plums
*In the earliest summer you can make it with fresh berries or unseasonably in winter with tropical fruit!
Berry Sugar (err on the side of less)
Heavy Cream
 


Let’s Get Started!

Blanch & peel nectarines, peaches or apricots. Keep the skin of plums; it is delicious. Stone them & chop them fairly coarsely. Put in a pan, adding a small amount of sugar & heat gently to a near boil. Taste often (cook's privilege) to decide if sugar ok, and if still tastes like fruit.  DON'T let it get overcooked! You don't want jam! Remove from stove and allow to cool. When it is cool, whip the cream until it is quite stiff, then fold in the fruit mixture gently but until combined. Chill for a few hours (for example, while you eat dinner). Can be made the night before & refrigerated.



Variation

A variation of this I have made for a few years comes from Lucy Waverman. In the early part of your cooking day, you line a sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth and set it on top of a measuring cup.  Into the lined sieve you put an entire 500 gram container of plain, full fat, non-homogenized yogurt (preferably sheep -- tastes more creamy). Folding the cheesecloth over the top, you put a weight (something high-tech like a saucer with a potato in it works great) and let it drip while you get on with your cooking. In a few hours, there will be quite a lot of fluid in the bottom of the measuring cup, and the yogurt will be VERY thick.  

Whip the cream as above, then gently stir in the yogurt until well combined.  Then add the cooked fruit. This makes for a deliciously tangy dessert as is, or you can also stir in a compatible liqueur: Cointreau for example.

 


Sunday, August 4, 2019
Posted By: in Recipes

The all too brief season of figs will soon be upon us. Fig trees are a treasure of the European garden that are a surprisingly easy fruit to grow in the Pacific Northwest. These spreading, rambling trees can produce 1-2 crops of delicious fresh figs a year if given enough warmth and heat. Even in cooler temperatures you will be rewarded with at least 1 crop. 


An unusual but delicious fruit, figs possess a very dynamic flavor making them a great addition to a number of dishes. They are wonderful on puff pastry sheets with goat cheese, roasted with bacon & chile, fresh with blue cheese & a honeycomb, these are just a few of my favorites but options are endless! To assist in narrowing your search for the perfect fig combo here is a chutney I rather enjoy which also takes advantage of a co-season rarity to the fig: fresh quince.
 

Quince & Fig Chutney 


6 Large - Fresh
10 - Fresh
1
2 Cups
1 Tsp
 

Quince or 8 Medium Apples (about 3 lbs)
Figs
Lemon
Sugar
Green Cardamom Pods


Let’s Get Started!

Rub quince with a damp paper towel to remove fuzz. Cut 4 quince (6 apples) into large pieces (no need to peel, core, or remove seeds). Place in a large heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until quince are very soft, 60–75 minutes. Halve the figs, or quarter if very large. Shell cardamom & grind in mortar & pestle; zest lemon, then juice (should yield about 1/4 cup)

Strain cooking liquid into a large bowl; discard quince. Wipe out pot; reserve.

Meanwhile peel, core, and thinly slice remaining 2 quince. Add to quince pot along with lemon zest and juice, sugar, cardamom, figs, and reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and very gently boil, stirring often and skimming surface occasionally, until quince is translucent and a spoon dragged across pot leaves a line that quickly disappears, 25–30 minutes, or 40–50 minutes if using apples.

Divide preserves among jars. Let cool; cover and chill. 
 

Do Ahead

Preserves can be made 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013
Posted By: Lynne Bose in Seeds

 

Early spring is such an exciting time for gardeners!  February and March are prime time to start some garden seeds.  Cool season crops, such as arugula, broadbeans, corn salad, kale, peas, pac choi and raddichio may all be seeded directly sometime in February or March.  Sweetpeas and cilantro  may also be sown early.

West Coast SeedsOther seeds can be started indoors to help you get a jump on the season.  They include leeks, sweet onions, parlsy, apsaragus, broccoli, cabbage, caulifower, celery, fennel, lettuce, parsley and peppers -  some to be seeded now and some varieties in March.

Some of my favourite early seeds are Broad Windsor broadbeans, Calabrese broccoli (Yum, yum!) Derby Day cabbage ( great for our cool wet springs), Palladio peas and Cascadia snow peas.  A few years ago, my husband gave me some Drunken Woman lettuce seeds as a joke - tee hee - and it has become one of my favourites now too.

Sweet PeasBegin by reading your seed packets.  They give great information on timing, light requirements, sowing depth and optimal temperature for each kind of seed.  Timing is especially important.

It is very tempting to sow lots of seeds now, but it is best ot stick to the dates on the packet.  If it says sow seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before our last frost date, don't sow any earlier.

You will only end up with tall, spindly and crowded transplants that don't do well.

For the Metro Vancouver, the generally accepted last frost date is March 28. Therefore, many cool season crops can be sown within the next week or two.

Most seeds need the following conditions - warmth, light and moisture.   Add good air circulation for your transplants.   So you will need grow lights or a light windowsill, a heat mat or warm room and a watering can with a misting nozzle if possible.  I start most of my seeds in a plastic greenhouse using  heat mats, and sometimes a supplemental heater under the bench, but I've started many on windowsills and on the top of my fridge.

Peat PelletsAlso needed are a sterile seeding mix and containers,  You can use purchased cell trays or pots, or recycled yogurt containers or egg cartons.

If you use recycled containers, make sure they have drain holes, and are very clean.   Give them a quick wash with water and a little bleach.

I've also had great success using straight compost as a seeding mix.  It must be well rotted, screened and crumbly.Another great option are peat pellets. Wet these little disks and sow your seeds straight on.

Jiffy Packs Seed Starting TraysSince switching to straight compost, I've had no problems with damping off ( a disease that kills new seedlings), and get great sturdy, green seedlings.  Other supplies that will be useful are a pencil or a chopstick, plant tags, again either purchased or recycled from old blind slats, a sharpie and some clear plastic flat covers, or clear plastic sheets.

Begin by wetting your soil.  It is best to do this about an hour before seeding so it has time to drain and warm.  It should be the consistency of a wrung out sponge ie evenly moist and just holding together.

Fill your containers to 1/2 " below the top and tamp the soil down with your fingers or the bottom of another container.  Poke holes for your seeds, paying attention to recommended planting depths.  I usually plant one seed per cell in a cell container, 3-4 seeds per 4" pot and 5-6 seeds in a cell pack.

SeedlingsIt is very tempting again to plant lots of seeds together, but this only leads to overcrowding.  If you have more seeds than you think you can use, team up with a gardening friend.  And remember you can do successive sowings of many crops like lettuce and spinach.

Cover your seeds, again referring to your seed packet for light requirements, and tamp down lightly.  You shouldn't need to water right now because you are using pre-wetted soil.  Remember to label your containers with the tags and Sharpie.

Include the variety and the date sown.  Cover your containers with your chosen plastic, and   put them in their growing site.  If you are using grow lights, position them 4 - 6' above your flats, and adjust them when necessary to keep them that height above the seedlings too.  They should be on 16 hours a day.  A timer might be handy here.  And  now  wait!

Check for water daily, waterering only enough to keep the soil lightly moistened.  Remember that wrung out sponge. Soon you will see a little crook poking out of the soil, or a slight green haze across your flat.  Success!  Yippee!

SeedlingsTaking care of your seedlings is easy too.  Good light, sufficient moisture, warmth and good air circulation are what they need.  So when the seeds have germinated, take off the plastic covers.

Begin fertilizing when the first true leaves appear.  You will see a pair of seed leaves first, and then another pair of true leaves that look different.  Use 1/2 strength fish fertilizer or another balanced fertlizer (20-20-20) once a week,

After a few weeks when the seedlings are growing well, switch to full strength fertilizer.  Sometimes a small fan, turned on the seedling a few hours a day is helpful to prevent spindly growth.

No DampIf  you see seedlings just laying down and dying, you may have damping off, a fungus.  It is caused by overwatering and poor air circulation.  There is a product called No Damp, which will stop it in its tracks.

I've tried strong chamomile tea too, for damping off, with limited success.

Your seedlings will tell you  if they are happy,  They will be a bright healthy green, with sturdy straight stalks.  They will make you smile when you see them grow, and as you dream about those crisp, crunch veggies and gorgeous bouquets you will harvest.  Have fun!


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Art's Nursery is a 10+ acre retail and wholesale garden centre located in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We've been in business at this same location since 1973 and we're proud to serve you today!

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