Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Rye as a Green Manure

Fall Rye is a seed that is planted in the fall, generally in a vegetable garden, for the purpose of tilling into the soil in spring to add organic matter to your soil. The benefits of using this crop are threefold.

- When planted immediately after harvest, it quickly germinates and the extensive root system inhibits the germination of weed seeds thus keeping those pests to a minimum and reducing your work in the spring. Many insects and diseases overwinter in weeds so the rye will help protect your garden from infestations the following summer.

- The grass and its roots will prevent erosion of your soil throughout the fall and winter as well as catching the snow to provide a good snow cover.

- When tilled into your soil in the spring the rye provides a green manure which is high in nutrients and organic matter. This is the equivalent of purchasing manure and compost to add to your soil, but much less expensive since a kilogram of the seed will cover 500 sq’.

There are a few things to be aware of when using this type of crop.

- The plant has a very extensive root system that is difficult to turn with a fork so a tiller is recommended.

- The plant MUST be tilled in before it goes to seed in the spring or you will have rye growing in your vegetable garden for the rest of time.

To plant the seed, broadcast it in your garden as you dig your vegetables. You do not have to wait till the garden is empty but rather spread the seed as you empty the garden. Your garden does not have to be tilled beforehand unless your soil is quite compacted which it should not be if you are digging or pulling your vegetables.

In the spring your garden should be tilled while it is still damp but not wet. Rye absorbs a lot of moisture and will dry your garden out in a very short time. Be sure to till before the rye goes to seed.

Fall rye is an excellent and inexpensive option for amending soil for gardeners whether they practice organic methods or not.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rhubarb Cordial

Many of the camp parents wanted the recipe for our rhubarb codial that we served at the tea party yesterday. There have been a lot of variations on this recipe over the past 20 years but here is the original.

Part 1
Fill a large pot 2/3 full with rhubarb that has been chopped into 1" pieces. Cover with water so that there is approximately 1/2" of water above the chopped fruit. Simmer on stove for approximately 20 minutes or until soft. Transfer to a jelly bag and strain the rhubarb into a large bowl for a couple of hours. This juice can be divided into small portions and then frozen for future use.

Part 2
4 cups rhubarb juice
1/2 can lemonade concentrate
1 can of water using frozen lemonade can as unit of measurement
1/2 cup sugar
Stir the above ingredients together and refrigerate. When ready for a glass of nice cool rhubarb cordial, pour approximately 1/4 of a cup into a glass and top up glass with ginger ale. I use two fingers of cordial in my glasses so this may take some experimenting to get it right.

There are different ways of using this recipe. I often use water in place of the ginger ale for a 'somewhat' healthier drink. Sometimes I use homemade lemonade for a really tangy treat. I also substitute the rhubarb for different fruits and find a juice made with the grapes that we grow here at the greenhouse to be a big hit.


Local Roots Summer Camp

Chia Pet before it grew its hair.
Teagan about to make her chia pet.

Collecting flowers for use in dying fabric with natural dyes.

Here are some of the children making paper.

The greenhouse had a summer camp here for 8-11 year olds this past week. It was a blast. My daughter, Jesse, came home from Halifax to coordinate it. She kept those kids hopping for 5 days. They did everything from making paper out of corn husks to catching tadpoles at Rapid Pond. The children made their own snacks and lunches (with a little help from the adults) from many of the items that we grow here at the greenhouse. We tried to focus on a well balanced diet but we did try to make it more palatable by dipping some things in chocolate. Yay for chocolate. the above photo is of Skyler shucking strawberries.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Local Roots Summer Camp

Know any kids who want to try something different this summer?

This summer The Greenhouse and Garden Store will be offering a Local Roots Summer Camp for kids from 8-11 years of age. Business slows down significantly at The Greenhouse after Canada Day, and we are always looking for new things to do. We thought that it would be great fun to host a summer camp this year, for kids to come to The Greenhouse to learn about sustainability, gardening, and healthy living. This year’s camp will be run by myself and my daughter Jesse, who will be visiting from Nova Scotia.

Our camp will be held from August 1-5th at The Greenhouse. If you know any kids (or parents) who might be interested, or if you would like to find out more about our camp, check out our new Local Roots web page:

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here is a photo of the transpanted seedlings. They look pretty untidy, but after 24 hours they will straighten up like little soldiers. Make sure your plants are watered in and start fertilizing with a very dilute solution of Plant Prod 10-52-10 or an organic fertilizer such as 'Muskie'. We carry both at 'The Greenhouse'. You only need to use the 10-52-10 for a couple of weeks and should then change to 20-20-20. If using the 'Muskie' you can continue on and do not need to change to a different formulation. Sit back and watch them grow.

As well, your seedling should have nice, healthy roots. Each plant is carefully plucked from the seedling flat and transplanted into a larger pot or flat. Make sure you sure steralized soil such as promix or sunshine mix or you risk losing all of your hard work.

Pictured above is a marigold seedling. The smooth, oval leaves are the cotyledons... the first set of leaves that hold the sugar and starch needed for the plant to put out roots. These are not true leaves and you will notice that on all plants, these leaves die as soon as the plant has begun to establish itself. The raggedy leaves are the true leaves. True leaves look different on every plant but are very distinctively different from the cotyledons. Your seedling should be showing true leaves before you uproot it to transplant.

Last blog our seedlings were just up. The true leaves are showing on most of our seedlings and Marlene, Connie and Daddy (not pictured) are transplanting like mad. That's Cherie in the background preparing to start hanging baskets. Seeds that have been broadcast cannot stay in the germinating flat for long as they are too close together and diseases will present themselves when plants are crowded. Thus, one must remove the seedlings and plant them in a larger container for growing on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Seedlings - Spring has Sprung

The previous blog with the photo of my hand patting down the seeds has produced results! Yay! It is like giving birth all over again (without the icky parts) watching these little sweeties sticking their heads above the soil.

Once you have the teeniest bit of green you should remove the plastic dome from your seedlings or they will start to mold. Do not water from the top, but rather soak them in a pan of water so that they can take up moisture at root level without getting their foliage damp. Add a tiny bit of 'Plant Prod' 10-52-10 fertilizer to the water to encourage good root development. Yes, Plant Prod is the superior fertilizer even tho they have not sunk the same money into their advertising budget as the 'Miracle Gro' people. Place your seedlings in a coolish, but not cold, area of your house in a bright window or under grow lights.

The first set of leaves are not true leaves but just the storage vessel for the sugar and starch that the seedlings need to get their life started. Do not move seedlings out of the flats till they grow their second set of leaves called the True Leaves. These will have a very different appearance than the cotyledons (first set of leaves).

Stayed tuned for the transplanting blog which will be posted later in the week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Planting Seed

The seed are then pressed firmly into the soil. Most seeds need light to germinate so they do not need to be covered with soil. Only cover seed when the seed pack says it needs dark for germination. We use a germinating chamber however, this may be mimicked at home by using a plastic cover until the seeds sprout. Remove cover as soon as sprouting occurs and keep your seedlings in a coolish place with lots of light. Light tables are acceptable but plants will still stretch if the correct light bulbs are not used.
We use germinating flats (make sure flats are sterilized with 1 part javex to 9 parts water) and broadcast our seed over the damp soil.
The greenhouse started the furnaces two weeks ago. With the price of oil this year we are doing our best to make those Arab states even wealthier. I almost threw up when I got the bill last week.

We have started seeding so if there is anybody at home who wants to try growing their own plants from seed, you can do so along with us. Note to Brenda... start your leek now. Here is a photo of Paige mixing sterilized soil, a necessity for planting seeds. We use Pro Mix or Sunshine Mix for best results. If you do not use sterilized soil, you risk getting a disease call 'Damp Off' in your plants so don't mince money in that department.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Leeks... the underutilized veg

I have finally given in to winter. The weather has been so beautiful here that it was hard to believe that snow would ever fall. It began in earnest last week so by Thursday I dug the majority of my leeks. Leek are one of those vegetables that are often overlooked in the garden and the grocery store. I love them. They are incredibly easy to grow. I start the seed in my office in February and in March I move them into the greenhouse. They like it cool so I place them in a section where other crops would perish. As soon as the snow is melted, it is safe to plant these babies in the garden. They grow with little or no maintenance so they tend to get ignored at my place. The big bonus is that you can harvest them when they are young and skinny, or you can leave them in the ground and dig them all winter. I had to shovel a foot of snow off of the ones in the photo before I could reach them. They were still in perfect condition. These were turned into a delicious leek marmalade that Sean and I have been enjoying with every meal. Sean has high cholesterol and leek are one of the foods that help reduce cholesterol in the blood stream so they will become a staple in our diet. Mmmmmm, fresh garden veg in Newfoundland in January. What a treat!