When Planning Planting it All Starts With the Seeds

When Planning Planting it All Starts With the Seeds Katie English recently posted on the Dawson Community Garden Facebook page reminding us that it’s time for planning the coming season’s planting. As January is upon us, so too is the gardening season. The New Year marks the time for getting your plans and dreams in order. Seeds are selected and ordered, gardens get planned and it is even the month for some of our earliest starters. If you are anything like Katie, then seed variety and quality is of utmost importance. For a seed is where it all begins …. Seeds can be the carrier of many of the diseases we find later on our grown plants or starters, furthermore poor quality seeds can mean poor quality germination, so quality is important. Katie is big on heritage and heirloom seeds. She looks for high quality organic seeds so she can later save the seeds she obtains from her own growing for the future. > Visit our Seeds page to see recommended varieties from local Dawson growers that have been successfully cultivated in the Northern climate  Katie likes to know the long history of the seed and how it was saved over generations, and looks for interesting varieties that you can’t find in the grocery store. She also supports the small companies that are working hard to save our heirloom varieties and to produce organic seeds.  She points out that 60 per cent of the world’s seeds are owned by big chemical companies and avoids those seeds makes sure she does not support those corporations. Monsanto, and a handful of other corporate biotech giants, such as Pioneer and Syngenta, have been using their profits to buy up small seed companies, acquiring more than 200 over the past 15 years or so. They are doing so to dominate the seed market, not just by owning the source, but also to acquire the DNA of heirloom and open-pollinated seed varieties for use in their future GMO products. Most of the advantageous plant traits that megacorporations like Monsanto boast about bioengineering, such as drought tolerance, higher yields, or resistance to insects, are in fact the result of traditional breeding over many generations to produce superior seeds. Once the acquisitions are finalized, however, these biotech corporations can splice in their own modified proprietary genes, and patent the resulting seeds. For those looking for organic or non-GMO seeds, here is a list of seed companies who have taken the safe seed pledge as presented by the Council for Responsible Genetics. Scroll down to see the list of Canadian companies. > See the Safe Seed Resource list

Vertical Agriculture Coming to Carcross

A vertical agriculture facility is in the planning stages with the goal of having it built in Carcross this fall. This innovative project will be the first  of its kind in the Yukon. Tami Grantham, Natural Resources Coordinator with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, says:  “What attracted us to this technology is the ability to grow greens year-round. It’s a goal and a mission for the government of Carcross-Tagish First Nation to become food-secure.” Construction would be managed through a new corporation created as a partnership between the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and Northstar Agriculture of which the First Nation will be 51 per cent owner. The system will recirculate water from a fish tank through a vegetable grow bed. Nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants, and the plants filter the water to keep the fish healthy. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by bacteria into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system. The vertical part of this type of farming will be in the form of stacked layers that could be up to 10 meters high, in order to maximize production, contained in a warehouse-style space. Not only would this mean a possibility for fresh local produce and lower food prices in the community, but also the promise of food security, as this system allows year-round growing of vegetables in a sustainable way. The fish raised would be Tilapia, which is common in farming systems. Vegetables grown would include kale, spinach, and perhaps even strawberries and other vine crops.  

Easy Tip for Re-Growing Celery

Regrowing celery - photo by Claus Vogel
Regrowing celery – photo by Claus Vogel
Claus Vogel is growing celery from celery! This is a great way to get more veggie from the bottom of a veggie that you would usually cut off anyway. Take the base from a stalk of celery, rinse it off, and put it in a shallow cup of warm water on a window sill. Change the water daily and keep an eye on it to see if any regrowth begins. You’ll see remarkable results in days and if you want, you can transplant the celery outdoors and have a great harvest at the end of the growing season.
Apparently this also works with romaine lettuce and green onions, and veggies similar to celery like fennel and celeriac.  Louise Piché was successful at re-growing ginger from a piece of store bought ginger root, and some adventurous people have even re-grown pineapples from the tops!
Anyone else had any success with re-growing veggies?

“Le Refuge” – France Benoit’s charming farm in Yellowknife

France Benoit in Le Refuge - Photo by Up Here Magazine
France Benoit in Le Refuge – Photo by Up Here Magazine
In a beautiful article by Up Here Magazine, France Benoit opens the gate to her home and farm “Le Refuge“, which she has lovingly built and tended to for the past 25 years. On this property, by the shores of Madeline Lake in Yellowknife, France grows a variety of vegetables to feed herself as well as to sell in the local farmer’s market, of which she is a founding member. France has been kind enough to share many growing and homesteading tips with Suzanne, which we have featured on FWE, and her creative and smart solutions for northern greenhouses keep us inspired. Thanks, France!

Celery Flavor All Year Round

One way to have celery year round from the garden is to grow celeriac root. Weird looking but quite flavorful, celeriac root is edible raw or cooked, and tastes similar to the stalks of common celery.  It grows well in the North, keeps well in cold storage all winter, and apparently can have a shelf life of approximately six to eight months if stored properly. You can serve it roasted, stewed, blanched, or mashed, or added to your favorite stews or casseroles.  Peel it and chop it and use it in place of fresh celery in cooking.  Excellent combined with potatoes when cooking mashed potatoes! 
Celeriac Root - Wikimedia Commons
Celeriac Root – Wikimedia Commons
 

Don’t Judge a Vegetable By Its Cover!

Another tasty, although not so pretty vegetable that grows well in the Yukon is the root called salsify.  Don’t let the hairy dark exterior intimidate you. Peel it, and it tastes similar to a very sweet parsnip, and you can eat it raw or you can cook it as you would cook most root vegetables.
Salsify, peeled and unpeeled - photo by Suzanne Crocker
Salsify, peeled and unpeeled – photo by Suzanne Crocker
Salsify might not be easily found in the average grocery store, but it actually grows wild in many places in the world, especially the Americas.
Purple Salsify flower- Wikimedia Commons
Purple Salsify flower- Wikimedia Commons
But not everything is under the ground: the flowers from the salsify root are gorgeous to look at, and also edible! The shoots can be used like asparagus, either raw or cooked, and the flowers can be added to salads.    

Ginger in the North?

Louise Piché is experimenting growing ginger this year – by planting a piece of ginger root from the grocery store.  So far it’s doing well!
Louise Piché's ginger is looking great! Photo by Louise Piché
Louise Piché’s ginger is looking great! Photo by Louise Piché
Did you know you can re-grow other vegetables from what you buy in the grocery store? Apparently, you can re-grow celery, romaine lettuce and even herbs like mint and basil. All it takes is a little patience! Have you re-grown any store bought veggies at home? How did it go?

Early Leafy Greens in a Cold April Greenhouse?

Asian Greens - Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Asian Greens – Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Take advantage of your greenhouse in April and May,  before you plant your tomatoes and cucumbers, to give you an early crop of spinach or Asian greens! Riley Brennan, of Dawson City, direct seeds spinach in her greenhouse as soon as the soil thaws in April.  She leaves the greenhouse unheated and the seedlings don’t require any covering.   By the time she goes to plant her greenhouse proper in late May, she has a crop of baby spinach to harvest. Continue reading “Early Leafy Greens in a Cold April Greenhouse?”

Peanuts and Ground Cherries Growing in the North!

Ground cherries in their husk - wikimedia commons
Ground cherries in their husk – ph. Wikimedia commons
If there is something exotic you wish to grow in the North, ask Louise Piché of Rock Creek, Dawson City, Yukon.  Louise is a well known gardener in Dawson and a frequent ribbon winner at Dawson’s annual Discovery Days Horticultural Fair.  She loves experimenting with new and colorful varieties.  She has successfully grown peanuts and ground cherries (aka golden berries) as well as asparagus, giant pumpkins and buckwheat. Louise has generously shared her ‘tried and true’ cultivars that grow well in Rock Creek, which you can view on our seed page.   This year she is experimenting with ginger, turmeric, artichokes and pink potatoes. We will keep you posted! Continue reading “Peanuts and Ground Cherries Growing in the North!”

Hear it on the radio: CBC Yukon’s “A New Day” catches up with Suzanne

Great news! The CBC morning radio show “A New Day” hosted by Sandi Coleman on CBC Yukon, has started a  new regular column called “Yu-kon Grow It”, which will air every other Wednesday morning between 7 and 7:30 am. On this segment,  Sandi will check in with Suzanne about her “First we Eat: Food Security North of 60” project, as well as featuring other Yukoners involved in local food issues such as Miche Genest and other guests. Sandi Coleman will next check in with Suzanne on Wednesday March 8th, between 7.00 and 7.30 am on CBC Radio Yukon. Don’t forget to tune in! You can listen to the first interview with Suzanne and Elyn Jones here,  

Local Fertilizer in Arviat, Nunavut

When you live in a fly-in community in the North, shipping by plane can be very expensive, especially for heavy items such as soil and fertilizer. The people behind the community greenhouse  in Arviat, Nunavut, have taken on the very important issue of food security by devising a strategy to grow their own produce. And one of the biggest obstacles they have found is that the local soil lacks nutrients. Commercial soil works fine, but it is costly and it needs to be flown in, which impacts the sustainability of the project.
Arviat's Greenhouse, Photo by Arviat Goes Green
Arviat’s Greenhouse, Photo by Arviat Goes Green
Continue reading “Local Fertilizer in Arviat, Nunavut”