Tuesday, 13 December 2011

School Garden Grants! Deadline 12/31/11!

Whole Kids Foundation has partnered with FoodCorps to provide grants for up to $2,000 for school garden projects in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.  These grants are intended for schools or non-profits with clearly defined goals for their already existing gardens or to start a learning garden.

This is an excellent way to receive much-needed funding for a new project or to support a project with additional plant materials, tools, signage, irrigation, curriculum resources, and more.  The deadline is December 31- don't miss this opportunity!

Click here for application details:  http://www.gardengrantapplication.org/wkf-public/pages/home.faces

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter hibernation...

With an early snowfall on Nov. 18th, this has been a fairly cold Fall and much of our garden is taking cover for the Winter...

(No more outdoor meetings for a few months...)

A few leafy green crops have braved the cold (and some get even tastier with the cold weather), and will provide small amounts of food throughout the season.  Here is our spinach tucked beneath the snow.

A few forgotten chive seedlings get some icing.

Our sunchokes are withered and brown.  Looking forward to next year's possibilities...

Brave little favas volunteered after the Summer and persist throughout the cold.  Their leaves taste sweet like green macadamia nuts.

Calendula seems indifferent to the cold weather- it has been blooming for 6 months!

And of course, our perennial herbs, such as rosemary, are hearty and happy- great for root veggie soups.

Modest and reliable, dinosaur kale performs all year long.  An excellent plant to grow in school gardens as it is one of the few plants which can be harvested into the depths of Winter and provides excellent nutrients.

If you are a regular visiter to this blog, you will notice an absence of posts for a few weeks as we all take our long-awaited rest, catch up with family, enjoy creative meals, and celebrate the Season of Night.  We will also begin dreaming of the most succulent Spring peas and feathered lettuce varieties to be planted in a few short months, once the soil is warm enough for our fingers...  
Happy Winter to All!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

vermicomposting and sustainability demonstrations

We are excited to have received a grant through the AMS Sustainability Fund and are in the process of planning a vermicompost demonstration next to our current three-bin composter, as well as a structure to cover the compost and bees.  We are hoping to include in this design a rain catchment system and solar panels...  The process will take some time but we are excited at the potential for this site to act as a sustainability demonstration site.

Aren't these cherry and maple leaves gorgeous?!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

women farmers feed the world

As we enter the Season of Night, here in Vancouver, many other parts of the world are entering their harvest season.  We will have less activities in our own garden to report on and in turn will be sharing articles and other initiatives surrounding urban agriculture, agroecological practices, and garden-based learning.

Click here http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/women-farmers-feed-the-world to read an excellent article from Yes! Magazine on the struggles of growing food in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Following the failure of the Green Revolution in Latin America and Asia, many small-scale West African farmers (predominantly women) are skeptical of similar initiatives planned for their land.  The Green Revolution is proposed as a solution to food security in a climate where several months of the year endure the "Season of Hunger".  But many farmers reject the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and genetically modified seeds that encompass the Green Revolution project.  The West African female farmers in this article prefer to work with the land they are given, using indigenous and agroecological knowledge of the appropriate plants and practices to use.  "Food Sovereignty" is another term explored in this article, and while we Vancouverites are incredibly fortunate to live in a land of ample rain and easy access to food, the concept of being independent of large agricultural corporations is important for us to consider.  Being self-reliant on our own contextual farming/gardening practices can be enormously empowering.

Julia also reminded me that our Orchard Garden team is largely comprised of young women- here's a token of gratitude for all the women farmers of the world.  Hope you enjoy the article!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Apple Preserving Workshop

It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.
-Henry David Thoreau

With ever-darkening days full of cold rain, it was especially cozy to spend yesterday evening amidst the warm smells of apples, cinnamon & cardamom.  Leanna led an excellent workshop on three ways to preserve the iconic bounty of fall:  Apples.

Workshop participants chopped local honeycrisp apples to make a cardamom apple compote (recipe to follow), as well as made apple jelly from local cider and canned homemade apple butter.

Unfortunately the lack of evening light meant that the workshop had to be held indoors, and as such, this is a disclaimer as to the lack of vibrancy in the photos here...
But, the lively conversation and warm cooking smells made up for the 'indoor-ness' of the evening.

Participants discussed the value of food preservation in light of food security issues and also the importance of following food safety regulations when canning.

All participants took home a jar of their choice of apple compote, apple jelly, or apple butter.  When properly sealed, these delicious condiments will keep for up to a year!...  thereby extending the bright flavors of fall into the dark days of winter.

This workshop is the culmination of our 2011 series.  We are busy planning upcoming workshops beginning in February.  Stay warm and stay tuned!

Apple Cardamom Compote  
(from an old Orchard Garden recipe)

7-8 medium apples, chopped into cubes
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 kg demerara sugar
1/4 (or less depending on taste preference) cardamom
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. ginger, minced
dash of rum
250ml canning jars

Put apples, water, & lemon juice and 1/2 kg. sugar in a large pot.  Simmer until apples soften.  Add remaining sugar, cook for 10-20 minutes more.  Add spices & dash of rum; simmer for 5-10 minutes more.  Pour warm jam into clean, sterilized jam jars & seal them.  In a large pot, process jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Let sit for 24 hours.  Will keep for 1 year if properly sealed.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Putting the garden to bed: cultivating healthy soil

This past Thursday the garden hosted our second seasonal workshop in the Field School series.   This one focused on the idea of becoming "soil farmers" through the planting of cover crops, organic composting and mulching.  As we acknowledge that gardens represent cycles and systems we come to understand that  although we are approaching the 'end' of this season's harvest, we are simultaneously planning for next spring's planting.

The workshop began with a discussion on healthy soils: emphasizing a balanced makeup of 24% air, 25% water, 45% minerals, 3-5% organic matter, and 1% living organisms.  Fertile garden soil should have the texture of couscous- feeling light and fluffy (with air spaces for roots to penetrate), and be able to retain and drain water.  It is important to note that organic gardening practices seek to cultivate and maintain a diversity of beneficial bacteria, fungi and insects within the soil food web.

Participants explored the garden to identify plants that would overwinter (such as kale) and those annuals that can be pulled and used as green mulch or compost.

Garden beds were weeded and aerated, in preparation for planting garlic.

Hard-neck and soft-neck varieties of garlic are planted in the late fall and harvested the following August.

Eric gave us a comprehensive demonstration on composting, reinforcing the need to balance carbon and nitrogen inputs (through woody & green materials) and generate heat to facilitate the decomposition process.  It is important to note that healthy compost should not smell bad (indicating anaerobic bacteria), but instead should have a sweet, earthy smell (indicating appropriate amounts of oxygen and the presence of beneficial bacteria).  We have a three-bin system which enables us to move compost through three different stages of decomposition and incorporate kitchen scraps from the Agora Cafe.

Participants also cleared garden beds of summer radishes, reserving the greens for green mulching which was finished with a thick blanket of dried leaves from across campus.

This rich mulch prevents weeds, maintains soil moisture, and helps to retain existing nutrients that would otherwise be leached during the rainy season.  The leaves will break down over the winter and be incorporated as organic matter prior to planting in the spring.

Thanks to everyone who made these first few workshops a success!  We look forward to tomorrow's Apple Preserving Workshop as the final workshop for 2011.  We are busy planning future learning opportunities starting in January.  Stay tuned!

Friday, 28 October 2011

shadows, hibernation, and green tomato cake

With one week to go before Daylight Savings Time (Nov. 6, everyone!), we look forward to an extra hour of sleep and brace ourselves for quickly darkening days.  The skeletons of many trees have been laid bare.  The edges of afternoon shadows are sharpened in the thinning light- (when we actually have enough sunlight to create shadows...).  The rains are upon us- time for wool socks and rubber boots.

volunteers pull spent tomatoes in the cold rain

leaf mulch contributes excellent organic matter to healthy soil

Our garden work is focused on tidying up the spent crops, and tucking in for the Winter.  Our job, as Stacy says, is to be "soil farmers"- through the work of composting, mulching and planting cover crops, we hope to build excellent soil fertility for next year's growing season.

second generation of volunteer Summer fava beans

sprouting cover crops of rye, clover, vetch and buckwheat

We are nearing the end of our harvest and enjoying cool weather crops of parsnips, beets, carrots, rutabagas, spinach and kale.  But our tomatoes have sadly expired.  With the especially cool Summer, our tomatoes suffered and we were left with tubs of hard, green globes.  Thanks to some internet research, we found a recipe for 'Green Tomato Cake', as an excellent way to use up those piles of unripe tomatoes.  Here's an adaptation of that recipe:

Green Tomato Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp coriander
3/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 1/2 cups diced green tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9x13" pan.  Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl, until thoroughly blended.  Mix next 6 ingredients (dry) in smaller bowl.  Fold dry ingredients into sugar/egg mixture until well-mixed.  Add ginger and tomatoes; mix just until tomatoes are evenly distributed.  Pour batter into greased pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.  Enjoy!

Celebrate Learning Week: tours of The Orchard Garden

The Orchard Garden is participating in UBC's Celebrate Learning Week with
a hands-on gardening workshop followed by guided tours and light, seasonal

To register for our workshop:  Putting the Garden to Bed (focused on compost,
mulching, and planting garlic) see the following announcement... Workshop is limited to 12 participants so register early!

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 17 October 2011

poetry in the garden this friday

with so many large stories looming in the world these days, we invite you to the garden to share some of the small stories within this season of ripening and letting go:  curling leaves, persistent slugs, blue skies, rotting tomatoes- to notice the beauty and peace within this growing space. 

Please join us this Friday, 10/21, 3:30-5pm in The Orchard Garden for a poetry working group.  
This informal sharing/writing group will be led by poet and UBC Okanagan Professor, Dr. Veronica Gaylie.

We encourage you to bring a poem and snacks to share.  
We will provide hot herbal tea from the garden.

We look forward to seeing you there!


I don't know if I've ever loved Fall as much as I did on Friday, Oct. 14.

The morning started with a large group of volunteers helping us plant garlic, harvest and chop vegetables, and set tables with platters of homemade baked goodness.

At 1pm we had sunny blue skies and a large group of Orchard Garden supporters and new friends join us for a harvest celebration like none other...

Tasty treats made by our team featured produce from the garden and included delectables such as pumpkin bread, rhubarb crisp, kale chips, a pear tart with raspberry jam, kohlrabi pesto salad, and apple tarts with caramel sauce made by our neighbors, the Agora Cafe.

Julia, Stacy and Susan played violin and accordion.  Babies danced.  People pressed fresh apple cider, arranged Fall foraged bouquets, and shelled beautiful beans.

Every morsel of food was devoured as the sun sat lower in the sky and plates were scraped clean.

Thank you to the land and to our wonderful community for creating such a warm celebration.