So I decided to learn about farming

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Powdery Mildew on Lettuce

Many of the lettuces beds I have worked with over the summer have been affected by “Powdery Mildew.”  You can avoid this fungus by selecting varieties that are less susceptible or those that are resistant. Some non-chemical way to control…

  1. Remove infected leaves promptly to prevent spore release and contamination of the soil.
  2. Rotate lettuce crops to minimise the risk of infection from resting spores
  3. Do not overcrowd plants… high humidity increases the risk of infection

lettuce top

The mildew can be identified by yellow patches on the upper leaf surfaces, and are generally angular because they are limited by the veins.

lettuce bottom

A fuzzy growth of whitish mould on the underside.


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Garlic Farming in Canada

I just returned home to Toronto when I left directly for Actinolite… near Tweed… near Belleville, to harvest and learn about growing garlic.

While in the area I participated in a “Garlic Mob” where a bunch of people came out to help farmer Ellie harvest her crop. Mennonite garlic has such a pretty looking bulbs…. it smells as garlic should… and it has such a soft white skin, like porcelain. We harvested about 2500 bulbs…

  • Pulled it
  • Cut off the hairy like roots
  • Peeled it
  • Cut off part of the green tops
  • Graded it
  • Bundled it
  • Hung it to dry

The drying takes about two weeks and then it is sold. You can eat the green garlic it is just a little strong. Some of the crop will be kept and further dried, then “cracked” (i.e. break up the bulb) and will be planted early October, maybe Thanksgiving weekend. Another way to grow garlic is to allow the garlic scape to turn into “Bulb Bills”. This method will produce many more seeds … like 100s, but can take up to 4 years to develop the garlic.

Garlic plants can be harmed by the Garlic Leek Moth, which seems to be more common when the crop is planted close to the tree line or tall grass. To control means to squish the egg sacks or kill moths. Another pest “Dry Bulb Mite” it can destroy a crop while drying in a barn. To remove means heating the bulb enough to kill the mite but not kill the bulbs ability to germinate… tricky business. Garlic ca also be affected by Physarum which can cause rot of mould in the bulb… not good. To control rotate crops and removed affected plants.

On Ellie’s farm garlic is planted in a 3 year crop rotation to deter pests and maintain the nutrients in the soil.

I also learned that you can’t or shouldn’t be able to grow your own garlic from the garlic that your buy in the grocery store because it has been bleached and radiated so not to germinate on the store shelves. WOW!

A big thank you to Margot who invited Jason and I to be a part of her very first harvest. We were very happy to be there!



Margot Garlic

Margot and Jon

Jay Garlic

garlic mob 1

Garlic mob 2Garlic bulb

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Red Pocket… I learned a bunch

Many many thanks to farmer Amy at Red Pocket Farm for taking the time and teaching me a bunch. She was the first to welcome me to a farm (foot on soil) when I first started this whole program. She is a great teacher… making suggestions on books to read and encouraging me watch, listen, and learn, when she was doing something I had not yet seen. She was patient and not pushy and didn’t mind that I asked a lot of dumb questions… sometimes asking the same question twice. I will miss the time I spent at Red Pocket with Amy, I am planning to return in September to help out with harvesting.

On Friday, June 21, 2013 we did a little bit of everything. We turned over a few beds and readied them for planting… weeding, hoeing, and lots of wheel barrels of compost (8?). Amy also taught me the basics of setting up drip irrigation (spacing, tape grade quality, valves, tape tools, placement in the bed and tying off the ends, etc…).

I learned about companion planting (e.g. chard with onions… corn with beans). Companion planting… planting of different crops in proximity, for pest control, pollination and to otherwise increase crop productivity. Companion planting is a form of polyculture… it is considered a good thing. Conversely, monoculture can be bad… all corn… all potatoes.

We also planted about 600 Banner Onions… a variety of green onions. Maybe double that amount, because in most holes we planted two bulbs… so we dug about 600 holes and planted about 1200 onions.

Red Pocket onions

Before we planted the onions we had to prep the bed. A part of prepping the bed was the removal of 25+ mystery squash plants. These plants had self seeded from last year’s crop and were unknown to farmer Amy. (She is new to this area of the farm). So Amy’s position is … any plant that can make it through the winter without any help should be giving a fighting chance. Accordingly, we dug them up… and transplanted them to a different part of the farm. Only time will tell what kind of squash they are and if they will survive this hardship.

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Holy Moly… Sweet Reba!

On Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at Small Holding Farm we planted about 180 squash! We planted the seedlings, which were grown by Farmer Katie in her greenhouse, and the varities included… winter squash, cinderella pumpkins, SWEET REBA (we liked repeating these words when we stubs our toe or nicked our fingers), orange pumpkins, striped pumpkins, red kuri pumpkins, sweet dumpling pumpkins, sugar pie pumpkins, gords, and more!

mulchStep 1 – Lay out the mulch (black plastic). It comes in rolls so you start at one end of the 200 foot bed and you unroll it. As the mulch it is being unrolled, two people, one on either side, follow it and bury the mulch a little on either side (4 to 6 inches) to stop it from blowing away.

Funny Oberservation: Valeria, the intern (seen above), worn sweat pants and her hoodie in 25C+ weather. I on the other hand got a little sun stroke and blisters on my shoulders.

The mulch is biodegradable (made from corn) and serves a number of purposes… to keep out the weeds… to preserve moisture in the soil and to heat the soil. All of these things will help ensure the success of Farmer Katie’s investment!

Step 2: After the mulch is secured, we planted the seedlings. A ruler is used to ensure that the seedings are spaced accordingly. One person marks a spacing of 24 inches on centre, another drops a seedling next to each marks and records the variety, and the third person follows.. digging the holes and planting the pumpkin!

coveringStep 4: Row Cover. Over each 200 ft bed we placed a covering. Same deal as before.. insert ohhhh… about 300 plastic hoops give the cover shape and keep the cover off the plants. Then you unroll the cover… just like before… and you bury the edges with soil to keep it from blowing away and keep out the pests! All of this burying is done with a hoe.

Funny observation: I am right handed, but I am a left handed hoer.

In this case a covering was placed over the flowers to protect them from “cucumber beetle”. Apparently the beetle will eat the flower and sadly no fruit will come.

Step 5:  I won’t be there… but Farmer Katie will use her experience and wisdom to know when to remove the cover. She needs to remove it for the plants to pollenate… but not too soon or the beetle will eat the flowers.


squah 2This work took 3 people a whole day.. from 7:30 a.m. until  4:30 p.m… with a lunch break. We all slept very well on Wednesday night.

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Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly Away Home

It was a wet and muddy day on Friday, June 14, 2013 at Red Pocket Farm. I arrived early and got to do a field inspection with farmer Amy. A field inspection will inform a farmer about the “state of affairs”. What needs to be done… what can be done given the weather, ground, and soil conditions… it sets out the priorities for work to be done – given these factors – on that day. I am sure that this all plays in to the “grand farm plan” for the season. Farmer Amy also documents this information in her log… like good farmers do.

On Friday morning we weeded, but did not walk between the beds because it was too wet. We weeded the main walkways and the weeds that we could reach and pull out from there… so about 18″ in on most beds. By the afternoon the sun and the wind had dried the ground significantly and we were able to clear three 50 ft beds. We pulled the remaining crop, cleaned out the weeds, and added compost… 8 wheel barrels of compost! This was part of preparing the beds for a new crop to be planted. The beds will not be seeded for at least two weeks.

And then we planted beans… two rows about thirty feet long… I was too tired to remember the type I beans we planted, but I do remember that we inoculated the beans before we planted them and I learned more about why nitrogen is so important.

“An inoculant is a powdered form of bacteria or fungus that is added to the soil by means of coating the pea or bean seed with the powder prior to planting. The bacteria most commonly used are Rhizobium bacteria for inoculating legumes like peas and beans.”

“In a nutshell, what the Rhizobium bacteria does is stimulate the legume roots to grow nodules that “fix” nitrogen.  What “fixing” means is that the nodules absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it into ammonia in a useable form that the plants can readily take up for growth. This fixing action has a two-fold effect. The first is making nitrogen available for the current crop. The second is when the plants are tilled under after the harvest. The nodules then provide a storehouse of nitrogen in the soil that becomes available for the next crop.”

“Plants need nitrogen to make amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, and nitrogen is essential for making chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the molecule that converts sunlight (energy) into carbohydrates by the process of photosynthesis. Nitrogen makes up 78% of our atmosphere, as N2, an inert gas. Plants cannot use this nitrogen without microbes first converting it… or “fixing” nitrogen. This is only done in the root zone of a plant. “Legumes release compounds called flavonoids from their roots, which trigger the production of nod factors by the bacteria.”

As you will notice I didn’t write the above. I got it from www. Give credit where credit is due.

Lady BugLadybug with spinach. Lots of lady bugs spotted on the farm on Friday and farmers like ladybugs!

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My First

These are the first vegetables (herb) that I have EVER.. really EVER grown from seed… I think.

I may have planted seeds when I was a kid, and  last year I scattered seeds across Toronto parks that I collected from my garden, but these will be the first seeds that I will have watched and cared for with such appreciation.

This past Sunday I transplanted my little seedlings outdoors… fingers crossed that mother nature won’t bring us another frost till the fall.

I am pretty sure that it is butter lettuce and parsley, but it could be cilantro. See I am off to a great start already with my plant identification skills!

Butter Lettuce