Growing an organic vegetable garden is a great way to introduce your family to a variety of new foods inexpensively. We all know that eating more vegetables is going to make us healthier, but organic produce is not always affordable or available. One way to help is by starting an organic vegetable garden from seeds. Seed packs cost anywhere from $3.00-$5.00 and have over a hundred seeds. Another reason to start vegetables from seed is the amazing variety available to order. Some of my favorite vegetables to grow are Asian greens like Toy Choy (a tiny variety of Bok Choy) or Red Frills Mustard. They can be started in early spring under row covers and will give you greens as fast as 30 days depending on the variety. I get these seeds and other great Asian greens from West Coast Seeds. You can also go to a seed swapping event like Seedy Saturdays/Sundays held in different locations around the province. Toronto Botanical Gardens is hosting a Seedy Saturday this weekend, February 23, 2019 from 10am to 3pm. We also know that freshly picked produce has the most nutrients in it; so that lettuce you picked in the morning is nutritionally better than the one that has been picked a week or two ago and shipped here by truck.
There are a few rules to follow when starting a vegetable garden:
1. Start with things that you want to eat daily or every other day: Lettuces, chards, kales, spinach, Asian greens and herbs grow quickly and can be picked and will regrow all season.
2. Plant vegetables in a variety of colors to maximize your phytonutrient intake: Dragon Carrots, Merlot Lettuce, Rainbow Kale, Purple Cherokee tomatoes and others provide a rainbow of vegetables for your plate. Take advantage of the unusual variety of seeds available to order online and make your plate a rainbow of colors.
3. Plant in succession: Planting greens that will grow in spring, followed by beans, tomatoes and cucumbers that will grow in the heat of the summer, followed by fall and winter grown carrots, beets, Asian greens and kales allow you to use your garden for the majority of the year.
4. Start small and work your way up: Don't try to plant too much in your first year and don't fret is something dies - you can always plant more seeds in its place. Start with a small space that will be manageable based on the amount of time you have. Once plants are established all they need is a little water and some compost mid-way through the growing season.
Make sure to enjoy the putting your hands in the dirt as being outside in nature has a calming and therapeutic effect on our bodies.
I started some seedlings over the weekend, inside with the help of my 3-year-old daughter. This gots us started into gardening way before any planting can happen outside, plus gives us a jumpstart on the harvest season by almost 1-2 months. Last year we planted outside in the middle of March in raised beds covered with frost cloth. By the end of April, we had tons of arugula, kale, collards, lettuces to eat and many different radishes to pull out. You’ll be surprised at how excited children are to pull out a beautiful rose colored radish and their excitement to eat them right there on the spot.
It’s truly amazing when I hear from a parent of one of the students I teach, tell me how their child has come home and role played an entire lesson to them. This is how it works. The kids teach the parents and there is no struggle surrounding vegetables and getting their kids to try new things. Children are innately curious, and in a workshop or classroom setting are eager and excited to try anything new.
I’m excited to announce a new Garden Starter Workshop for families. It will be held at Bosnar Center for Health located at 2462 Yonge Street, 2nd Floor on Sunday March 26th at 10am. Please follow the link below for more information.
The warm weather we've been having this week, makes it feel like it’s the end of March not the end of February. I’ve been ordering seeds online and buying them at The Evergreen Brickworks as I cannot control the urge to try out new things this year in the garden. After much research on the internet and trial and error with various types of plants, I have learned that we can grow many things in fall, winter and early spring in our zone 6a city of Toronto.
Asian greens, brassicas, mustards, spinach, and certain types of cold hardy lettuces can survive most of the fall and winter in our climate. Some new varieties I’m planting this year include Red Striped Mauna, Toy Choi (a baby bok choy), Mache, TFM Frizzee, Red Wave Mustard, Astro Arugula and Clayton. I ordered them online from West Coast Seeds. All these greens can be planted very early in the spring when the weather is above 4 Celsius.
It is important when gardening almost year round that you add amendments to the soil in between plantings to replenish the soil of nutrients and get the best harvest possible. With the warm weather over the weekend, I went outside to the garden and got our raised beds ready for spring planting. I added some glacial rock dust to put some minerals and trace elements back into the soil, as well as sea compost, azomite, wood ash (from untreated wood burned in fireplace) and bloodmeal.
I also put in plastic hoops (made from a roll of plumbing conduit) and covered them with 6-mil poly plastic (the kind used for vapor barrier in houses) that I bought at Home Depot. This year I’m using binder clips to help secure the plastic to the hoops. You can also use bricks or stones to anchor the plastic to the ground so it doesn’t fly around when it gets windy. Putting the plastic on creates a mini greenhouse and warms the soil up so that when I do plant the seeds/seedlings outside the soil is at the right temperature for germination.
Sauerkraut is a really great food for all of us during the cold and flu season to help get more healthy probiotics into our bodies and those of our children. If there is anything I have learned about kids, its that they will almost always try anything they have had a hand in making. This beautiful hot pink experiment is easy to do with even the smallest of your crew and is sure to have them excited and eager to try.
1 Red Cabbage (3lbs)
1 Green Cabbage (3lbs)
6 T Himalayan Pink Salt
Sterilized Glass Jars (just clean with soapy water and place in boiling water for 15 mins)
Clean glass that fits into opening of glass jar or clean and boiled rock
Large non-metal mixing bowl
1. Start by shredding the cabbages finely either in a food processor or a box grater. My littlest one loves to put the hunks of cabbage and squish them down in the food processor and watching them get shredded up.
2. Pour the contents into a big bowl, big enough so that there is room to mix it up.
3. Spinkle half the salt overtop of the shredded cabbage and flip around to distribute.
4. Add the remaining salt and massage cabbage for 5-10 mins squeezing to crush the cabbage a bit and extract some of the liquid. This is my kids favourite part - getting their hands right in and making a mess.
5. Stuff cabbage into glass jars pushing down between layers to remove air pockets and extract some liquid. Leave room at top, about 1 inch, for expansion due to fermentation.
6. Place glass full of water on top of the cabbage pushing down slightly so that all the cabbage is underneath the liquid. If there is not enough liquid add some brine (1 T salt to 2 C water) until cabbage in submerged.
7. Place jars out of sunlight on counter on a plate (to catch any overflow) and let sit for at least 4 days. you will see some cloudiness and bubbling which means fermentation has started. You should try a bit after 4 days and if it's not sour enough, try in 3 more days until it's to your liking. In the fall and winter months it takes me a week to get to the level of tang that my family likes.
8. Once ready, put a lid on the jar and store in fridge .
You can add flavours to you cabbage as you massage it like dill seeds or caraway seeds. My children especially like the dill seeds as it makes the sauerkraut taste like pickles.
Enjoy your experiments!
Hi I'm Vesna Bosnar. I'm a mother, architect, gardener, explorer, educator and scientist. I want to share my love of gardening and learning through exploring and experimenting in the garden and kitchen with your family. Please join me to try out new things and allow your minds to explore all the possibilities of vegetable gardening and cooking.