Through the Seasons in a Quadra Food Garden: Blog #3

By Valerie Barr

Canker on apple tree

Dormant Spraying in a home garden

The fruit trees in our orchard have been pruned, and before a rain I managed to spray them, along with the roses and raspberries. It is tricky waiting for weather suitable for spraying! I have only ever been able to spray once a winter, before the buds on the fruit trees start to open. If sprayed too late the chemicals will penetrate the bud and burn the flowers.  Not everyone will be keen to take this step in caring for their trees, but since I offered spraying in my gardening business, I have the knowledge and gear to do it safely.

Lime Sulphur and Horticultural Oil are listed for organic use on the OMRI or Organic Materials Review Institute website, which is considered the ‘go to’ on chemicals that organic growers may use and keep their certification. The Lime Sulphur, although not highly toxic, is corrosive and dangerous to get in your eyes or on your skin. To do this job, you would need eye protection, an adequate face mask for breathing, and gloves for chemical use. I also use old gumboots and a white disposable paper suit available at Quadra Builders, which I store for next year in a closed plastic bag.

The Horticultural Oil kills insects and mites on the trees by smothering them and also works as a surfactant to keep the Lime Sulphur on the tree. The Lime Sulphur is a fungicide that kills any overwintering fungus like black spot on roses, black knot on plums, scab on apples, etc. It is not my favourite job in the garden but does keep our trees healthier and keeps them producing better fruit each year. If you are spraying your trees, then you have figured out how to do this in a safe method, and to the scale of your garden needs.

We have canker on a few of our apple trees which can be controlled, but not removed, by spraying copper. Since fruit trees survive despite canker for a long time, and the fruit does not seem to be affected, I have never used copper at home. It is dangerous to get copper spray near fish bearing water since it will kill the fish. So, remember this result if you have a pond with fish and plan to use copper for any reason.

We always disinfect our pruning tools between each tree so we hopefully are not spreading any diseases from tree to tree. You can use liquid Lysol as a tool disinfectant or 9-parts water to 1-part bleach. Remember, bleach will damage clothing or anything else it can react with.

Let’s hope for favourable weather conditions and a bounteous fruit season ahead!

Peas in peat pellets

Starting Snap Peas

We love the fresh edible pod or Snap Peas. A succulent treat early in the season, they are juicier than the flat pod Snow Peas – a lovely raw snack. The variety we use is Sugar Ann. We look forward to a delicious stir fry dinner with spicy chicken breast or boneless thighs, and then complement the spice with chopped fresh peas, lightly stir-fried. It is easy to start these peas in the ground.

Plant snap peas as soon as the soil is workable after frost. Since they have a short season, pod peas finish by early July.

For the last few years I have been starting the peas in the house in small peat pellets. Since peas are a large seed, the general rule is to plant any large seed below the surface, at a depth of the size of the seed (1/4” seed would be between 1/4” and 1/2” deep). I transplant them outside as soon as they are hardened off. Indoor starts allow an early season and a higher survival rate, without birds stealing the seed or cutworms and slugs destroying the new sprouts. Other Quadra gardeners start their peas in short lengths of roof gutter. For this method, you probably need a green house to accommodate the space the gutters will take. When ready to transplant, the ‘gutter growers’ dig a trench for the peas and then gently slide out the dirt and peas into the ground for an instant pea patch. Using this method, you do not want to disturb the seedlings, since young peas have very delicate roots.

I transplant the Snap Peas in their peat pellets in a star shape with room in the centre for one squash plant to become established while the peas are growing. The squash will take over when the peas are finished. Sugar Ann does not need a trellis and grows on 24” vines that run on the ground allowing them to be moved around as the pods are harvested. All legumes add nitrogen to the soil through small nodules on their roots. This process is a combination of soil bacteria taking nitrogen from the air and storing it on the roots. When the crop is finished, don’t pull the plant out.  Rather cut it off at the ground leaving the roots in place so the nitrogen can be absorbed back into the ground. It will help feed the squash.

Jalapeno & Anaheim Peppers

The two varieties of pepper we like to grow are Jalapeno, which I love to make jelly from, and Anaheim. The Anaheim usually produces more fruit and has some heat, but the Jalapeno adds the lovely strong flavour.

On March 5th, I started 15 seeds for each variety with a combined 30 seeds in one shared tray (the same as I used for the onions).

The peppers are planted out in the sunniest part of the garden, when night time temperatures reach 9C (on Quadra – early June). We are far enough north that it is rare for the peppers to take on much red colour as they mature. I think from transplanting them in June, it can take between 2½ and 3 months for them to mature – they may turn red with a very warm summer.

Cayenne Peppers are one variety that does grow red in our garden, but a little Cayenne goes a long way. When we grow Cayenne, I make pesto of it with olive oil and freeze it in very small containers for curries and chilies. This will keep in the freezer for several years.

I have grown Bell Peppers in the past but prefer to grow the above varieties. With the availability of Bell Peppers at the store, it does not seem necessary to use garden space to grow them.

Peppers need extra water as they start to grow but can be drier at the end of the season and have always done well in our garden.

Leek & Onion Update

All three trays of our Leeks and Onions, seeded on Feb. 24th, have germinated and are sending up lovely green shoots. This took less than 10 days, but there will be some stragglers in each tray which are yet to germinate.

Next post I will talk about starting Eggplant and Tomatillo from seed. This will be a new step for me since we have always bought a few plants from other growers. We will continue to buy Tomato plants from local growers since they are easily available in the late Spring and we can select from many varieties grown in our island community.

Grant Hayden and Val Barr are happily retired to play in their garden as they like.  Val worked in horticulture for almost 45 years and started her first food garden at 18.  Grant grew up as a prairie farm-boy and his last occupation was in forestry.  He has planted thousands of trees and cut quite a few down as well.

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