Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Fooling Mother Nature: Winter Edition

Fooling Mother Nature in the winter is not as hard as it sounds.  Most cold tolerant plants enjoy the cooler months; it’s the wind they don’t like.

You need a cold frame filled with cold tolerant plants like Mache, carrots and arugula.  A cold frame is a box with hinged covers so that the plants are protected from the wind.  The cover is usually made of glass, or plastic, or something clear and non-porous.  It’s not the cold that harms or kills the plants it’s the wind chill.  Snow adds extra insulation so that’s not a problem either. 

 I am in Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5) so to ensure that I have plants in the winter to harvest I make sure to sow my seeds in early-mid October so that there is sufficient time for the plants to grow before winter.  Plants take longer to grow in the cold weather so be sure to allow yourself some extra time.  Also, be sure to go lighter when you water because water evaporates and drains slower in the cooler temperatures. 

AHOF has been harvesting plants throughout the winter for a few years now and can provide the cold frames for you.  We also have greenhouses available which is a nice alternative to cold frames.  Please contact us for more details. 

Have any winter gardening tips you’d like to share? Let us know!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic


Fooling Mother Nature: Summer Edition

I have a company that builds and maintains organic vegetable gardens for home owners, businesses, schools… everyone!  So it makes sense that I employ a few tricks to grow food faster or help extend the growing season both earlier and longer.

Like knowing which plants to plant when. 

To keep it simple, let’s split the Torontonian growing season in to two categories: Summer and Not-summer.  Or more specifically, hot and not-so-hot. 

Let’s use hot peppers as an example of a summer vegetable.  Peppers hate cold wet weather and frost often has a detrimental effect on them.  So how can you get them producing earlier in the season?

  1. For starts you must get a head start by purchasing seedlings or starting them on a sunny window on your own.
  2. Second you need to make sure they are in a warm/hot environment early on in the season when the temperature outside isn’t in the 30’s.  A simply way to do this is to grab a plastic garbage bag and cover the plant ensuring that there is soil overtop of the opening to guard against wind.  Now you have created a greenhouse effect so that you can have warmer temperatures in the bag and the plant will grow and produce faster. 

A note about pollination, I suggest that you remove the bag during the warmest point of the day to allow bees to pollinate the plant or you have to do it yourself. 

  1. Another neat trick is to put a jug of water inside the bag with the plant.  The water will warm up and slowly cool down overnight allowing you to keep warmer temperatures over night too.


Now for the not-summer plants; most greens go to seed (bolt) when the warm temperatures come in. 

  1. You need to go out of your way to make sure you search out heat loving greens during the summer to make sure you have a supply all year.
  2. Alternatively, you can setup some shade (if you already don’t have any) over top.  I like to grow ground cherries in the summer so I usually grow greens underneath the plant as there is a nice shade canopy that the plant grows into. 

A note about bolting plants.  Usually the greens turn bitter when the hot weather comes in, but if you enjoy bitter greens then make sure you clip off the flowers when they start to grow.  The plant will continue to yield leaves for a while longer.

Have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share them along. 

Stay tuned for our Winter Edition of Fooling Mother Nature next week.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

How Big Should My Vegetable Garden Be?

The best answer is often the simplest one.  How ever much you want.  The aim of the vegetable garden is to produce food.  Once that goal is attained what is left over is up to you and you have 3 choices – consume it, preserve it or give it away.

But as a general rule of thumb, one 4’ x 8’ raised bed supplements 2 adults nicely. If you have a highly vegetarian diet or enjoy more food than the average Joe, go for one garden per person.

cedar summer garden

Summer Garden

If you find you have a shortage of fresh veggies to harvest, you can always plant more, but what happens if you have too many tomatoes for example.  We may be creatures of habit, but we often enjoy variety in our diet.  If you have already preserved as many tomatoes as you can (frozen tomato sauce is my favourite) then give some away.  Who would not want to be the recipient of free home grown tomatoes?!?!

For me, vegetable gardening is very much like tattoos.  Once you start it’s hard to stop.  But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you recently started a garden please share your inspiration.  If you’re thinking about it but haven’t gotten around to it yet, why not??

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

What’s in Your Salad?

Organic Vegetables TorontoToday you may have gone to the grocery store and bought some produce.  Perhaps you came home and made a delicious meal with organic vegetables you bought.  Congrats! You’re already one step ahead of the many Torontonians that think take-out or restaurants are a major food group.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the grocery store today.  Lucky for us, our backyard garden is already producing, and we picked our Arugula fresh from our cold frame.

We also have organic carrots and merlot lettuce ready and are seeing the first signs of our fall garlic planting come up. 

Do you have a spring crop yet? Interested in one? 
From one self-proclaimed foodie to another, nothing beats local, organic produce that you’ve grown yourself!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

How To Avoid Rising Food Prices

Tomato (Tamatar)

Image via Wikipedia

If you haven’t noticed, the price of everything is going up; gasoline, imported goods and most importantly food.  There was an article on CBC talking about this very issue.  Earlier this month CTV covered a similar story.  It’s concerning for sure, but there is a simple way to help lower the cost of your grocery bill.

Grow your own food and change the way you eat. 

Yes it’s that simple. 

First the growing part.  Once you’ve invested in setting up the garden there are very few costs to bear aside from seeds.  Even compost can be made at home for free and with relative ease.  There are a lot of tips and tricks to gardening but that should not stop anyone from starting a home kitchen garden.  Here are a couple easy comparisons:

  • Tomatoes
    • In the store: $0.99/lb.
    • Or some tomato seeds produce tomatoes for 5 months on average
  • Herbs
    • In the store: $1.99 per pack
    • Or some herb seeds that produces all season long

There is a ton of information available on the subject of gardening on the internet, libraries, fellow gardeners, farmers etc.  Once you start you’ll soon realize how expansive the subject is.

The reason you must change the way you eat is because transportation costs play a big role in the cost of food so those tomatoes you enjoy from Mexico or California are going to get more expensive.  The easiest way to lessen the cost is to stop eating foods from far away and support local growers, especially your own backyard garden. 

Preserving food is not a new concept, but it does involve some planning.  Instead of eating all of your tomatoes in salads save some and make an easy sauce then freeze it for the winter.  You can also dehydrate your produce, or even marinate or pickle it.  There are lots of different options.

The point is the food you eat is getting more expensive along with everything else.  It will soon cost more to get into your car, drive to the store, buy the food, drive home and cook it.  Why would you not want to avoid all of that and step out your back door, harvest some herbs and veggies and walk back to your kitchen to cook it up.  Yum!

Are you feeling the pinch with rising prices? Where are you seeing the biggest impact?

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

Why Aren’t We Growing Our Own Food?

Honestly, why not?  Why do you not grow your own food?  It’s December 13th and I have a cold frame full of carrots, arugula, Merlot lettuce and Mache.  I have some seeds that I sowed a couple of weeks ago that are waiting for things to warm up a little so they can germinate and I can get an early spring crop for my family.  My daughter should be starting solids around that time so I can introduce her to, right from the first few bites, 100% organically home grown food.  How awesome is that!

In almost every country in the world people grow their own food and have been for hundreds if not thousands of years.  The survival of the human race has depended on (among other things) our ability to feed ourselves.  Nowadays however, the ability to feed ourselves seems to depend on our ability to drive to the closest grocery store or pick up the phone for delivery.  Please don’t get me started on absurdity of “finger cooking”.

That’s the evolution of the food supply system I suppose.  I think it’s time for a collective hanging of our heads in shame.

Don’t get me wrong I love that I get to have fresh vegetables all year round, even if organic strawberries cost $6.99 a box, but we need to break our absolute dependence on the food supply system when it’s simply not necessary, like the summer months.  We in the GTA are so spoiled by the 24 hour a day, 365 day a year grocery stores that the idea of rationing produce to last through the winter is laughable. 

Think about it for a minute.  Would you be able to plan your garden so that you grew enough fresh vegetables to feed your family? Maybe.  What about planning your garden, tending to it all year long and consuming only what you can grow? I doubt it.  I am a very accomplished cook and gardener and even I’m having trouble with the concept.  I plan to write more about this topic in the future and, if I can, convince my wife to eat vegetables exclusively from the garden. 

Really folks, there are so many reasons to grow your own food that it’s staggering and I intend on discussing some of them in turn.  Here are a few words to get you thinking about it: genetic, modified, pesticide and herbicide.  I don’t have any of those in my backyard.

I am here to help in what ever way I can in order to get more people growing and eating food from their ownbackyard.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

What Does Organic Mean Anyway?

I’m a new parent and one of the wonderful things about being a new parent is getting all sorts of fun new things for your new baby.  One of our friends gave us a children’s book entitled Foodie Babies Wear Bibs.  It’s a great little book.

Well if the book had one extra page, we bet it would read: Foodie Babies know where their food comes from.

Let me digress for a moment…

Ask Google to define ‘organic’ and you’ll get 6.3 million results, well sort of.  You’ll actually get 11 links because anything past the first page doesn’t matter.  The last link on the page is from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which defines an Organic product as “…an agricultural product that has been certified as organic.” 

Feels like a weak definition? Well to quote a former Canadian Prime MinisterI don’t know. A proof is a proof.  What kind of a proof? It’s a proof.  A proof is a proof and when you have good proof it’s because it’s proven.” No, I’m not kidding – check it out.

Actually the only way you have a good proof that your fruits and veggies are organic is to grow them yourself.  Where you control what goes into your garden and what comes out. 

What’s funny is that home gardens in other parts of the world are entirely organic.  Those home gardeners grow and collect their own seeds, use their own compost as fertilizers as well as other manures from their own livestock.  Their reason is very simple.  If they do not grow their own food, they will not eat. 

Is it time you had your own organic garden? We think so.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

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