With the passing of Easter and the vernal equinox we can now officially welcome spring!
What was a white still frame just weeks ago has now given way to the trickle of water and the soft brown of earth. The ducks and song birds are slowly returning with their cacophony of sound. The plants although they appear dormant are also awakening. Carbohydrates are being mobilized from their roots and trunks and conducted upward through tubes called phloem to provide nutrients to buds. This is most popularly seen through the tapping of sugar maple trees to make maple syrup.
My garden however is still blanketed by a foot of snow and I have not started to sow any seeds. Here in Prince Edward County we are considered zone 5b while Ottawa is 5a which means that when looking for plants you should look for plants that are hardy in a zone 5 or less (zones rage from 0-8 with 0 being the harshest and 8 the mildest). We also have to sow a lot of our seeds indoors first if we want to plant a vegetable garden from seed. For example tomatoes, peppers, and eqqplant all require a longer growing season then our climate allows and should be started indoors if you are using seed. However if you feel your thumb just isn’t green enough or you don’t have the time you are in luck there are many great alternatives.
You can visit a nursery and purchase many vegetables in a ready to plant state. I recommend trying to find a nursery that uses seeds that are locally saved to get the best results. Plants grown from locally saved seeds are meant to grow in your climate and they are less reliant on pesticides and fungicides as a result. That means less toxins for you to ingest when you harvest your first crop.
You can also visit your local farmers market for ready to plant vegetables. This is one of my favorites for city dwellers. It’s a fun Saturday morning that sets you up perfectly for planting that afternoon or the next day. As well you can ask the growers any questions you might have about the plants and how to take care of them. i.e. how were they grown? Were they treated with any herbicides or pesticides? How much water/sun/general maintenance does it require?
If gardening isn’t your thing and you can’t always make it to the Saturday market why not sign up for a CSA basket? I’ve talked about CSA’s before, the acronym stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture and it is a weekly vegetable delivery program. It’s a great way to get fresh vegetables during the growing season as well as support your local economy. How it works is you purchase a vegetable share upfront at the beginning of the year usually February – April (this helps the farmer to plan their planting based on demand) and then you receive a weekly delivery of vegetables from June – October depending on the farm.
When going the CSA route a few questions to ask yourself are:
How big is the share? (Some shares are quite large and you may find the volume overwhelming for yourself. In these cases you might want to share the CSA with a friend or roommate)
What kind of produce will I be receiving? (Don’t like kohlrabi or other Asian greens then a CSA that has mainly those types of vegetables will not be for you)
When is the delivery/How close is the delivery? (Is the delivery of the CSA at a time and place that is convenient for you?)
Here are a few of my favorite farms with CSA’s in Ottawa
Roots and Shoots – Run by Robin and Jess a young dynamic farming duo. I survived the first few months of my Locavore challenge thanks to their greenhouse veggies.
Waratah Downs – John Weatherhead is a veteran farmer. I was fortunate enough to volunteer on his farm for some of the 2012 harvest and it was a very enriching experience. He is beyond knowledgeable about agriculture and grows some really great veggies.
Herbivor Farm – Lisa and Justin are in their 3rd year now farming about as close as you can get to Downtown Ottawa in Blackburn Hamlet (10 minutes from downtown). As friends of mine I was lucky enough to be one of their first CSA customers and I was beyond impressed with the selection of heirloom vegetables I received!
Which ever root you decide to go whether it’s planting your own garden, shopping at the farmers market or signing up for a CSA you are sure not to be disappointed with the reward you receive of delicious local produce – Happy eating!