Three Sisters Garden

Lessons are often abundant in the garden, but none so delicious as the ones learned in a Three Sisters garden. Created by First Nations communities in North American, the Three Sisters garden guild is one comprised of corn, squash and pole beans, planted together. The corn stalks provide a support for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil and the squash plants provide a living mulch, covering bare soil to prevent weeds and retain moisture. This example of perfected companion planting can then be harvested in as little 75 days and should be grown in rich, well drained soil.

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Seeing a Three Sisters garden in person is wonderful. This summer, my family and I went hiking in Southern Ontario at Crawford Lake - a conservation area that has a recreation of a traditional Iroquoian village that stood on the very site over 600 years ago. The First Nations people who inhabited the village cultivated a Three Sisters garden, the significance of which is explained here:

The people who originally lived in this village over 600 years ago were farmers who grew three main crops; corn (Wyandot: önenha’), beans (Wyandot: oyare’sa), and squash (Wyandot: yasheta’); each considered to be gifts from the Creator, these plants are also commonly known as the Three Sisters. Grown together they make up an important agricultural system, and eaten together they form a nutritionally complete diet.

At Crawford Lake, Ojibiikaan has established 13 mounds with our traditional crops, the Three Sisters. The demonstration garden is planted according to Traditional Ecological Knowledge and ceremony, and will be used for reclaiming Indigenous agricultural practices and saving heritage crop varieties.  The garden has brought the three sisters back to its traditional land!”

This got me curious about growing a Three Sisters garden in 2019. To simplify the process, West Coast Seeds offers a Three Sisters garden seed pack comprised of Golden Bantam corn, Scarlet Runner beans and Red Kuri squash. Getting corn to germinate can be a little tricky and the West Coast Seeds website provides lots of practical information on ideal growing conditions and temperatures.

Will you attempt a Three Sisters garden this year? Let us know and do send pics! Click here learn more about the Ojibiikaan garden at Crawford Lake.

Gifts for the Garden Chef

Garden to table at its finest with sumptuous cookbooks to delight the eye and the palette!

It’s no secret in our home that I am a cookbook collector. We have far too many that I’ve purchased new, thrifted or found in our Little Free Library and I make no apologies. There is nothing I like more than receiving books as gifts, so here I offer you my newest favourites.

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  1. Ottolenghi Simple - more accessible than his previous tomes, this book will have you entertaining holiday guests with delicious and visually compelling dishes.

  2. Timothy Pakron’s Mississippi Vegan: Recipes and Stories from a Southern Boy’s Heart is a gem! Not vegan? Don’t sweat it. There are incredible recipes at every turn in this book.

  3. Addicted to Chef’s Table? Christina Tosi of Milk Bar fame has a delicious new book out with ways to use permaculture favourites like elderberries in over-the-top desserts. All About Cake is all about sugary indulgences and perfect for holiday decadence.

  4. One of the most interesting talks I attended this Fall was to listen to David Zilber and Rene Redzepi share their genius as it pertains to fermentation. Zilber, a Toronto native, was incredibly captivating to listen to and as head of fermentation at Noma, he has a crazy creative resume of fermented foods. Check out the Noma Guide to Fermentation and learn how to preserve so much of that garden goodness for months to come.

  5. Did you know there are not four culinary seasons, but six? In Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, Joshua Mcfadden of Blue Hill fame wrote the cookbook that won ALL of the major awards and focuses on fresh, local and seasonal vegetables. This is truly an urban gardener’s companion cookbook.

Give Good Gifts ~ Melissa

Garden themed Gifts for Children

No one more appreciates the magic of a garden more than children.

Their constant curiosity, eagerness and tenacity make them excellent gardeners and joyful garden companions. The garden offers many teachable moments for young ones including the opportunity to get outside, connect with nature and get dirty.

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Here are a few of our top choices for the kidlets in your life!

  1. It helps to look the part! My friend Jana over at Modern Rascals has an amazing selection of kids clothes that are ethically made and will delight your tiny human. She’s so rad she even has a curated collection of kids clothes featuring plants! Check out her selection here.

  2. Help encourage even the smallest seed savers! Cottage Botanicals sells these incredible seed envelopes that are made from 100% post consumer recycled material and printed with soy ink. Kids can create their own seed collections and decorate these lovely envelopes.

  3. Looking for a fun way to teach your kids and older children about edible plants and herbs? Wildcraft is the game for you! It is a “beautifully illustrated, nature-based, cooperative game created in the tradition of the classic board games”. There are also bonus digital downloads!

  4. Encourage observation and learning by purchasing a bee nesting house like this affordable one from Breck’s - add an activity book for some indoor fun over the winter.

  5. Terra cotta clay pots and saucers make an excellent gift. Little artist can paint them (this is a popular activity in our home) and start them indoors with easy to germinate seeds like microgreens, beans, sunflowers, etc. Wintry windowsills can hold growing wonders!

Little gardeners grow the future! Give good gifts! ~Melissa

Gifts for the Edible Garden

Lettuce turnip the beet!!

It’s no secret at the Good Seed that we are most passionate about urban edible gardens. From condo balconies and indoor sprout growing to front lawn conversions and food forests, organic edible gardens are transformative. Here are some of our top picks for the urban farmer:

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  1. One of the best things that an edible gardener can do is track the progress of their growing season. From when and which seeds are sown to pest issues and harvest dates, a garden journal is an excellent garden companion. This functional and aesthetically designed planner is the best! The Green Conspiracy will have it available for the 2019 growing season so do get your hands on one via their soon-to-begin Kickstarter campaign.

  2. No in ground garden? No problem! Consider growing in one of these incredible planters. The Vegepod is an award-winning design that comes in several sizes and with quality accessories to make urban vegetable gardening a pleasure. Here in Canada, they are available through Lee Valley. Looking for something smaller and more compact? The Patch Planter is a sub-irrigated planter that is perfect for growing herbs, greens and other delicious favourites.

  3. Looking to give of your time or money? Search your community for edible gardens that are in need of volunteers and funds. Here in Toronto The Bowery Project creates opportunities for urban agriculture in vacant lots. Similarly impressive is the Black Creek Community Farm which is an urban agricultural centre that engages, educates, and empowers diverse communities, through sustainable food.

  4. Got worms? Vermicompost is a great way to add biodiversity to your edible garden. For those who are excellently adventurous and want to introduce composting to their garden regime, an indoor vermicompost is just the ticket. Check out this sweet design from Cathy’s Composters. The Living Composter is made in Canada and comes with all of the instructions (video too) you need as well as the red wiggler worms; all can be purchased online for delivery. If you’re looking for the finished product to add to your home garden, Wastenot Farms is a food scrap collection program that fuels the excellent garden probiotic that is Jocelyn’s Soil Booster.

  5. Books, books and more books! A quick run down of some new favourites: Slow Down and Grow Something by Byron Smith, Herbarium: One Hundred Herbs to Grow, Cook & Heal by Caz Hildebrand, Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix is excellent, and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables is good for those looking to improve their garden’s efficiency.

Organically yours, ~ Melissa

Gifts for the Flower Enthusiast

“Let blessings fall like blossoms all around you.” - Rumi

As today is Thanksgiving for those living in the US, today’s gift guide focuses on gratitude for flowers. Whether they are native flowering plants, perennial plants or stunning cut flowers, having flowers in our green spaces help bring beneficial insects and pollinators to an edible garden and create habitats and food for insects and birds. Flowers also remind us to slow down and appreciate the ethereal and ephemeral beauty that our gardens can bring.

So what to gift the gardener who loves gorgeous blooms? Here are a few of our favourites:

  1. Books, books, books! Full of inspiration and practical advice here are a few essentials: Cut Flower Garden by Floret, The Wreath Recipe Book by Studio Choo (also see their Flower Recipe Book), Flower Color Guide - visually stunning and just released by Phaidon, Vegetables Love Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler and the practical The Pruner’s Bible by Steve Bradley.

  2. Seeds! Seems like a no brainer but there are some truly stunning seeds out there to be had. We like to purchase from local organic seed growers when possible and support women farmers so do check out the very talented offerings from Hanna Jacobs at Matchbox Garden Seed Co. and Colette Murphy at Urban Harvest.

  3. Local floral subscription services: keeping on trend with supporting local women farmers, keep an eye out for incredible flower farmers in your community. Here are a few that we can’t get enough of; Sarah Nixon from My Luscious Backyard, Shannon Whelan at Euclid Farms, Kitz and Daughters, Sas Long at Floralora Flowers and Melanie at Dahlia May Flower Farm.

  4. Give the gift of a flower garden - if you’re in Toronto, Claire Mcgee at Buds Cutting Gardens can whip your urban space into a gorgeous floral oasis.

  5. Consider making a donation to your favourite botanical gardens in a loved one’s name; here in Toronto, Friends of Allan Gardens do incredible work and can always use the financial support. Incidentally, the gardens are free to visit and well worth your time - especially on a cold and blustery winter’s day.

Give good gifts! ~ Melissa

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Pesto! Pesto! Pesto!

August is here and so is an abundance of basil in the garden - what is there to do, but make pesto!

Basil in the garden - August 2018

Basil in the garden - August 2018

Why make pesto?

With the warmth of summer lingering and your basil plants growing at a terrific clip, now is the ideal time to make pesto. Traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan, I'm offering you a tasty and inexpensive alternative that's plant-based. There are many varieties of basil with different aromas and tasting notes - for a traditional(ish) pesto stick with the more conventional (less liquorice) flavours. Before you start: basil is best picked or harvested right when you are ready to make your pesto. It's a bit tricky to store and tends to brown in the fridge and wilt when stored on the counter. My pesto batch was made by "pinching" the top leaf groups of my organic genovese and dark opal basil; when I do this I transfer them immediately to a cold water bath at my side as I move through the garden. You can also harvest your entire plant or find local organic basil at your farmer's market.

The RECIPE:

My tried and true plant-based pesto recipe comes from the lovely Dana at Minimalist Baker. The beauty of this recipe is that it gives you, the chef, the flexibility to add your own preferences to the pesto. Do you like it a bit more garlicky? Lemony? "Cheesy"? There also isn't a dependence on luxury ingredients like parmesan and pine nuts - nutritional yeast and walnuts get the job done here and even the most discerning of pesto tasters will enjoy the flavour profile. Find the recipe here.

This pesto pairs well with a crisp summer rosé. It is great with pasta, on homemade pizza, with some crusty toasted bread and with roasted tomatoes fresh from the garden. I like to be judicious with the amount of water I add, to get a thicker pesto. I also like it to be a bit chunky, which I find lets the flavours be bold. Drop me a line and let me know if you're planning to make pesto or do indeed try this recipe out.

From garden to table,
Melissa

Quick & Simple Refrigerator Dill Pickles!

'Tis the season for cucumbers and more specifically pickling cucumbers, so let's make pickles! The best place to source your organic cukes is in your garden or at the farmer's market.

Who loves dill pickles? Me!


Ingredients:

  • 1L canning jars
  • 6-8 pickling cucumbers per jar
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • Pickling Salt 
  • White Vinegar

Directions:

  • Prep your canning jars by washing them thoroughly; make sure that you have new lids if necessary. Wash cucumbers and dill. Amass all of your ingredients in once place as well as a tablespoon measuring spoon and a half cup measuring cup.
  • Slice cucumbers as thin as you can; this will help them 'pickle' faster. Add them to the mason jars as you slice. Ideally you want to fill them to the top, leaving 1" of space.
  • Thinly slice 2 cloves of garlic per mason jar and add with 2 tablespoons of chopped dill per jar.
  • Carefully measure out 2 tablespoons of pickling salt per mason jar and add to the jars already filled with cucumbers, garlic and dill.
  • Now add your vinegar; you'll need 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons per mason jar. Seal and close jars... and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE. You want to dissolve the salt into the vinegar as best possible. It is now time to refrigerate your jars.

Notes:

*Your pickles will be ready in 6-8 hours, but it REALLY helps if you can shake them every whenever you pop in and out of the fridge, so that the ingredients combine well.*

**Your fridge pickles are not fermented - as such they will be safe to consume for about 3 weeks, so make only what you can enjoy in that time and share/give away. GIVING AWAY homemade pickles will make you a rock star. Just so you know.**

***The volume of brine will increase as time goes on as the salt will draw moisture from the cucumbers - so don't fret if a) it doesn't look like enough brine at first or b) if you notice the pickles "shrink" down as time goes on.***

//This recipe is adapted from Deb Perelman over at www.smittenkitchen.com - she's incredible and I'm a huge fan.//

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Plants are Magic and More Books

Now that we've got you set up with books to inspire the youngest gardeners among us, why not take a peak at what's on our bookshelves as we prepare for the coming growing season. 

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Books and magazines have always been a guilty pleasure, what with the ability to curl up in a cozy spot with a cup of tea and to lose oneself in an alternate universe. Gardening and plant books often take this indulgence to a new level with lush photographs and promises of secret gardens, abundant harvests and exotic rewards. 

 

Plants are Magic, Volume II by Rebecca Desnos

Plants are Magic, Volume II by Rebecca Desnos

Independently published by Rebecca Desnos (and ad free!), Plants are Magic is a beautifully curated magazine. Says Desnos, "In this digital age, I feel like it's more important than ever to celebrate the printed word (and image). Of course there are millions of free blog posts across the Internet, but this information is forgotten so easily.  In contrast, magazines are more permanent. I don't know about you, but I treasure my favourite magazines for a long time and love to refer back to them." This is the second volume we've purchased and we are hooked! 

 

The Organic Medicinal Farmer

The Organic Medicinal Farmer

The Organic Medicinal Farmer was a pleasant find one dreary afternoon spent at the Reference Library avoiding real work. Ahem. Thoughtfully organized and meticulously written, it is an essential reference work for anyone dabbling in herbs, market gardening and medicinal gardens. Careful detail has gone into the growing of a long list of medicinal herbs and it's encouraged us to try our hand at new herbs this season.

Moon Gardening, John Harris

Moon Gardening, John Harris

Moon Gardening by John Harris is a charming retrospective from one of Britain's most awarded gardeners. Harris recounts his initial forays into gardening and his many trials in this light yet impactful read. If you're interested in biodynamic farming and gardening, this text proves to be a nice introduction to using the moon and it's phases to one's advantage in the garden.

Cut Flower Garden, Floret Farms

Cut Flower Garden, Floret Farms

Floret Flowers can do no wrong. Their website is impeccable. Their seed selection is highly coveted. Farm and blog are a dream, and so too is their book. Filled with sumptuous photographs and broken down into practical seasonal guides, this book thrills. From poppies to dahlias and including edibles, vegetable growers should take note of this publication for it's aesthetic and comprehensiveness.

Forest Gardening in Practice, Tomas Remiarz

Forest Gardening in Practice, Tomas Remiarz

Forest Gardening in Practice was an impulse purchase from one of our favourite publishers - Chelsea Green Publishing. A guided exploration through existing forest gardens, this book is comprised of best practice examples. It highlights the four core skills of forest gardeners: ecology, horticulture, design and cooperation. The profiled gardens are complete with plant selections and site conditions, making for very detailed analysis.


Do let us know what you're reading and if you've enjoyed any of the books profiled above! We're always looking for new inspiration and any excuse to get lost in the library.

Garden Books for Littles that Inspire!

One of the greatest joys of Spring for our family is planning our vegetable garden. Everyone gets to have input and dreaming of the harvest to come helps our children to be invested in the garden work that is ahead. 

Children are wonderfully creative and have bright, vibrant imaginations. They are often fearless when choosing plants and eager to express themselves in the garden. Because we adore books almost as much as we love seeds and plants, we've put together a list of essential reads that can help pique a little one's interest in growing food and flora. Some of these are well loved classics, while others are newer finds to be cherished for years to come. The stories and illustrations are captivating, lush and inspiring - they're also lots fun and a bit silly (and who doesn't love that once in a while!)..

In no particular order of preference, here are our top picks for garden books that littles and grown-ups alike can enjoy! We've linked these books to a stockist but they're also available at most libraries.

-The Carrot Seed; story by Ruth Krauss, illustrations by Crockett Johnson

-The Giving Tree; Shel Silverstein

-Plant the Tiny Seed; Christine Matheson

-Tokyo Digs a Garden; story by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrations by Kellen Hatanaka

-Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book; Britta Teckentrup

-The Night Gardener; The Fan Brothers

-A Seed Is Sleepy; story by Dianna Huts Aston, illustrations by Sylvia Long

-Looking for Ladybug in Plant City; Katherina Manolessou

If you have any favourites we've left out on this list, be sure to let us know so we can share in the joys of books and gardening!

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