Grow Ordinary Food in Extraordinary Ways
This year I am out and about from Powell River to Regina with my new talk “Grow Ordinary food in Extraordinary Ways.” I am not talking about growing Luffa sponges, edible Dahlias or Sesame Seed this time around.
This year I am speaking up about growing good old fashioned potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes. Yes, I am talking about growing ordinary food – in extraordinary ways.
This regular food is often rated as overly sprayed by the ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP who put together the Dirty Dozen list. Ironically these plants are so easy to grow in your own garden you will start to wonder “why not grow them myself”.
What is the Dirty Dozen?
These are the plants sprayed so often they bring herbicides and pesticides into your kitchen. The Environmental Working Group says “USDA tests found that strawberries were the fresh produce item most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.” Since we eat about eight pounds a year per person why not grow your own? WATCH VIDEO HERE
Commercially grown strawberries are the opposite of “clean” food. And right after strawberries, another highly sprayed food is Spinach, followed by Kale in the number 3 position. SEE THE FULL LIST HERE
What Can You Do?
You can grow your own ordinary food by following the lead of certified organic growers like Gayle and Al at Eagle Tree Organics. Al says he only grew plastic plants before he started his farm with Gayle in 2015. Now this twice-retired farmer (first an RCMP and then a contractor) is a positive force for food in his community. Listen to my podcast interview with Al & Gayle called Tomato Farmers: Getting a Late Start RIGHT HERE.
Try Something Extraordinary
I followed the lead of Saskatchewan farmer Dean Kreutzer from Over the Hill Orchards when I started growing strawberries in grow bags in 2016. And this spring I followed Khaled (@theplantcharmer on instagram) when I started growing strawberries in rain gutters in my greenhouse. To me these are two extraordinary ways to grow food.
If you want to make your soils produce better you can add products to the garden soil to better hold on to the nutrients. I have written about this before but Biochar is still one of my favourite products for growing clean food in the home garden.
Good News/Bad News
Khaled tells me during our podcast interview that the harvest from June bearing strawberries vrs day neutral strawberries is almost the same over the course of the season. The biggest difference – he says – is that you get your berries all at once with June bearing varieties and with day neutral types like Hecker, Eversweet or Albion you get them over a three or four month period from July through October. Dean agrees that for his clients in Saskatchewan and his own family, it is better to have the stretched out harvest from day neutral berries so check the labels before you buy your berry plants this spring.
If you want the cheapest strawberry plants, you can find them bare root in boxes at local hardware stores and garden centres this spring. If you buy them early and pot them up they will grow fast. Khaled suggests taking all the berries and runners off the plants for the first few months of growing or until the plants spaced six inches apart are touching. At that time you can let them bloom and produce berries.
Just Get Growing!
Okay make sure to say hi if you see me at one of my talks this spring or better yet start growing your own great food this summer and let me know how you do. I am so excited about food and with my new podcast I seriously am Helping Gardeners Grow!
Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.
What Would Donna Do?
Get my growing and gardening tips and pointers throughout the season.