The cover crop of crimson clover and winter field pea that I sowed the veggie beds with last fall has also been enjoying the warmer weather in a big way. Before I knew it, it had put on 6 inches of new growth and it was time to shear, compost and turn in in preparation for planting season.
Generally, you want to get this done a few weeks before planting anything in the bed. This allows the roots of the cover crop to die, releasing their fixed nitrogen back into the soil, which can then be taken up by your transplants. A side benefit is that it turns pest cocoons and larvae up to the surface where they can be gobbled up by birds, other insects or killed off by the weather.
First, I shear the tops off the plants and toss them in my compost pile. There’s a lot of green material there, so I tend to make a big hot compost.
My shovel strategy:
Many use tillers to turn in cover crops, and this is necessary if you’ve used a more robust crop such as winter rye. Because I choose more tender crops, I use a shovel and chop two rows down the bed, then chop perpendicular to the rows to create a kind of grid over the bed. This allows you to lift chunks of the cover crop and flip them completely over. Once this is complete, I gently chop my way through the whole bed to cut the roots up and ensure the cover crop dies off in time for planting.
As you go, keep an eye out for the tell-tale root nodules that show you how hard your nitrogen-fixing cover crop (i.e. legumes such as crimson clover or winter field pea) has been working for you. As the plants die, this nitrogen is returned to the soil.
Want to know more about the benefits of cover cropping? Head over to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and leave us a comment that says “Tell me more!”.
Spring Plant Sale Poster 2017
The Compost Education Centre (CEC) is hosting our 15th annual all-organic spring plant sale! The event is on Saturday May 13th, 10am-2pm at the CEC demonstration site at 1216 North Park Street. The Spring Organic Plant Sale features local farmers offering a wide variety of organically grown vegetable, flower and herb seedlings to get you off to a successful start this growing season.
What you can look forward to:
• The largest selection of organically grown heirloom tomato varieties all in one place for easy shopping
• Organically grown vegetable starts from arugula to zucchini
• Native plants for your low maintenance garden
• Perennial edibles like berry bushes and other fruiting shrubs
• Medicinal herbs like English lavender, chamomile and yarrow
• Culinary herbs like Genovese basil, dill and chives
• Companion plants like marigolds, sweet cicely and comfrey
• Live music!
Vendors this year will include Saanich Organics, New Mountain Farm, Mason Street Farm, Metchosin Farm, Fiddlehead Farm, TreeEater Nursery and Ravensong Seeds/Miss Mullein’s Herbals.
The Compost Education Centre is located on unceded and occupied Indigenous territories, specifically the land of the Lekwungen speaking people—the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. These nations are two of many, made up of individuals who have lived within the porous boundaries of what is considered Coast Salish, Nuu-Chah-Nulth and Kwakwa’wakw Territory (Vancouver Island) since time immemorial. At the CEC we seek to respect, honour and continually grow our own understandings of Indigenous rights and history, and to fulfill our responsibilities as settlers, who live and work directly with the land and its complex, vital ecologies and our diverse, evolving communities.
The Healing City Soils project has been completed for 2016! Almost 140 soil samples were tested in Victoria and Esquimalt through this joint project with Royal Roads University and the results made into an interactive map (coming soon!) to inform the community about potential for soil contamination and best practices for growing healthy produce in back and front yards and boulevards.
As well, we are thrilled to announce that two of our new factsheets from the Healing City Soils project are now complete. These factsheets will help urban gardeners learn more about soil contamination and protect their health while growing their own groceries.
Soil Contamination: Whether you are already growing food or would like to begin a garden, it’s a good idea to learn more about your soil so that you can grow food safely. Urban soils are often compacted and nutrient deficient, and can sometimes contain heavy metals and other contaminants as a result of historical industrial activity, past and present land use and proximity to pollution sources (e.g. a major road). Soil contaminants may get into or onto our veggies and fruits and have negative health effects over the long term. Gardeners can take many simple and inexpensive actions to reduce their exposure to urban soil contaminants. Soils can be managed, improved and made healthy again so that you and your garden can thrive. Find the factsheet here.
Best Practices for Healthy Urban Gardens: We recommend that all gardeners follow healthy gardening practices to help reduce exposure to heavy metals and other contaminants. Generally, maintaining a neutral soil pH, adding organic matter and compost to your soil, mulching your garden soil and thoroughly washing your garden produce can reduce your exposure to many soil contaminants so you can enjoy the many health benefits of eating fresh garden-grown fruits and vegetables. Find the factsheet here.
Join the Victoria Storytellers’ Guild for an evening of stories rooted in land and nature.
You are welcome to come to listen or can also bring a story of your own to share. Stories can be of different lengths up to 10 minutes or so. Shorter stories are welcome, too. They can be folk tales, fairy tales, myths, legends, personal stores (happened to the teller or someone close to them), can have some singing or response from the audience. They must be told “by heart”, that is, not read from text or with the use of notes.
Admission by donation at the door, with all proceeds going to support the Compost Education Centre’s programming. Tea and cookies will be provided
When: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm, Friday, November 4th
Where: 1831 Fern St., the Quakers’ Meeting Hall.
Our annual August Organic Plant Sale is coming up on Saturday Aug 27th, 10am-2pm at the Compost Education Centre, 1216 North Park St!
The sale is a great chance to get local, organic veggie starts for winter growing! Come on out to the little sister of our spring organic plant sale and get your greens for the winter. Kale, broccoli, cabbage, salad greens, culinary herbs, medicinal herbs and much, much more will be available.
It’s that time of year again where we gather to review the past year, our plans for the new year, enjoy delicious food, and learn something new! Join us for our AGM in our urban oasis in the heart of Fernwood at 1216 North Park Street. The AGM will take place from 1:00-3:00 on Saturday April 23rd.
Our knowledgeable Site Manager Alysha will be leading an interactive site tour through our beautiful demonstration gardens where you can learn firsthand about the many sustainable systems and permaculture techniques we have in place, including our new aquaponics system, rainwater harvesting systems and the many options we have for on-site food waste reduction and diversion.
Everyone is welcome to attend the AGM. Members who have been in good standing with the Compost Education Centre have voting rights at the meeting. Your input is vital – so we hope to see you there!
To view the report in PDF format, click here.
We are thrilled to be hosting two great rainwater harvesting workshops, as well as a stormwater management specialist from the City of Victoria who will be on-hand to answer questions!
But that’s not all — our wonderful friends at Van Isle Water are offering all workshop attendees a coupon that can be redeemed for 15% off all rainwater harvesting materials!
INTRO TO RAINWATER HARVESTING, 10:00am-12:00pm, $20. Register here.
This introductory workshop is perfect for people who are keen to start learning all about rainwater harvesting. The workshop will define and explain watersheds, lay out the principles of rainwater harvesting, define terms such as greywater and blackwater, and go over the laundry to landscape system of rainwater containment using techniques such as cisterns and earthworks.
RAINWATER HARVESTING INTEGRATED DESIGN, 2:00-4:00pm, $20. Register here.
This workshop will help you get started designing a rainwater harvesting system for your household. We will cover site assessment, water budgeting, design work, and evaluation of different systems. Please bring a plan/overhead view of your site if possible, as we will be doing hands-on work.
It was a successful first day of soil testing for the Healing City Soils Team! The team will be taking samples from residential yards and boulevards for the next two months around Victoria and Esquimalt and the information collected will be uploaded into an interactive soil health map. Learn more about the project here.
We are excited to share two new factsheets with you! We have been getting lots of inquiries about tumbler composters and bokashi and we decided to put together a factsheet for each one to help answer your questions and spark your interest. If the descriptions below spark your interest, check out the new additions on our factsheets page.
Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning “fermented organic matter”. Different from composting, which is aerobic, it is an anaerobic process that allows a person to deal with a wide variety of food waste on-site. Bokashi harnesses the power of effective microorganisms (EM) dehydrated onto a cereal base to carry out the fermentation process . It is best used as a partner to a compost pile, because you will need a place to compost the ‘spent’ material once it has finished going through the bokashi process. It is a great alternative to the green cone food digester as it breaks down the same types of materials but doesn’t need sunlight or to be buried down 2 feet in your garden work. You can make your own system or purchase a ready-to-use unit.
In general, tumbler composters are in the form of a barrel mounted on a stand so the unit can be turned or “tumbled” around a central axis. They can be mounted horizontally or vertically, both work well. Turning these units easily incorporates air into the material inside the tumbler, which can speed up the decomposition process. It is possible that you may get a finished product faster than with passive backyard composting due to the increased aeration that tumblers make possible. However, beware of manufacturers that say you will have finished compost in three weeks or less – anything that looks finished in this short amount of time will be unstable and need to sit for at least 6-8 weeks longer to cure.
When we built our new greenhouse wanted the plans for this project to be free and readily accessible. As such, this factsheet includes a budget and materials list for the greenhouse, a list of the lessons I learned, and some photos of the building process.