Of Weeding Ways and Summer Soaks

Finding myself in Canada now, I find it interesting to note the slight differences in cultural speak. Certain intonations of words, slightly different pronunciations and posing questions in the form of statements with an added, “Eh?” to the end perk up my ears and remind me to stick a few “y’alls” into my sentence structures every now and then; just to keep them on their toes.
Certain words really stick out: pronouncing ‘produce’ with a ‘prod’ to the first syllable instead of a ‘pro,’ and utilizing every letter in the word ‘herb’ instead of ignoring the ‘h’ like most Americans do.

Flower transplants for the herb garden

And a lovely herb garden we have here at Notch Hill Organics indeed! Lemon balm, mojito mint, rue, sage, horehound, chamomile, feverfew, parsley, thyme, oregano and mugwort (and quite a few volunteer thistles!) along with a lovely array of bouquet flowers: calendula, poppies, lupines, shasta daisies, pansies, petunias and bachelor’s buttons to name a few.

Move on to the next field away from the house and you’d find well established brassica transplants; cabbages, kohlrabi, broccoli and kale. These are shared by 6 rows of potatoes and an odd lettuce bed.

Just to the left and the furthest to the west, you’d find mixed direct-seeded beds; beets, carrots, raddichio, poppies, salad mix, garlic, Swiss chard, kale and arugula. The next closest field contains earlier plantings of most of the previous, with a higher concentration of beets and carrots. Spinach is the name of the game in the next field east; planted on the outer rows along the beds, it shields 2 beds each of parsnips and salsify (interesting note: Sue does NOT weed around the spinach plants, only hoes the open spaces between rows – having a bit of weed bulk around the plants keeps it from bolting too soon.) Salad turnips, more carrots and beets as well as radishes and shelling peas live here too.

Looking West

And finally we get to the easternmost field which contains various crops for seed saving (yup, this is where the zucchini’s live; Black Beauties to be precise,) a smattering of first year strawberry plants, basil and lettuces as well as borage, summer squash, onions and some flowers.

On the way back up to the farm house (built in 1906) you’d pass by the rhubarb patch and small orchard with a couple of apple trees, a cherry and some apricots. And if you were to bypass the house and head down the hill to the greenhouse, you’d find a carpet design of in-ground basil for seed saving sharing space with trellised tomatoes, turnips, and even more carrots and beets. Do you have a guess at what the hot sellers at market might be? I hadn’t even considered the super abundance of beet and carrot plantings we have here until writing this.

But how could I not notice when the whole crew is out hand-weeding 400ft long beds of beet seedlings – with all 6 of us it still takes up to a couple of hours. Sue’s beet-weeding technique is another unique approach: we weed them with knives to get the roots of the weeds up and over as well as to loosen the soil right around the base of the beets. Beets apparently love to have their roots and the surrounding soil stimulated, it draws in nitrogen from the air and kicks their growth rate into high gear. So, being careful not to actually nic a beetroot, slashing the soil around them makes them happy as a pig in the mud.

And for the first time since I’ve been here, we have no mud! Sunny and hot days are all that’s ahead of us now in the forecast and we’ve been sweating away in 30+ degree weather (85-95F,) and frequent visits to nearby Shuswap Lake have heightened morale and lowered body temperatures (quite considerably.)

Pest control


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