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Brian Minter: Plant small berries for a tasty treat

Strawberries in the process of ripening.

COVID-19 has created a shift in our thinking and priorities, and more people have become focused on planting their own gardens this spring. In terms of food security, what can we plant in our gardens now, apart from traditional vegetables, and expect a crop this year? Not a two-year-old fruit tree — it would still need a couple more years before it could provide a crop. However, many small fruits, especially larger-sized plants, can give you something tasty to enjoy this season.

Everbearing strawberries, for example, planted now will produce a reasonably good crop this year. I love their versatility to perform well in containers, hanging baskets and gardens. Varieties, like “Albion”, “Quinault”, “Eversweet” and “Seascape” are among the best. Day-neutral varieties, like “Tristar”, are also excellent and produce over a very long period. Most strawberries are started from “runners”, but many growers today are using seed varieties which, when started very early, will also produce nice crops all season long. Varieties, such as “Berri Basket” and “Berries Galore”, will have beautiful pink or red flowers for some added colour.

Everbearing raspberry production has surged in the past few years. While main season varieties, planted now, will produce sucker growth for next season’s harvest, everbearing varieties produce fruit on this year’s shoots that come out of the root system below. Older varieties, like “Heritage”, are now being replaced by newer, more productive varieties with larger berries, such as “Autumn Bliss” and the new hottie “Cascade Delight”. “Fall Gold”, an older yellow variety, remains very popular because of its mild but sweet flavour. These varieties can be planted in the ground or in larger containers. “Raspberry Shortcake” is an attractive container variety that is very compact and produces tasty berries, but it is not as productive as everbearing varieties.

Well-draining soil is a must for raspberries as they hate wet feet. Planting four or five canes in a larger container will get you a fairly good crop this year. Be sure to cut your canes back to about 10 cm (four inches) to encourage new shoots to develop. Adding composted manures to your soil and using slow-release fertilizer will help achieve a more continuous production. In colder areas, mulch them heavily for winter protection.

 Blueberries in the process of ripening.

Blueberries round out the top three favourite small fruits, and there have been some positive changes here as well. I always suggest planting early, mid-season and late varieties together for a more constant supply of berries. Vaccinium “Early Blue” is one of the earliest to produce. The mid-season favourites are “Blue Crop”, “Duke”, “Reka” and “Chandler”, which has the largest berries of all. “Elliot” is the last variety to ripen, giving you fruit well into September. Although the berries are smaller, a newer variety, called “Perpetua”, is amazing. One of the earliest to produce, it keeps going well into fall. For very cold areas, “North Blue” and “North Country” are hardy to Zone 3.

In terms of space, some innovative growers are planting three varieties together, both for good pollination and for extended production times. It’s a great idea and one you can do yourself by picking the varieties you want and growing them together as one plant.

Blueberries grow nicely in containers if they have well-draining soils and have fine fir or hemlock bark mulch worked into the mix. To maintain good health and steady fruit bearing, make sure your blueberries are well fed by applying a slow-release fertilizer, like 14-14-14.

Even though the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island have an abundance of “thorny” blackberries growing wild, “thornless” blackberries are the fourth most popular garden fruit. They are not as invasive as their prickly cousins and when grown espaliered on a fence or trellis, they will give you a considerable quantity of fruit the first year, especially if the plants are larger in size. Over the years to come, they will provide a profusion of large, sweet, delicious fruits. “Black Satin” is one of the favourite varieties and for colder areas of the province, “Chester” is the hardiest. If size matters, the “Prime-Ark Traveler” has huge, eye-popping fruits.

A whole range of novelty fruits, such as jostaberries (a black currant and gooseberry cross), tayberries (a blackberry and raspberry cross), “Munger” black raspberries and haskap berries, will produce fruit this year. Elderberries, with their high antioxidant content, will provide berries for preserves and wine. Today, vastly improved varieties of most small fruits are readily available, and they will perform exceedingly well. In these challenging times, if you have a garden or a sunny patio pot, all of these fruits are not only a great food investment, but you’ll also love harvesting your own home-grown bounty.

Brian Minter: Tips to get going on growing your own food

Vegetables and herbs can be grown in containers.

With all the uncertainty these days around almost everything we do, many more folks are planning to grow their own food this year, especially vegetables.

The good news is that growing veggies can be done not only in traditional gardens but also very successfully in containers and raised beds as long as you have a space that gets full or partial sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you don’t get a lot of sun, you can still grow crops, but leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard will fare better.

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Brian Minter: Plant small berries for a tasty treat

Strawberries in the process of ripening. COVID-19 has created a shift in our thinking and priorities, and more people have become focused on planting their own gardens this spring. In terms of food security, what can we plant in our gardens now, apart from traditional vegetables, and expect a crop this year? Not a two-year-old fruit tree — it would still need a couple more years before it could provide a crop. However, many small fruits, especially larger-sized plants, can give you something tasty to enjoy this season.
Read more... →

Vancouver Farmers Market offers online ordering and delivery for local produce

Seasonal worker Grace Wampold is at the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School stand selling vegetables at the Main Street Station Farmers Market in Vancouver on Sept. 23.

Local farmers don’t only need to know how to grow healthy produce, they also need to know how to get those vegetables onto locals’ dinner plates.

“It’s a real challenge for farmers who do small-scale, sustainable farming to do everything,” said Sarah Clements, manager of the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School, an urban farming collaboration between the First Nation and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s agriculture department.

“They have to be business people and growers and have plant knowledge and soil-management skills, and know how to market and sell their produce.”

The farm school sells what it grows at two of the Vancouver Farmers Market’s (VFM) outlets, at the Main Street station and the one in Mount Pleasant, as well as through boxes of vegetables that it puts together for its regular 150 customers who have pre-paid to pick them up each week between June and October.

A retail element that was missing from its business model was an online and delivery option because it would take more expertise, time and resources than the school has.

“An online market is super important,” said Clements. That has become more evident during COVID-19 as restrictions and infection fears keep customers from their usual shopping routines.

So the farm school signed up with BCLocalRoot.ca, which offers to sell and deliver goods for the dozens of vendors who normally sell their produce and products at one of six Vancouver summer markets.

Vancouver Farmers Market entered into the partnership with BCLocalRoot.ca to give shoppers a third option to shop at the six summer and two winter markets, said Laura Smit, VFM’s interim executive director.

She said COVID-19 restrictions have cut in-person traffic to the markets by 50 per cent at some of the locations and online ordering was left up to individual vendors, who may or may not offer delivery. BCLocalRoot.ca offers a centralized online system that would allow shoppers to choose items from different vendors in one order.

“It’s the convenience factor, and they’ll deliver it to your door,” she said.

Smit said the service is unique because it allows shoppers to buy exclusively from B.C. producers. There is a delivery fee for orders under $50 for the new service, which started at the start of September. And vendors need to sign up, and so far there are fewer than two dozen vendors from Vancouver markets offering mostly prepared items, such as hummus and jams, said Smit.

BCLocalRoot.ca also offers more than 400 B.C. grown and made products from 65-plus brands from nine regions in the province, it said in a news release.

Clements said the farm school is hoping BCLocalRoot.ca will be a place to sell winter squash, potatoes and onions during the off-season, and is willing to remain with the platform next season. The farm school appreciates the marketing and sales support it provides for small-scale farmers, and Clements calls it a “great initiative.”

But BCLocalRoot.ca charges producers and processors for the service, a percentage it didn’t want to disclose because it’s proprietary, said spokeswoman Andrea Gray-Grant in an email.

“If we could, we would rather sell the produce ourselves and capture the whole dollar amount,” Clements said.

She said as a non-profit group (any money it makes goes back to the school), the farm school doesn’t have to worry about making certain profit margins, as for-profit groups would have to.

“We’re just kind of experimenting,” Clements said. “That would be great if it grows and takes off. We’re hoping it keeps going.”

Vancouver Farmers Market offers online ordering and delivery for local produce

Seasonal worker Grace Wampold is at the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School stand selling vegetables at the Main Street Station Farmers Market in Vancouver on Sept. 23.

Local farmers don’t only need to know how to grow healthy produce, they also need to know how to best get those vegetables onto locals’ dinner plates.

“It’s a real challenge for farmers who do small-scale, sustainable farming to do everything,” said Sarah Clements, manager of the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School, an urban farming collaboration between the First Nation and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s agriculture department. “They have to be business people and growers and have plant knowledge and soil-management skills, and know how to market and sell their produce.”

The farm school sells what it grows at two of the Vancouver Farmers Market’s (VFM) outlets, at the Main Street Station and the one in Mount Pleasant, as well as through boxes of vegetables that it puts together for its regular 150 customers who have pre-paid to pick them up each week between June and October.

A retail element that was missing from its business model was an online and delivery option because it would take more expertise, time and resources than the school has.

“An online market is super-important,” said Clements. That has become more evident during COVID-19 as restrictions and infection fears keep customers from their usual shopping routines.

So the farm school signed up with B.C. Local Root, which offers to sell and deliver goods for the dozens of vendors who normally sell their produce and products at one of six Vancouver summer markets.

Vancouver Farmers Market entered into the partnership with B.C. Local Root to give shoppers a third option to shop at the six summer and two winter markets, said Laura Smit, VFM’s interim executive director.

She said COVID-19 restrictions have cut in-person traffic to the markets by 50 per cent at some of the locations and online ordering was left up to individual vendors, who may or may not offer delivery. B.C. Local Root offers a centralized online system that would allow shoppers to choose items from different vendors in one order.

“It’s the convenience factor, and they’ll deliver it to your door,” she said.

Smit said the service is unique because it allows shoppers to buy exclusively from B.C. producers. There is a delivery fee for orders under $50 for the new service, which started at the start of September. And vendors need to sign up, and so far there are fewer than two dozen vendors from Vancouver markets offering mostly prepared items, such as hummus and jams, said Smit.

BClocalroot.ca also offers more than 400 B.C.-grown-and-made products from 65-plus brands from nine regions in the province, it said in a news release.

Clements said the farm school is hoping B.C. Local Root will be a place to sell winter squash, potatoes and onions during the off-season, and is willing to remain with the platform next season. The farm school appreciates the marketing and sales support it provides for small-scale farmers, and Clements calls it a “great initiative.”

But B.C. Local Root charges producers and processors 30 per cent.

“If we could, we would rather sell the produce ourselves and capture the whole dollar amount,” Clements said.

She said as a non-profit group (any money it makes goes back to the school), the farm school doesn’t have to worry about making certain profit margins, as for-profit groups would have to.

“We’re just kind of experimenting,” Clements said. “That would be great if it grows and takes off. We’re hoping it keeps going.”

Vancouver Farmers Market offers online ordering and delivery for local produce

Seasonal worker Grace Wampold is at the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School stand selling vegetables at the Main Street Station Farmers Market in Vancouver on Sept. 23.

Local farmers don’t only need to know how to grow healthy produce, they also need to know how to best get those vegetables onto locals’ dinner plates.

“It’s a real challenge for farmers who do small-scale, sustainable farming to do everything,” said Sarah Clements, manager of the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School, an urban farming collaboration between the First Nation and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s agriculture department. “They have to be business people and growers and have plant knowledge and soil-management skills, and know how to market and sell their produce.”

The farm school sells what it grows at two of the Vancouver Farmers Market’s (VFM) outlets, at the Main Street Station and the one in Mount Pleasant, as well as through boxes of vegetables that it puts together for its regular 150 customers who have pre-paid to pick them up each week between June and October.

A retail element that was missing from its business model was an online and delivery option because it would take more expertise, time and resources than the school has.

“An online market is super-important,” said Clements. That has become more evident during COVID-19 as restrictions and infection fears keep customers from their usual shopping routines.

So the farm school signed up with B.C. Local Root, which offers to sell and deliver goods for the dozens of vendors who normally sell their produce and products at one of six Vancouver summer markets.

Vancouver Farmers Market entered into the partnership with B.C. Local Root to give shoppers a third option to shop at the six summer and two winter markets, said Laura Smit, VFM’s interim executive director.

She said COVID-19 restrictions have cut in-person traffic to the markets by 50 per cent at some of the locations and online ordering was left up to individual vendors, who may or may not offer delivery. B.C. Local Root offers a centralized online system that would allow shoppers to choose items from different vendors in one order.

“It’s the convenience factor, and they’ll deliver it to your door,” she said.

Smit said the service is unique because it allows shoppers to buy exclusively from B.C. producers. There is a delivery fee for orders under $50 for the new service, which started at the start of September. And vendors need to sign up, and so far there are fewer than two dozen vendors from Vancouver markets offering mostly prepared items, such as hummus and jams, said Smit.

BClocalroot.ca also offers more than 400 B.C.-grown-and-made products from 65-plus brands from nine regions in the province, it said in a news release.

Clements said the farm school is hoping B.C. Local Root will be a place to sell winter squash, potatoes and onions during the off-season, and is willing to remain with the platform next season. The farm school appreciates the marketing and sales support it provides for small-scale farmers, and Clements calls it a “great initiative.”

But B.C. Local Root charges producers and processors 30 per cent.

“If we could, we would rather sell the produce ourselves and capture the whole dollar amount,” Clements said.

She said as a non-profit group (any money it makes goes back to the school), the farm school doesn’t have to worry about making certain profit margins, as for-profit groups would have to.

“We’re just kind of experimenting,” Clements said. “That would be great if it grows and takes off. We’re hoping it keeps going.”