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Pick Up Some Compost At your Local Environmental Day

Ward 20’s Enviro Day – April 14, Central Tech, 10 am – 1 pm. Take your green bin, wheelbarrow, or your own bags, and dig in and get some leaf compost to help nourish your plot. It’s free!

Seed Season is Upon Us!

If you were returning your library books to Scadding Court library this Saturday, March 3, as I was, you would have been shocked to find it was, yes, Seedy Saturday. While seeds had indeed been on the mind (prompted, of course, by early sightings of spring blooms rising through the earth), it still seemed “early”. But, of course, its not. If you want to start seeds inside now is the time to start gathering (purchasing, or bartering, or swapping) seeds in preparation for planting inside, or for building up your seed collection for when the time comes to plant in the ground (after the last frost and likely May).

Of course I dived in to see what was what. The first purveyor of fine seeds I found was Colette from urban harvest ( who reminded me that her seasonal  brick-and-mortar presence would this year be located at 1604 Queen West (at Sorauren), in the back and in the garden of the Coriander Girl flower shop. Browsing through the seeds in Urban Harvest’s and then other vendor’s, I felt ashamed to say that I hadn’t yet thought of what I should plant. I know that at the end of last season I felt that the strawberries should be transplanted to the south side of the plot to get more sun.  I knew what perennials existed and where (Rhubarb, north west corner of the plot). But what  should I grow this year?  Zucchini (flopped last year due to leaves being eaten by groundhogs, rabbits, but still great in the garden), Eggplant (the source of such great kitchen hits as eggplant parmigiani, veggie moussaka and babaganoush). There’s nothing like browsing for seeds to create the enthusiasm for getting back to the earth, but the truth is that many things have to be considered – as in say what you like to eat, and what kind of harvests you want to have – do you want to have zucchini that keeps on giving throughout the season, or is your desire to grow the Fort York’s biggest pumpkin? The next is your plot. At Fort York you have a certain size to play with. Within it you may want to tall plants (which cast shadows) and small plants (which don’t).  And you’ll want to think about where you will plant them. You may also want to consider compatibility – which plants grow best with other plants and also intercropping.

Seedy events run in March throughout the city and you can find dates and locations here: Entry is by PWYC donation. As well as vendors booth there is also a seed exchange table so if you have collected seeds and want to swap, take them with you.

Two of the more “local” upcoming Seed Exchanges:

Saturday March 10, 2012 from 11 am – 4 pm.

Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Avenue

Saturday March 24, 2012, 11am – 4pm

Masaryk-Cowan CRC, 220 Cowan Avenue.

If you attend, pick up the booklet “Get Growing Toronto”. It’s free and has info and tips aplenty.

Also remember that if you are planting seeds, there’s no need to go buying expensive planters. Provided there’s drainage and enough space and good enough potting soil you can upcycle many a container. Some info on planting in cans here: And a whole array here: . More ideas, send them in!

Planting references from The Almanac visit:

Closing The Garden; Celebrating our Plots

fort york plotters and the new garden shed (thank you Walmart!)

In the few days prior to our end-of-season celebration on

October 30, plots were bushels of tomatoes picked, plots were dug up,

fencing gathered up…And then it was time to eat, drink and be merry – and

celebrate our new garden shed.   Financed in full by a grant from Walmart (thank you),

the shed was constructed to not just complement Fort York’s historic architecture but actually to

reflect the built form of some of the buildings in the fort. Our thanks to David O’Hara for his guidance there.

Of particular note: the hardware, which looks truly authentic.

antique hardware

Thanks goes out to Joseph Tardif for shopping for and cooking lunch.

We were expect tomato salsa (Joseph’s tomato harvests being always magnificent), but

we had not expected such a repast. Also thanks to all gardeners who took time out on a golden Sunday to attend.


chamomile and borage provided a pollinator's playground in the herb garden.

During the next few weeks the herb garden will be cleared, pollinating (blooming) plants removed to another plot, and garlic will be planted in the

north side of the herb garden. This year’s garlic plot will be repurposed – possibly for something to celebrate Fort York’s upcoming bicentennial. A historic

vegetable garden was proposed. If you have suggestions you want to put to the steering committee, please feel free to submit them here.


a) Make sure the plot is clear. There are still some jungle plots. Please clear asap.

b) Time to plant some garlic. 1 clove, tucked four inches deep into the soil. The shape of the clove itself tells you

which way it wants to go into the hole.

c) Optional. It might be a little late  for this year, but planting alfalfa – or red clover – seed (the former readily available at natural food stores) can help

nourish your garden with nitrogen  in the next planting season. The idea is to dig it back into the soil before the flowers appear.

Ideally this should be done at least 4 weeks before the first frost.

The last days of the garden…

garlic from the garden 2011

This Saturday I’m in an awkward spot.

The garden needs tidied. Tilled. Composted and Garlic for planting needs to be found.

The latter seems to be the most pressing at the moment!

A quick check on a local source – The Cutting Veg (

reveals that they are sold out. Too bad. They have a global array of garlic:

Ukranian, Tibetan, Korean, Russian, Persian, Italian, Sicilian, something called

Former Yugoslavian, Salt Spring, Chinese and Israeli.

This leaves me having to forage the local markets – today either St. Laurence, or Stop at Wychwood Barns, or even Phil’s stall by the Grange or

during the week at Sorauren, or Dufferin Grove. I could try Evergreen Brickworks, but I might get

knocked down cycling there.

Why the fuss? When I love the aesthetics of the bulb (and yes, each have their own strengths of taste and texture).

I love the individual tinges of blue or mauve that tint the outer skin…And the fact that they are the first thing to emerge from the

earth in the Spring and that also gives us two harvests – first the ramps, and then the bulb!

So if anyone knows of a local source of good garlic choices  that I can ponder, and quickly, for who knows when the

frost may come, please comment here!


Much Ontario Organic garlic out there in the markets, but when you ask

what “kind” it is, there’s often a blank. Three purchased at the North St. Laurence Market:

Music (which seemed pretty common); Montego, and an Anonymous.

I discovered some Russian, but it was only available if I bought a whole lot for $30!


On October 30th,

all Fort York Gardeners are invited out

to celebrate the end of our Gardening Season, and yes,

our massive new Shed.  In the spirit of Fort York it is

designed  to complement the heritage architecture of the Fort.

Come out and see it!


2.00pm – 4pm.

Refreshments will be provided.

RSVP to:


Also, a quick read of a newly purchased gardening book revealed that

Rabbit Droppings make an excellent source of nutrition for the garden.

Not just excellent, perhaps the Best, at least if I can believe the book.

We know we had rabbits this season (chewed leaves and various hoppity-hop sightings attest to that),

but I can’t imagine going on a search for their droppings.

The book was “Small-Plot, High Yield Gardening” by Sal Gilbertie and Larry Sheehan. (Ten Speed Press).

It was purchased from a great independent bookstore in Toronto: McNally’s, on Bay Street, just south of Queen.

on the west side.


All gardeners – even non-returning ones – need to clear their gardens!

a) Remove all hardware and store for next year. The new shed should be available next week for those wanting to store stakes, etc.

Just bundle and tag unless you want to share them next year.

b) Compost all organic garden waste. Either drop in the far compost and chop up with shears and add a little water

. Or tip over into the ravine taking care that you are not throwing over any wire/non-organic waste that can injure wildlife.

c) rake the earth and remove any ripe fruit – particularly tomatoes . If they are left in the soil they will seed next year as rogue plants and

take vital nutrients away from your new planting.

d) Perennials can be blanketed with some straw to help keep roots frost free.


a) hardware – wire, stakes, etc, should be bundled for storage.

b) organics go to the composter

c) rake earth till clear of fallen fruit, seed-pods.

fallen  fruit.

d) late chard or kale could go on into November so keep & harvest.

(although the snails got into mine!)

Thinking Ahead

Harvested an onion today as one of the ingredients in an Okra stew.

(The okra fresh and farmed out in Perth County).

It reminded me of a) that while gardening at Fort York is entirely pleasant

the purpose is to learn about growing your own food – and then using it to explore

new menus, new tastes, and flavors in a way that maximizes your harvest.

and b) the list of things that lies ahead

such as the late fall planting of garlic or shallots (if wanted for next year)

While the beds are currently full of everything from squash to tomatoes,

in a few weeks Fort York gardeners will be clearing their plots, and

wondering what preparations they may need to do for next year…

If garlic or shallots are to be planted, this has to be done

before the first frost. So early October is ideal.

Some prep work may be required for the soil  first,

so don’t leave it as a last minute thing. And if you want

to plant garlic, remember you will need to look beyond the

supermarket kind. We have a source, so keep in touch!

Zucchini Rot/Part 1

a promising stat and then rot!

Usually at this point of the summer I am begging friends to accept a gift of zucchinis.

Not this year. After I pulled out a rotting zucchini plant last week, I vowed to find out

what was up. This might be part one of a zucchini analysis, but here goes.

(Information courtesy

Problem: The flower turns into a micro-zucchini and then rots.

This is because the female flowers are not being pollinated by male pollen. This is pretty common place, particularly if there isn’t many bees around. You can help prevent this by hand pollinating. Rub a cotton wool bug against the male pollen (on the flower with the long stem) and then rub against the golden crown in the female flower (which also has a mini zucchini swelling behind the petals). This doesn’t always work, but it does improve your chances.

(Note: this makes sense to me. There were many more male flowers and also during

the start of the zucchini season, very few bees were around.)

Problem: the zucchini itself starts to rot.

The second problem is where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top of the fruit. Ideally this is prevented much earlier in the season by adding lime to the soil. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering. Mulch around your zucchinis and water regularly. If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit.

You say Tomato – I say “Tons!”. Conscious Food Festival! Time for That Second Planting!

Tomatoes are having a field day at Fort York Community Garden!

Beefsteaks, millionaires, and all those heritage tomatoes with fancy names are

full to busting (yes, some, literally). Share your tomato recipes or flavors here.

Was your tomato thin or thick skinned. Juicy or dry? Slow to ripen?

Love the taste of that spring planting? Note the name and send it in!

Better still, consider saving the seeds for next year. (More on that later!)

Time To Plant That Second Crop!

If your arugula bolted…Or our feral friends got your kale…Seedlings may be hard to

come by now but there’s still time to

plant some seeds and enjoy fresh greens into the Fall. Chard, kale, salad greens

are generally quick to grow!

The Conscious Food Festival

runs Saturday August 13 – Sunday August 14 at Fort York!

Alas, nobody seems to have remembered that our community garden is a fabulous example of

food and environmentally conscious living so we were not invited to participate! Boo!

If you like to go admission is $15, but there is a $5 off coupon on the internet here!


First you sow, then you reap. And then what? Summer is not only hectic because you are a Fort York Gardener and doing all that involves (weeding, watering, nurturing, filling the rain barrels, fending, stretching chicken wire around you precious crops), but also you harvest and after the harvest, then what? Eat, of course, but  unlike the rabbits and groundhogs who seem to like it as is, we all want to pursue the ultimate in tastes. Combining flavors, adding our favorite dressings. In the spirit of sharing, and inspiring, here are some favorites from the gardeners  using ingredients grown in the garden plots of Fort York Community Garden.

arugula salad with strawberries - photo H. Chacon

 Arugula salad:
Gardener: Hasse Chacon
From the plot: Arugula, strawberries, fresh herbs

Fresh arugula
A few straberries
Chèvre cheese (crumbled)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Fresh herbs finely chopped
Pine nuts or crushed walnuts
Salt & pepper to taste
A few slices of red onion (optional)

1  Make The Dressing:
Place olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper in a glass jar and cover tightly with a lid. Shake well, until the dressing is emulsified

2. Compose
Place the washed and dried arugula leaves in a salad bowl, along with the slices of onion

Drizzle with the dressing and toss. Top with: chèvre, nuts and sliced strawberries

ready for pesto: fresh basil and garlic scapes – photo M.D’Aguilar

Garlic Scape Pesto with Linguini and Cherry Tomatoes
Gardener: Mark D’Aguilar

From the plot: fresh basil, garlic scapes, tomatoes.



6   Garlic Scapes, heads removed and roughly chopped (or substitute, or add, arugula)
1/3 Cup  Fresh Basil leaves
1/4 Cup  Chopped, toasted Walnuts
1/2 Cup  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2  Lemon, juice and zest
1/4 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
12  Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Sea Salt yo taste
1 Ib  Linguini, or other Pasta

1. Combine the garlic scapes, basil, walnuts, 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a food processor or blender.    (You can also toss in some Arugula leaves for a nice bite)
2. Process until the leaves and garlic scapes are finely chopped.
3. Then add the nuts and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and lemon juice and jest.
4. Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in the cheese. Add a drizzle more olive oil if necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt and pasta to directions for al dente.
6. Drain the pasta reserving 1 Cup of the pasta water.
7. Toss the pasta with the pesto and add in the tomatoes.
8. Only if necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water to bring it to a creamy consistency.
9. Serve with a grating of more cheese and a few torn fresh basil leaves.




Gardener: Patrisha Robertson

From the plot:  Fresh French Lavender, Rhubarb.

Apricot & Lavender Jam

Ingredients: a basket of apricots, sugar, lemon juice, water, fresh lavender blossom.

Split the apricots, removing stones.

Pit the stones and reserve the “almonds” inside.

Wash, then split the apricots and then layer them in a pot with sugar (I use the least amount I can, so I start with less and may add more)  and a 6 – 10 of the “almonds” (these will help provide the pectin). If you have lavender sugar you can add a dash here also.

Let sit for a few hours.

Add a little water, a squeeze of lemon juice,  and bring slowly to a boil.

The mixture will thicken to a lovely jam like consistency.

Remove the “almonds”. Add fresh lavender at the end.

Decant into sterilized jars using traditional canning methods.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam or Rhubarberry (rhubarb + blueberry) and Ginger jam.

Ingredients: rhubarb – 10 – 12 stalks,chopped,  fresh ginger, sugar. Blueberries optional.

Same as above (without the peach “almonds”)

Rhubarb + Sugar + some nice chunks of fresh ginger.

Don’t use much water as rhubarb has a lot on its own.

If necessary, use some liquid or powdered pectin.

Before decanting into clean, sterilized jars remove the lumps of ginger!


Bird spotting! There have been beautiful red and gold finches at the sunflowers. Thrushes are admiring the strawberries! Bring your paints and make a watercolour of your crops! There are some beautiful forms to be seen  – from sweet pea and bean blossoms, to exploding garlic pods! Hope to see you – remember Wednesday day is our communal gardening night!  5 pm – 8 pm!


 Some herbs were added to the garden this week:

Anise, and the herb, bee balm, along with some sorrel, and also lovage has come back as a seedling for all those who protested its recent decapitation.

A sickly raspberry bush, discarded at a nursery, also appeared and was planted in the Sketch communal plot for recuperation and possible transplanting when

we find our soft fruit spot!

Anise Hyssop or Licorice Mint

Anise: Anise Hyssop or Licorice Mint. Perennial. Member of the mint family. Flowers are purple-blue and blooms June – September.  Can grow up to 1 m. tall. In its natural habitat grows by streams and ditches and in cultivation requires a lot of moisture or it will wilt.

Harvesting: At the start of flowering. Or anytime. Snip the leaves off starting from the bottom of the plant.  For tea, cut whole stems off starting 4 – 5” inches from the bottom of the plant.  Hang upside down to dry. Anise tea (or Licorice Mint tea is excellent for the digestive system. You might want to add the leaves to a general “mint tea” mix for extra flavor.  Fresh leaves can be used in salads. The flowers can be cut on the stem, dried upside down, and then used in floral arrangments. In winter anise can but cut back to a 6” stub. Benefits: Anise hyssop is a favorite of our friends the beest and can repel cabbage moth.

Adapted from various sources including:

The Sorrel looks sad but it has just been planted!

Sorrel: A perennial herb with a tangy flavor. Leaves can be used pureed in soups, pesto and sauces or as is, added to your other leafy greens for a salad (or, of course, on its own). It Greece it is mixed with spinach, chard, as a component in spanakopita. The taste is sharp owing to the oxalic acid it contains: and the older the leaves the sharper this gets. Eat when young! And  don’t overdo it as oxalic acid is toxic. (Note: you would have to eat a lot).

Our sorrel has to get grow first. But next year we might try this!


Sorrel Soup

1 pound sorrel leaves, washed and trimmed of stems
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
6 cups of the broth of your choosing (vegetable or chicken)
3 tablespoons sugar
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, free range, beaten

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add shallots and cook on medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add sorrel a little at a time, tossing; cook until leaves have wilted, about 10 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, and simmer about 15 minutes.

Using a hand-held blender, purée the soup. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add beaten eggs.

Whisk vigorously until eggs have dispersed. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold with a garnish of sour cream.  Provides 6 servings.

 Recipe courtesy of


July 12 – Fort York hosts the Spacing Roadshow.  7 pm. $5.

Discussions on Urban Design, architecture and community building.

August 13 & 14th The Conscious Food Festival is back at Fort York doing what it does: spreading the world on the connection between what we put on our plate and the state of the planet.

Access to plots will be available during that weekend.

Hello Bee Balm, Come Along Bees…

We hope that it won’t be continued. But so far this summer, there’s been a marked absence of bees in the garden.  Hence the appearance, suddenly, in the herb garden of some American Bee Balm (aka “honey plant”) in the hope that its blue-purple flowers, and fragrant scent will bring more bees by.  Bee Balm in the herb garden is also quite apt. Otherwise known as wild bergamot, the plant is a member of the mint family and like mint, rosemary, or sage, can  be widely used in the kitchen for all sorts of things.  To give you some idea of its versatility: The soft petals (separated from the calyx)  can go in salads. It can also be used, deliciously,  in jams and jellies (remove the leaves, however before bottling).  Leaves can be used in cooking (in tomato dishes you can use it as a substitute for oregano – in stuffings, you can use it instead of sage). Bergamot leaves can also brewed into a medicinal tea and can help relieve nausea, colds, headaches, and flatulence. To make a tea use one cup hot water, to 1 teaspoon leaves, steep for 5 minutes and sweeten with honey. In summer add lemon and serve iced. Wild bergamot, a native of North America,  is similar to, but not the same as the Italian Bergamot Orange (Citris Bergamica )– which supplies the distinctive flavoring in Earl Grey Tea. You can also add leaves to hot water and use as an inhalation to help soothe a sore throat or help ease bronchitis. There are various varieties of Wild Bergamot. The Scarlet Bergamot variety was wildly used by the Oswego Indians of Northern New York for making tea – hence this plants other nom-de-plume  – Oswego tea. We’d love some of the Scarlet variety in the garden, so if you see some around, let us know or add it to the herb plot!

 To Harvest :

Pick leaves for fresh use at any time. Collect leaves and blooms for drying in midsummer. Spread out the leaves on a wire rack in a shady, warm, ventilated location. If the leaveshaven’t dried in 2 or 3 days, place them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, When dry, crush the leaves and decant to an airtight container.  Store in a dark place.Leaves can also be dried in a brown paper bag in a well-ventilated spot.Flowers and freshly chopped leaves can also be frozen for later use.
For pot pourri – pick flowers when blooms are almost completely open, then hang to dry.

 (However, don’t pick all the flower until we see some bees!)