A very common questions I get is what kind should I buy, and my answer is always, English Lavender. "French" or professionally named X intermedia is that traditional smell that most people say remind them of France.
But do you know what France climate is? Mediterranean. Do you know what climate Ontario is? Crap. Our winters are harsh and some years we have seen a drop of -25 celsius after a rain storm. Why do we live in a place where the air hurts our face? The "French" Lavender have the same thought and would rather not participate.
But if you are stubborn like we are, there are some ways to attempt to prevent all that drama in the spring. We cover with biodegradable plastic bags. We cut a hole in the corner of the bags for airflow and tie the handles around the base. Most lavender farms use tarps that may or may not work better. Being in the windiest location in Southern Ontario (which is why we have the windmills behind us), we do not have the luxury to attempt tarps unless we want to spend our days chasing them.
With that said, English Lavender is beautiful and the colour of the flower is bluer and much prettier than the "French". It is a smaller plant and their are many kinds. Folgate is our favourite with a second to Royal Velvet. There are so many to choose from, but whatever you do, do not buy the Spanish Lavender. Nothing against the Spanish, that is for another post.
There are so many types of lavender, and with that different types of purning. If you know what kind of lavender plant you have it will make it easier.
However a general homeowner plant should be pruned twice. Start in the spring in late May or early June before any buds show on your plants. With a pair of sharp clippers, trim the tops of the plant that are soft leaves only. You do not want to cut into the woody part of the plant. Shape your lavender plant like a round soccer ball if you can.
The second time to trim your lavender and the most important time is in the late summer, end of August. Trim off all the flowering stems. This will protect your lavender plant over the winter and put energy into the roots for regrowth the following year.
Tomatoes: Plant and trellis your tomatoes in a sunny location with well-draining soil just below the bottom leaf. In optimal conditions, tomatoes can grow 10 feet. Allow plants to partially dry before watering to avoid unwanted disease. Plant basil between your tomato plants to get a sweeter tomato. Trim off all “suckers” of the tomato to ensure quality fruit on your tomato plant. A sucker is the small shoot that develops between the main stem and individual branches. As your plant grows, remove bottom leaves to give your plants more airflow.
Cucumbers: Plant and trellis cucumbers in well-drained soil and in full sun. Cucumber plants can reach up to 12 feet. Allow your cucumbers to partially dry before watering. Watch for Squash Bugs and Cucumber Beetles which can damage your plant and fruit. We recommend using a hand vacuum to collect the pests and remove them to a bucket of soapy water. Utilize companion plants such as nasturtium and marigold to ward off pests.
Peppers: Plant your peppers in a sunny location with well-draining soil. Pepper plants can grow up to 4 feet tall. Pinch off the first 2-3 sets of flowers until the plant is large enough to sustain the weight of a pepper. Trim off all but 3 main stems to grow large peppers that ripen faster. To avoid trellising, you may pinch off the top of your peppers to encourage bushier, heartier plants.
Zucchini: Zucchini can produce for approximately 1 month once it is full size. The flowers of the zucchini are edible, but ensure that you have pollination before removing them so that the fruit will fully develop. Zucchini is susceptible to Squash Bugs and does not often survive in the hot summer months. Plant in full sun.
Cabbage: Cabbage is a long term crop that is a heavy feeder (requires more nutrients than other plants) and likes well-drained soil. Cabbage is susceptible to the Cabbage Moth which means little caterpillars may enjoy your harvest before you do. To protect this plant from pests, we recommend using a row cover, available from most garden centres. Try adding dill as a companion plant to vegetables in the brassica family as it acts as a repellent to many pests.
Kale: Kale is a giving producer. Once the leaves get to a nice size, start harvesting the bottom leaves all season long. Kale likes well-drained soil and full sun. Kale is susceptible to the Cabbage Moth which can eat the leaves of the kale. We recommend using row cover, available from most garden centres.
Planting Tip for all vegetables: Use Bone Meal and Blood Meal to feed your plants and prevent transplant shock. Put in the base of hole that you are planting the vegetable plant in.
In 2018 Mingle Hill received its name. We are located in St. Ann’s and operate as a family-owned certified organic farm. Though we have always believed in growing food to share a means of sustainable living, that belief has been enhanced during the time of COVID-19. Working on a farm means listening to Mother Nature and working with her throughout each season. This year has been no different. We continue to seed, tend, water, amend and plant. When the weather brings a wind- or snowstorm, we move onto other work. A lot of that work looks different this season as we make adjusts in a time of quarantine.
At the farm, we all learned through experience. Each season we develop new skills and ideas to improve for future years; each night we bring home research to put into practice the following day. This year a big goal for us is education. Our hope is to provide knowledge about each vegetable we grow, to inform the community that we operate with zero food miles and certified organic growing practices, and to assist new growers on their journey.
Like many vegetable farmers, winter is a season of hope and anticipation. We have taken time to review what habits worked for us last season, and which did not. We have reviewed each variety of vegetable we grow to analyze its germination rate to its post-harvest storage longevity. Winter is also the season of Catalogues. The prospect of catalogue deliveries keeps farmers walking up and down their undoubtedly long driveways each afternoon to check the mailbox for the new season’s issue. For new growers, catalogues are generally free to request online and are filled with hundreds upon hundreds of vegetable and flower varieties. This is how we at Mingle Hill get started. If we did or did not like a certain variation last season this is our opportunity to either see if it is back in stock or to try an alternative.
The list we call, “The Seed Order” is mulled over for weeks before we finally hit send to purchase the assortment of seeds for the season. Not only does The Seed Order need to be reviewed for foreseen quantities, it also provides us with the platform to educate. For example, we have chosen cucumbers that are parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic means that the male vs. female flowers do not matter because they will produce fruit without any pollination. This is great for greenhouses as bees don’t tend to hang out in ours too often.
One of our favourite concepts on the farm is “food miles.” Food miles is the distance food travels from where it is produced to where it is sold and consumed. Measuring food miles is one way to gauge the environmental impact of commercial food production and distribution systems (Rodale, 10). To put it into perspective for you, the food miles on our farm is less than one hundred steps. We harvest in our field and bring it down to our farm store where it is washed, stored or prepared for a customer. In contrast, an avocado must travel over 3,500 km from Mexico to Niagara. That means driving for nearly 40 hours straight to bring an avocado into a Canadian grocery store. This is why food miles are so important to us. We are certified organic and we have zero food miles. It’s not often you get both in the same place!
This year we were fortunate enough to start our season off with a two-part Organic Growing program partnered with the Grimsby Library. Through Zoom we illustrated the steps between choosing the vegetables for your garden to harvesting from it. Part 1 included choosing what to grow, where to grow and how to prepare your soil. Part 2 demonstrated the steps to seeding success, seedling needs and growth, hardening off, transplanting and outlining some pests and pollinators. There is an endless bulk of information that can be shared and learned so we truly hope you were able to catch the program. Lucky for you, we were able to sort out recording for our Part 2 session! For those of you that were unable to access our Resources document following the session, we have included it here for everyone to enjoy.
As you continue to grow for yourself or purchase local, organic goods remember that every step you take counts. Buying local supports your community and provides jobs to multiple individuals within it. Supporting small-scale organic farms near you decreases food miles and sequentially lowers the carbon footprint. Growing for yourself includes you in the company of other gardeners, which is a boundless cornucopia for learning. Getting your hands in the dirt is the ultimate application of your research and keeps idle hands and full minds steady. Here at Mingle Hill we are elated to begin another season with you whether it is bringing the field to your fork or insight as you build your own garden.
Thank you for growing with us!
Mingle Hill Farms
This year we are proud to have the addition of another Rozema on the farm: Olivia. Olivia has been building the online presence of Mingle Hill and ensuring the effects of isolation do not stop us from getting our organic goods to the community. Thank you, Olivia.
Emily Rozema: Owner, Grower, Entrepreneur