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Season Extension

Planting Up the Greenhouse

With a little help from our friends – Chef Steve Boudreau from Poets’ Cove, Sam and Steve’s wife Julie – we were able to get most of the planting done in the greenhouse. Just in time – so it seems – as the weather appears to be improving. All that’s left now is putting in irrigation and filling in a few remaining gaps with peppers and melons. I may also build just one more bed to accommodate some Picolino cucumbers that we couldn’t fit in…

Proud Papa Steve

Chef Steve and Sam from Poets' Cove pose with the tomatoes they are planting

Greenhouse Boxes Are Filled


Finished topping up the boxes today with soil. All that remains left to do is planting them up and “plugging” in the irrigation.

How We Deal with Post Election Blues on Our Farm

Apart from being bouyed Elizabeth May’s decisive win in our riding (go, go Green Power!), the rise of the NDP and celebrating Michelle’s birthday, I was incredibly depressed by yesterday’s election results.

This morning in an effort to repurpose abandoned election flotsam for good, I gathered election signs.We will eventually transform their heavy wire frames into wickets, which we use to elevate protective remay covers above our crops during the cooler fall and winter months.

Freshly gathered bag-type signs - it's the wire wicket frames we're after.

Transformed election signs (from the previous federal election) that have been rebent and shortened so that they straddle a 36" wide bed.

Repurposed election signs keeping the remay covers above and off of winter planted carrots.

Planting Cucumbers in the Big Greenhouse

Spent a good portion of the weekend working in our new greenhouse. Filled the remainder of the raised beds with horse manure. All that needed is to top them up with soil and plant out the tomatoes, cucs, peppers and basil.

Topping up the 'manured' beds with soil mix.

We had enough soil on hand to top up four beds. On Saturday I planted these beds with cucumbers. The filled beds are maintaining a steady soil temperature of about 25 C (78 F) which suggests that the 6″ layer of horse manure, sandwiched between two 6″ layers of soil, is biologically active and provide some bottom heat as it composts. I was a bit concerned that it would become too hot but after monitoring the temperature for a week I’m satisfied that the temperature will will not get too hot. We anticipate that this bottom heat will help boost the growth and maturity (and hopefully the productivity) of the cucumber vines. Stay tuned for more information. I’m also hoping to put together an explanatory post of the construction of these raised beds.

Freshly planted cucumber plants. In the foreground, the soil thermometer registers the warmth that the composting horse manure is generating below.

Growing More Food for Pender Island

It’s been awhile since our last entry. Truth is we’ve been going like stink here on the farm – taking advantage of the relatively dry weather to get some of our primary and secondary tillage done. We’ve also been hard at work prepping the latest addition to the Hope Bay Farm ‘stable’, so to speak – the commercial greenhouse located across from the Pender Island Community Hall!

The 'new' greenhouse!

The current view inside... Stay tuned for the 'new view'!

This past winter, Don and Linda Wein, owners of the greenhouse property and the Pender Island Home Building Centre approached us asking if we would be interested in using one of their greenhouses. Without thinking, I said yes. After much discussion and figuring on paper, we have finally come to an arrangement that would see Hope Bay Farm, in effect partnering with the Wein family this year, to prove out a productive above ground growing method (the greenhouse is on a gravel pad), similar to that being used by  United We Can at their SOLEFood Farm on East Hasting Street in Vancouver, BC.

SOLEFood Farm's raised bed system (Photo courtesy SOLEFood).

In english, this means filling half of the main greenhouse with 4’x12′ raised beds in which we will grow heat-loving crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and basil over the coming summer. Depending on the how the system works and how we perform as managers/tenants, we could expand the system to fill the rest of the greenhouse and it’s sister (there are two currently on site) to grow more food throughout the entire year – not just the summer.

Tim building the first raised bed in our new 'house'

We are thrilled to be part of this new food-related development on Pender. We are also very, very thankful to the Wein family for their generosity and confidence in our ability to make this a reality. We both see that this project could strengthen the existing community  food hub that started with the location of the Community Hall and establishment of the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market.

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates!

Homemade “Quik” Hoops in Action

We put our recently built home-made tube bender to the test, bending a number of 10′ 1/2″ dia electrical conduit to form the rigid framework for a series of short, 2 bed-wide remay tunnels.  To reduce costs we “laced” the bent galvanized conduit with weaker (and cheaper) UV stabilized 1/2″ PVC conduit (the darker grey hoops in the 1st photograph). The tunnels have been planted with a variety of cool-weather crops including: 3 types of mizuna, mibuna, salad turnips, radish, arugula and transplanted spinach starts.

"Quik" hoop framework over recently prepared and planted beds.

Spinach transplants under the hoops.

The hoop frames covered with 4m wide remay. The seeded hoops have an additional remay blanket lying on top of the soil for extra warmth.

Homemade Season Extension Tube Bender

Been working on an alternative tube bending device that would allow us to bend electrical conduit tubing in a similar manner to that done by the device sold by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Was able to borrow a Johnny’s 4′ diameter bender to trace the curve. Used three pieces of scrap plywood to make the form and a U-bolt at the end to trap the tube. Now that I know it works I’m going to build some large diameter forms.

Why do this when the benders sold by Johnny’s are fairly affordable? Well up here in Canada, the shipping costs to bring larger items in from the States are prohibitively expensive. It’s also nice to make things for oneself out of scrap.

The new plywood tube bending form alongside its slicker, commercially-produced American cousin.