Spring Bird Tweets: Some News on Food Action in Nova Scotia

I always know it is spring time when my email inbox starts to overflow. Other signs include birds tweeting on the phone lines, crocuses blooming, and everyone is abuzz with plans for the coming season.

This week, here are some (and I apologize, not all), of the exciting things you should check out, apply to, or get involved with if you are interested in gardens and food. As always keep an eye on the Halifax Garden Network Calendar for an updated list of workshops and events.

The Shortlist:

  1. Seedy Saturdays
  2. Plant Propagation and Considerations for Greenhouse Soil Workshop
  3. Passive Solar Greenhouse Design Workshop
  4. Introduction to Permaculture Workshop
  5. Permaculture Certificate Course
  6. Community Garden Coordinator Workshop
  7. Hands On Season Extension For Market Gardeners
  8. Loaded Ladle: Looking for new Board Members
  9. Spryfield Urban Farm: Job Posting

The Long List:

Seedy Saturdays

Seedy Saturdays are amazing events held all over Canada in the spring where local, small scale, and back-yard seed savers and growers get together to share their wares and information. They are great events to go to to purchase your seed supply and to learn a whole lot about what and how to grow certain varieties. Here are dates and times of Seedy Saturday events across Nova Scotia:

Dartmouth, NS
Alderney Landing Farmer’s Market
Saturday March 24, 9-11 a.m.
Contact Sarah Ensslin  for more information 

Halifax, NS

Captain William Spry Community Centre, 16 Sussex Street

Saturday March 31, 2-4 p.m.

For more information or to book a table to sell  seeds, bulbs, and other garden supplies, please contact Marjorie Willison for more information.

Sackville, NB

Tweedy Hall, Mount Alison University
Saturday March 31, 2012 1-3 p.m.

In conjunction with ACORN’s AGM, we are also hosting The POLITICS OF FOOD Forum (Everyone welcome–please help spread the word!), which will feature a series of speakers through the course of the afternoon.

For more information contact Lucia Stephen.

Wolfville, NS

Farmer’s Market building, 24 Elm Av.
Saturday April 7, 8:30-1 p.m.

Our fifth annual Seedy Saturday will feature a community seed exchange, a plant swap, a workshop speaker series, a Town of Wolfville children’s gardening program, free admission, a fundraising table for Seeds of Diversity Canada, and a number of vendors selling local seeds, plants, transplants, composted seaweed, tubers, Acadian forest tree saplings, and much more. Our event takes place in conjunction with the Wolfville Farmers’ Market, featuring 50 additional vendors, free live music, fair trade coffee, and delicious breakfasts and lunches. We hope you’ll join us!

For more information contact Michelle Fike (902) 697-3344

Plant Propagation and Considerations for Greenhouse Soil

Wednesday, 28 March, 18:30 – 19:30
Ecology Action Centre, 2705 Fern Lane
Facilitator: Rebecca Singer, Native Plants Pollinator Project Coordinator at EAC
Come get your hands dirty and learn some tricks for starting your garden transplants. We will talk about the soil issues involved in greenhouse gardening and how to best use the elements to have strong and healthy transplants to get a jump-start with your garden. Please bring containers to take some seeds home with you! We’ll meet at the Ecology Action Centre in the board room at 6:30 on March 28th. We’’ll later move over to the greenhouse to take a look and plant some seeds. Everyone welcome, no registration required. Free.

Passive Solar Design Workshop

April 14th – 10am-5pm
Ecology Action Centre 2705 Fern Lane
Cost: $75

Come learn the basics of passive solar design for growing food in all seasons through the story of the Bloomfield Community Greenhouse. This full-day, hands-on workshop will equip you with the basics to start designing your own greenhouse!

Topics will include:

  • Basics of passive solar design.
  • Designing a greenhouse for winter food production
  • Factors to consider: Site, solar access, temperature, humidity, light and air.
  • Thoughtful choice of crops for a winter greenhouse.
  • Introduction to off-grid solar electricity.
  • Energy gain and loss in a greenhouse
  • Design forum – bring your dream greenhouse design and work together on it, or a practice exercise.

Event partners: Ecology Action Centre, Community Energy Cooperative, Full Cycle Builders.Click Here to register. Questions or concerns? Please contact Sonia for more information.

Permaculture for Transition Workshop

April 14-15 9-5 p.m.

St. Luke’s United Church, Tantallon.

You will come out of this workshop with the knowledge for finding positive and practical solutions to creating energy and time-efficient gardens, designing wisely with water, building soil out of nothing, designing opportunities for meaningful community projects, creating a holistic design plan for your property and much more! Cost is $145, and just $65 for the first six under age 30 to register. These low prices are made possible by a generous grant from the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia to strengthen resilience in our area. To that end we will offer registration exclusively to local folks until March 15.  The course includes delicious homemade meals and snacks from gourmet cooks as well as a detailed reading list and handout materials.
To register, email David Wimberly.  Visit  transitionbay.ca  for more information.

Permaculture Design Certificate Course

Earn your certification in permaculture design at The Blockhouse School Project and leave your mark on an exciting new project!
  • 72 hour intensive course
  • Course runs: May 12-27, 2012
  • Implementation (optional): May 28-June 2

The course, facilitated by Graham Calder, has a broad curriculum demonstrating the principles, patterns and practices of permaculture design. It utilizes a variety of perspectives from local self-sufficiency to international aid. The course is forged to give a foundation for restoring, rebuilding and reconnecting human ecosystems.

Read more and register for the course on Graham Calder’s website.

Community Garden Coordinator Workshop

Saturday April 14th, 11-4:30 p.m.

North Branch Library

Free, please R.S.V.P.

This is a free all day event designed to bring coordinators, volunteers and community members who work with Community Gardens together to talk and to learn from presentors and from each other. The workshop will cover communication and building engagement in the garden, soil fertility in the community garden setting, and offer a chance for gardeners to ask questions and share solutions in small conversations.

All types of gardens are invited and encouraged to attend, from the traditional community garden, to school and univeristy gardens, gardens at shelters, family resource centres, youth centres and more. We hope each garden can elect a couple of folks to come and share their garden’s knowledge and struggles. Please R.S.V.P. to Garity by sending the participants names and contact information as soon as possible.

Hands On Season Extension for Market Gardeners

Saturday April 7, 2-8 pm.

Abundant Acres Farm

Join us at Abundant Acres for an afternoon hands-on session to build a low-cost, unheated hoop house (2-4) and stay for the potluck afterwards to talk shop about greenhouse growing and other season-extension techniques.  The session is free, please bring something to contribute to the potluck. Click here for directions to the farm.

Loaded Ladle is looking for Board Members

The Loaded Ladle is a Dalhousie-based group that serves free, locally-sourced and communally-cooked meals every Tuesday on campus, while engaging in radical food politics through dialogue and action.The Loaded Ladle is looking for Board Members to elect at our AGM on March 22nd. Many of our long-term members are graduating and moving away, and it’d be great to have some experienced food lovers and activists on Board. We have room for up to four community members, so you don’t have to be a student!
Being a Board Member is an unpaid, volunteer position that requires a certain level of commitment, but not a huge level of work. You would be required to come to weekly meetings, engage in some email discussion, and oversee some aspect of our work, such as planning workshops (or providing the resources so that volunteers can plan workshops), making sure the group sticks to our policies/constitution during their decision-making, or overseeing our paid staff.
If you can’t commit to being a Board Member, we can always use helping hands, and are looking for people to host workshops or help plan events!
To find out more about what it means to be a Board Member, and how to nominate yourself, check out our blog.

To get involved, email us, or find us on Facebook!

Urban Farm Museum in Spryfield Garden and Program Coordinator

Job Announcement
Working at the Urban Farm Museum in Spryfield is a marvellous opportunity to work outdoors with vegetables, herbs, fruits, children, families, and youth during the growing season. Mostly outdoors, some indoor work. Sturdy footwear and protective clothing required.
April 17 to October 15, 2012, Tuesday to Saturday (morning only on Saturdays) 1 evening, and sometimes 2 evenings, per week. Part-time beginning and end of season.
For complete job description, email jamac@ns.sympatico.ca

Application deadline by 5 pm on April 5, 2012

Written By: Garity Chapman


Nature Makes Sense

Last week the snow hit and just like that I realized I was feeling totally unprepared for what was coming in the Community Greenhouse. As I was shovelling it out I fretted, how do we keep the plants warm and happy in January with no heat? What happens if we get an outbreak of aphids? Are the plants getting enough carbon dioxide?


And so I wrapped myself in a blanket and pulled out Eliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. He is a lovely writer and a phenomenal treasure trove of great growing systems and hard facts about how he does what he does at Four Season Farm.

He set me straight, assured me plants to want to grow through the winter and it can all be quite simple and straightforward. He had an especially amazing perspective on disease and pest management in the greenhouse, which just the thought of what I don’t know and understand, makes me shake in my bones. He sums up his approach when he states “nature makes sense”.

Whew, okay.

So when problems do hit and your plants aren’t doing so hot the question begs, what am I doing wrong? Well here is a great list of questions to help your identify your misstep and start on the road of growing healthy happy plants that will do their best to resist the temptations of pests and disease.

In the words of Elliot Coleman, ask yourself:

  • Is the soil ready for that crop, or should the rotation or choice of cultural practices be changes? (Some, like the Brassica, benefit from higher nitrogen availability; others, like tomatoes, will produce all leaves and no fruit when given extra nitrogen.)
  • How long ago were the green manure or crop residues turned under? (Three weeks is the minimum. The soil bacteria need time to digest the green matter and return the soil to its balanced state.)
  • Was the compost mature? (…Immature compost can cause a wide range of problems.)
  • What was the preceding crop? (If it was a heavy feeder, are more nutrients necessary?)
  • Have you corrected the mineral deficiencies indicated by your soil test? (Trace elements can often be the key. You need a complete soil analysis to get that information.)
  • Were the transplants stressed? (If transplanting on a dry, windy day, you need to irrigate immediately…)
  • Have you chisel-plowed or subsoiled to break up the hardpan? (Impenetrable or airless conditions under the surface are invisible until you plant a crop and then wonder why it is having problems. Take a shovel and do some digging to find out.)
(From The Winter Harvest Handbook, 2009, pg. 182)

I’m on my way to the library now to pick up his other well-known book, The Four Season Harvest: How to Harvest Fresh Organic Vegetables From Your Home Gardens All Year Long. I’m not sure what other wisdom it will bestow but I will keep you posted. 

Written by: Garity Chapman

Thirty-Six Greenhouses of Dawson City, Yukon.

Photos taken in the summer of 2006 by Rebecca Singer.

Please come join us celebrating the grand opening of The Bloomfield Community Greenhouse.

Grand opening is between 2-5 on Saturday, October 15th, 2011.

* The passive solar community greenhouse is a collaboration between the Ecology Action Centre and Imagine Bloomfield. The greenhouse will be run by community gardeners, part of a native plant pollinator project, closely linked to the Bloomfield Community Garden and to urban food production projects in HRM.