Tag Archives: organic farming

Identifying Diseases & Pests

A lot of things try to chomp, munch, consume, and destroy our crops. Before you can figure out what to do, it’s good to know what the problem is!

My favorite reference on the subject is Diseases and Pests of Vegetable Crops in Canada, which is available as a print book. But it is also now available online for free! You can find it here.

Even though Canada is in the title, most of these diseases and pests do not respect the borders! This book is great for all veggie growers.

I hope your summers are going well, and that you don’t need this kind of book too much.


Tourne-Sol Open House on Sunday 5 July, 2015

Our annual open house is coming up. The full details are below. But one thing I’ll point out to all my seedy readers is that I will be giving seed and garlic tours during the event!


 Full Details

Get out your calendars and reserve Sunday July 5th for our Open House. This also happens to be Tourne-Sol’s 10th anniversary celebration so we’re going all out! There will be garden tours, workshops, food and maybe live music. Fun and activities for adults and kids!

Date: Sunday July 5th, 2015

Address: At our farm! 1025 ch. St-Dominique, Les Cèdres, QC, J7T 1P5.

Price: Free!!! (Pulled pork and veggie dogs are for sale)

Rain Date: No rain date. We’re going to have this event rain or shine. We will have tents to gather under in case of wet weather.

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Main 1wtmk


10:00am Doors Open
10:15am Garden Tours (one in French & one in English)
10:30am Kids Planting Activity
11:15am Garden Tour (French); Seed & Garlic Tour (English)
12:00pm Pulled Pork & Veggie Dogs
1:00 Paper Making Workshop (until 4pm)
1:15pm Garden Tour (English); Seed & Garlic Tour (French)
3:15pm Garden Tours (one in French & one in English)
5:00pm Doors Close
*** Ongoing kids tours throughout the day***

GARDEN TOURS: One of the Tourne-Sol farmers will show you the farm from our greenhouse through the fields and back to our packing shed. You’ll get to see where all our crops come from and how a broccoli actually grows!

SEED & GARLIC TOURS: Dan will walk you through the seed fields and garlic patch. You can see what Quinoa looks like, find out how to tell different types of garlic apart, and more!

KID’S PLANTING ACTIVITY: At 10:30am, Renée will lead a garden planting workshop. Children will plant their own 3 Summer Sisters (or Brothers) garden that they get to bring home.

KID’S GARDEN TOURS: One of the Tourne-Sol farmers will give a garden tour aimed towards kids to see how food grows from seed to fruit to seed again.

PAPER-MAKING WORKSHOP: From 1 pm to 4pm, we will be hosting a paper-making workshop with local artist Claude Aimée Villeneuve. She will use various plant fibers gathered on the farm.

FOOD: At noon we will have pulled pork and veggie dogs for sale.There will also be a free salad bar made from our fresh local organic greeens!

Road Trip: Four Seasons Farm and The Good Life Center

The last stretch of our June 2012 road trip took Emily and I through Maine. We planned on arriving in Maine just in time to catch the Restoring Heritage Wheat Seminar in Unity Maine. As it turned out, I thought the event was on a Saturday when it was actually on a Friday. This got us to Maine one day late.

With an unplanned free day. We decided to go on a pilgrimage to Harborside, Maine to see Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Farm and The Good Life Center.

You may have noticed that it’s taken just about a year to get this post up. As such, I’ve gone for more pictures and fewer words today. This is also the first time I use slide shows in a blog post!


Four Seasons Farm

Eliot Coleman grows about $150K of veggies on 1.5 acres and has written a number of books including the New Organic Grower and the Winter Harvest Manual. When I first started farming a number of farmers swore by Eliot Coleman’s books. It took me a couple of years before I did read his works, but when I did I could see what folks like in this approach.

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The Good Life Center

Emily introduced me to Helen and Scott Nearing’s book Living the Good Life when we first met. Helen & Scott were proponents of living a simple yet good life. They homesteaded in Vermont and then Maine from the 1930s until their deaths in the 1980s. They built their own home by hand out of stone. They ate a mostly vegan diet.  They also practiced four season gardening in their greenhouse.

The Nearing homestead is still maintained by volunteers as the Good Life Center.

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From here, we visited a couple more farmers in Maine before heading home. I’m going to try to wrap up these road trip posts shortly!


Road Trip: Sackville to Tatamagouche & Back Again

On the second phase of our honeymoon/agricultural road trip we left Rimouski and drove down the Acadian Shore  to border of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. We visited three farms in the Sackville  – Tatamagouche axis.

(Our road trip started with this blog post.)

Nature’s Route Farm

Ruth and Kent Coates run Nature’s Route Farm in Point de Bute, NB (just East of Sackville, NB). They run a CSA and market garden, and also raise lamb.

Ruth and Kent’s sloping somewhat rocky fields are laid out with three ridges per bed. Rocks get buried when the ridges are formed leaving an area much easier to plant and weed.

For larger crops, only the two outside ridges are planted in each bed.

Freshly formed ridges.

I was really intrigued to see the different season extension structures on different farm. These tunnels are very similar to our Caterpillar Tunnels but with some noticeable differences. I plan on posting soon about these different tunnels we saw.

Ruth and Kent had carrots, beets, turnips, and greens growing under these tunnels.

The Sheep.

We later went by the Sackville farmers market and caught Kent at his stall.

Waldegrave Farm

Next up (after a few days in PEI with friends and no farm visits!) we took the ferry back to Nova Scotia and visited Cammie Harbottle at Waldegrave Farm in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

We’ve been wanting to visit Waldegrave for a awhile. In part because we’d been hearing rave reviews about Cammie’s veggies at the Halifax market but also because the farm is on the Tatamagouche Community Land Trust.

The Tatamagouche Community Land Trust is a 100 acre farm that was originally bought by a group of friends. (You can read a bit more on a 2010 seekingfarmland blog post.) Every year they also host the Tatamagouche Free School in August.

Some of Cammie’s recent surface drainage work – a swale bordered on the left by a newly seeded grass pathway and on the right by blueberries.

Cammie has had to deal with a few very wet years. In addition to this surface drainage she’s also installed subsurface tile  drains.

Of course, after all this drainage work, Cammie then had a very dry spring and was worried about irrigation when we visited.

There is quite a bit of covered growing space at Waldegrave Farm. These moveable greenhouses are inspired by Wild Flight Farm where Cammie previously worked.

Em and I helped with part of the market harvest. Cammie showed what she wanted in a radish bunch as Em, Hillary, and Pal watched.

I was pretty excited about these dollies in Cammie’s wash station. Basically a piece of plywood on 4 caster wheels (2 rigid and 2 swivel). Also inspired by Wild Flight Farm.

These dollies fit 4 bins per layer. They easily roll into the cold room. (Em and I also really like these green harvest bins.

Broadfork Farm

From Tatamagouche we headed back up towards the New Brunswick border and stopped in River Hebert, Nova Scotia (just west of Amherst, NS and south of Sackville, NB).

Shannon Jones and Bryan Dyck run Broadfork Farm. They just moved their market garden to this new site. This year Xander Alkhoury (our buddy and 2011 Tourne-Sol apprentice) is also farming at Broadfork. Shannon and Xander previously worked together at Everdale  farm

Bryan, Shannon, and Xander.

Though the first year on this site, the fields were full of healthy plants.

And Caterpillar tunnels. Xander and I spoke quite a bit about the variations from the Tourne-Sol model.

There were a couple of chicken tractors with young layers. These structures seemed quite secure …

.. though sometimes a hen just needs to stretch her legs.

We caught the Broadfork stall at the Dieppe farmers market.

From the NB/NS border we then drove 6 hours down to the Annapolis valley …

Caterpillar Tunnel Workshop At Tourne-Sol Farm

We are hosting a caterpillar tunnel building workshop for farmers. This event is being organized by the Quebec ministry of Agriculture (MAPAQ).

Workshop Details

  • Date: Thursday May 3rd 2012 (possible May 9 rain date)
  • Schedule: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with 1 hour for lunch
  • Lunch options: a. Bring your own lunch. b. The closest restaurants to our farm also offer a fine selection of fried foods.
  • Location: 1025 ch. St-Dominique, Les Cedres, Quebec, J7T 1P5
  • Register by April 25th: by phone 450-427-2000 ext. 5100 or  by e-mail diane.longtin@mapaq.gouv.qc.ca  (remember to leave your contact info.)
  • Language: The event will be mainly in French though all the presenters are also fluent in English. As this will be a very hands-on event there will be a  lot to learn even if you don’t speak any French.

Here’s MAPAQ’s press release:

Démonstration de tunnel « chenille » dans les légumes

Christine Villeneuve, agr. MAPAQ Sainte-Martine

La Ferme Coopérative Tournesol vous convie à participer à la construction d’un tunnel piétonnier de type « chenille » ou caterpillar en anglais. Ce type d’abris est de plus en plus populaire aux États-Unis afin de protéger les cultures horticoles des intempéries et d’allonger la saison de production. Ces tunnels peuvent être démontés et remontés au besoin pour être déplacés ce qui facilite les rotations de cultures. Selon l’espacement entre les arches, ils peuvent supporter temporairement une légère charge de neige. À l’hiver, les plastiques sont remontés et enroulés au sommet de la structure. En comparaison avec d’autres types d’abris, le coût des tunnels de type « chenille » est abordable, de l’ordre de 0,60 à 1,00 $/pi2, Les tunnels chenilles utilisés à la Ferme Coopérative Tournesol mesurent 14’ x 300’ (4.3m x 92m). Voici trois sites internet qui vous permettront d’en apprendre davantage sur les tunnels « chenille ».

  1. https://goingtoseed.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/building-a-caterpillar-tunnel/
  2. http://www.uvm.edu/sustainableagriculture/hightunnels.html
  3. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/Assets/Information/HighTunnelBendermanual.pdf

Informations pour la démonstration

Date : Jeudi le 3 mai 2012 (pourrait être reporté au mercredi 9 mai en cas de pluie, veuillez consulter le message vocal qui sera mis en ligne le mercredi le 2 mai à partir de 16h00 au 450-427-2000 p.5133)

Horaire :

  • 09h00 à 12h00 :  Démo
  • 12h00 à 13h00 : Dîner (Apporter votre lunch ou commande possible à une cantine localisée à quelques minutes de la ferme)
  • 13h00 à 16h00 : Démo

Lieu : 1025 ch. St-Dominique, Les Cèdres, http://g.co/maps/35t5s

Préinscription obligatoire (les places pourraient être limitées) pour le 25 avril par téléphone ou par courriel auprès de Mme Diane Longtin, MAPAQ Ste-Martine 450-427-2000 p. 5100 diane.longtin@mapaq.gouv.qc.ca

Lors de la préinscription laissez vos coordonnées afin que nous puissions vous recontacter au besoin.

Cleaning Lettuce Seed

Lettuce is the other seeed crop that took me years to learn how to clean well (radishes being the first).

The basics are like other dry seeded crops (thresh, screen and winnow ad nauseam) but to do a good job I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to the threshing and final screening.

(If you want to read more about growing lettuce for seed : growing lettuce seed under field tunnels  and growing out crossed-up lettuce seed)

Harvesting Lettuce Seed

I keep a regular eye on the lettuce plants to catch them as they flower.

After flowering, the lettuce blooms close up.

A couple of weeks later, the flowers open again to reveal little fluffies at the end of mature seed (kind of like dandelions).

Since the seed doesn’t all mature at once, some folks walk their lettuce patch every couple days and shake the plants into bins or paper backets to collect the seed. I’ve tried this approach but don’t have the time to handle the plants this regularly.

Instead, when about 1/2 the flowers are mature, I harvest the whole plant.

I cut the plants above the roots (keeping dirt in the garden!), pile them in bins, and bring them back to the barn.

Drying Lettuce Seed Plants

I spread the lettuce plants out on tarps with a fan blowing air over them. I rotate the plants at least once a day so that the leaves dry down rather than rot.

If I have a little lots, I dry them upside down in a bucket.

The lettuce plants usually dry for 1-2 months before I process the seed. By this time the plants are completely dry and most of the seed has matured.

Threshing Lettuce Seed

Whereas we now stomp most seed crops to thresh them, we put on kid gloves to handle lettuce.

We rub the plants vigorously between our hands so the flowers fall apart dropping the seed and fluff.

This leaves the stems bare. I try not to break many stem pieces into the mix as they can be tough to later extract.

Screening Lettuce Seed (First Time)

I usually skip the 1/2″ screen and move right to the 1/4″ screen.

I separate the seed and chaff into the bin below and leave any stem on the screen. This is where cleaning lettuce seed gets tricky because the chaff is similar in weight to the seed and the fluff doesn’t seem to want to let go.

At this point I turn to more specialized equipment.

Screening Lettuce Seed (SeconD Time)

This is my favorite colander. The size of the holes are perfect for little oblong seeds (such as lettuce).

I rub the chaff-seed mix through.

This extracts the coarse material. I use this screen a few times and wind up with seed and a bit of fluff.

Winnowing Lettuce Seed

At this point I winnow delicately. If the seed is still dirty. I winnow again a bit more aggressively and perhaps run the seed through my colander another time.

One of the biggest tricks I’ve learned is to not try to save every last seed. When I accept losing a bit of seed, I can get the remaining seed much cleaner.

This is about as clean as I can get most lots with screens and fans. I pick out some of the remaining bits but have to live with the rest.

I apologize for the delay in getting this post up (Brian Creelman has been asking me to post about lettuce for nearly a year.)

Some of the delay is because I’m not much of a lettuce seed man – I’ve often had trouble getting lettuce seed crops to maturity and even though I’ve been cleaning lettuce seed 10 years, I still can’t get it as clean as most other seed. I’m currently looking into some seed screens from Hoffman Manufacturing. If these work out maybe I’ll become a lettuce seed cleaning maniac. I’ll keep you posted!

The rest of the delay is that I’ve been conference and workshop hopping this past month and any my spare time has been going into our new website. I’ll tell you guys more about all that soon …

Saving Turnip Seed

As I was getting a post together on some turnips Emily grew this summer, I started looking at photos from a 2009 turnip seed crop. So today, we’ll look at how to save seed turnip seed and

  • Clear up all that confusion about turnips and rutabagas
  • Explain how turnips need to be overwintered
  • And show how turnips go to seed.

Turnips And Rutabagas

Most people call rutabagas turnips. Turnips and rutabagas are actually two separate vegetables.

Rutabaga on the left, turnip on the right.

Turnips are white fleshed, usually  2-4″ wide, and tender enough to eat raw (they can  also be cooked).  They are from the Brassica rapa species and easily cross with the other members of that species: chinese cabbage, rapini, mizuna, tatsoi, and a number of leafy greens.

Rutabagas are yellow fleshed, 4-8″ wide, and eaten cooked. They are from the  Brassica napus species and won’t cross with turnips. Rutabagas are also known as swedes.

That being said, saving rutabaga seed is done in pretty much the same manner as saving turnip seed . Starting with …

Overwintered Turnips

Turnips are biennials, which means they have a two-year life cycle:

  • Year one: they grow a storage root accumulating energy.
  • Year two: the root uses that energy to produce a flower stalk, sets seed, then dies.

In our climate, turnips do not overwinter in the ground. To grow turnip seed, you need to dig roots in the fall and store them in a root cellar, fridge or cold room. And that’s where this story begins.

March 2009 – We had a lot of turnips in cold storage and were still bringing them to market.

I chose the nicest roots to re-plant for seed carefully inspecting the top of each root to make sure the growing point was intact. By the time the ground was dry enough to plant, most of the roots had leaves a couple of inches long.

Second Year Turnip Plants

April 24, 2009  – I planted the turnips 3 rows to a bed, 12″ apart in the row; and left the tops above ground. The yellow leaves were hungry for some tasty spring sunshine.

May 4, 2009 – In  just over two weeks, not only had the turnip leaves turned a vibrant green but they were now over a foot long.

May 13, 2009 – The turnip plants were covered in buds ready to open. These are also delicious fried with butter and garlic.

June 11, 2009 – The turnip flowers had just passed their peak

Next Steps

From this point on, saving turnip seed is the same as saving most other brassica seeds. Two of my previous posts cover the specifics of

The turnip story continues next post when we discuss how a generation of saving turnip seed fits into the bigger picture. I can’t wait either!