Onion scapes
Image by urbanworkbench via Flickr

As I sit in my home office looking out across the garden at the lightening playing off the mountain range, I pondered what to write. I know that I have slowed down over the past month or so, adn that the posts have been fairly serious and heavy in nature. So, while I acknowledge that there are so many things that aren’t working, and many more that are falling apart in our world, I have to say that there are few things more satisfyingly distracting than spending a couple of hours in the garden with your family, working the weeds, hauling logs, watching the swallows dart and dive and sipping a cool glass of water.

Here’s the state of our garden, at least the food production side of things as of Father’s Day 2010…


  • The strawberries are amazing this year – big, sweet and juicy
  • We’re up for a decent first year’s crop of blueberries
  • The raspberries we transplanted are in flower, looking good for a late summer harvest
  • Our grapes are coming in in large clusters
  • The peaches are not as prolific as the past two years
  • We are seeing plums for the first time in three summers
  • A couple of our young cherry trees have fruit this year
  • Lots of rhubarb!
  • Plenty of apples from our three trees
  • The red currant cutting that we salvaged from an old plant is just surviving
  • no blackberries this year 🙁


  • Looking forward to a huge potato crop, two varieties in the ground, have been mounded up twice already
  • Four varieties of tomatoes ~24 plants,  still small, started from seed inside, transplanted out at start of June
  • two marconi peppers doing great
  • lots of pickling cucumbers
  • lots of squash and pumpkin
  • paladio peas, one of the best tasting shelling peas!
  • parsnips, our first year trying
  • kale and spinach
  • pink popcorn again, just starting to sprout
  • pole beans on the teepee
  • golden and red ace beets
  • two varieties of carrots
  • eggplant
  • a couple of varieties of onions
  • sunflowers
  • not much asparagus this year


  • rosemary – to go with the potatoes of course :]
  • lavender – such a relaxing scent
  • two varieties of garlic – looking strong
  • chives – Nyssa’s favourite gardening snack
  • Thai basil
  • lemon balm
  • cone flower
  • oregano
  • wild sorrel, transplanted from a local source

I may have left some out, but you can see where we are up to. The weeding is already picking up, but there has been little need for watering, even at the early seedling stage due to the rain.

While we’re talking gardengin, I stumbked upon this blog where the authors are hoping to grow a ton (2000 pounds) of food on their urban lots in St Paul, Mn. Their rules:

1.) Everything must be harvested from January 1st to
December 31st in the same calendar year.
2.) Everything must be grown on our property.
3.) Only organic methods may be used.
4.) Each day any crops harvested will be weighed and
recorded by crop type.
5.) Backyard grazing (e.g. eating tomatoes off the vine) of unweighed foods will not count.
6.) Food lost to damage, insects, dogs, chickens (our backyard pets) or any other cause will not be counted.
7.) Inputs will not be counted against the goal but will be
recorded (i.e. chicken feed, purchased compost, seeds etc..).
8.) No single crop can count for more than 20% of the total (no mono-crops here).

The Urban Ton Project

I would suggest that they don’t grow amaranth for seeds, not a good return on weight! (I’ve tried it once).

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

6 replies on “Gardening Update June 2010”

  1. I was going to ask you about the amaranth, actually; I’m curious as to what happened with it.

    The rhubarb up here is awesome! I have been harvesting from our neighbour’s plant and their neighbour’s plant, and I am freezing what I am able to. I’ve had several rhubarb crumbles so far this year and they have been wonderful!

  2. Great items & information here on local gardening.

    PLEASE! — Get you soil tested for Radon.

    There are reasons why some folks use raised beds of imported. tested soil, with an apporpriate barrier underneath.

    Next to Summerland … Castlegar is one of the provincial ‘hot spots’.

    Raymond Koehler
    619 – 9th Avenue,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5

    (Currently in therapy at BC Cancer Centre – Kelowna)

  3. Hi Raymond, thanks for your comments. I can’t find anything on the risk of radon exposure outside of concealed areas (such as homes). Radon normally vents to the atmosphere harmlessly, but can become concentrated in areas with little ventilation and/or poor sealing from the surrounding soil.

    One document explicitly states that there is no risk of radon from fruits and vegetables grown in high radon areas. (page 24 of this pdf).

    Saying that, getting your home tested for radon is a smart idea, as the risks are likely high in the Castlegar area.

  4. Hello Mike,

    Thanks for your points raised here.

    First of all, let me rush to confirm that I am not academically or professionally qualified to be discussing geology.

    My remarks are based on 6 years of experience in the Kootenays, including discussions with Geologists familiar withthe the area and its characteristics.

    I agree with your Radon comments and what is, apparently, the straight forward construction ‘fix’ to avoid accumulating Radon Gas in buildings.

    I scrambled my own point above by confusing the Radon Issue with the Uranium Contamination Issue.

    My understanding is that the underlying geology from China Creek to the South Slocan — (Like most of the Canadian Shield formation) — has a high prevalance of uranium ore content.

    There is a similar ‘hot spot’ in the Rock Creek to Beaverdell area … and as mentioned Summerland has among the highest readings in the province.

    My concern, then becomes one of the possibility of uranium contamination levels in local soils and ground water.

    My research capacity breaks down after I ‘Google’ — uranium contamination testing — soil and water …

    By way of the local ‘oral history’ regarding water contamination … there is some local anecdotal material circulating from the days approximately 20 to 25 years ago when Castlegar switched from well water to the Celgar Pumping Station river water.

    That ‘story’ has largely fallen under the “Kootenay Cone of Silence” that you refer to elsewhere in this informative & helpful blog.

    While it is not my intention to create ‘panic’, I will return to my geologically better informed sources and try to track down some more clarity around the possibility of agriculural contamination.

    In the meantime, soil & water testing IS possible for uranium contaminiation and I would encourgage the practice.


    Raymond Koehler
    619 – 9th Avenue.
    Castlegar, BC V!1N 1M5


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