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Organic Gardening Tips
Terra Viva Organics

Website Update
Choose Kale for Winter Colour
Growing Gorgeous Amaryllis Indoors
Santa Claus Loves Gardeners Too
Roast Squash and Onion Tart

Website Update

In case you still haven't decided what to get your friends for christmas, here's another gift idea. The Leafy Slug Pot is an elegant garden accessory that serves a useful purpose! Plus, for Christmas, we are including a handblown glass ladybug pendant with every pot. The pots are gift wrapped in a natural cotton bag, tied with raffia and include a small gift card.

Seeds! We are expanding our seedline for 2001 to over 70 varieties. Check our listings for your favourite vegetable, herb & flower seed, all certified organic.


Choose Kale for Winter Colour

by Arzeena Hamir

Compared to its more succulent cousins like cabbage and broccoli, Kale is often regarded as a "coarse" vegetable, suitable only for the winter garden. How untrue! The leaves are rich with Vitamin A & C, iron and calcium and the beautifully frilled Japanese varieties are an ornament in any garden and make a striking garnish on any dish. On top of that, kale's ability to give tender greens in the early spring makes it a valuable commodity when no other greens are able to produce.

Red Russian Kale A member of the Brassica family, Kale is known botanically as Brassica oleracea variety acephala, which translates to mean "cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head". Native to the Mediterranean, Kale has been grown as a leafy vegetable for thousands of years and is thought to be the ancestor of cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and even the flowering brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower.

Kale is one of the easier Brassicas to grow since it doesn't need to head like cabbage and doesn't fall over, as Brussels sprouts plants tend to do. In fact, kale prefers a slightly lower fertility than cabbage since high nitrogen produces tender leaves that do not withstand frost well. Soil that has been manured and limed the previous year is perfect for growing kale.

Here on the West Coast, we usually start kale in early July so that they reach a good size before the first frost in October. Adjust your starting date accordingly. The plants should be spaced a minimum of 1 foot apart but will grow in more crowded conditions. However, the more room you give the plants, the more they will produce. Most plants mature between 50-80 days.

Although kale is cold hardy and can survive temperatures as low as 0 F, if mild weather is followed by a sudden freeze, it can kill the plants. Cover your plants with a floating row cover or a cloche and mulch around the plants to protect them against freeze-thaw cycles. If temperatures do go below 0 F, you can bury the plants in mulch. Brush the mulch aside when you need to harvest.

Redbor Kale Like most winter vegetables, the taste of kale improves after the first frost. Here's a tip: when harvesting, cut the leaves growing from the center of the stalk. The larger ones at the bottom tend to be tough while the younger ones at the top are next week's harvest. By about late December-early January, my kale is looking a bit tatty. However, as temperatures begin to warm up in March, a new flush of leaf growth appears on the plants and I'm picking again. At this time, I like to fertilize with either fish emulsion or compost to encourage more growth. By about April, the plants begin to send up flower shoots. Don't fret! These flower heads have a mild broccoli taste and if you break off the flowering head completely, side shoots will appear like in broccoli.


In his book dated 1885, Vilmorin listed 26 varieties of kale including leaf kales, tree kales, and marrowstem kales. Few of these varieties are still around today although heirlooms such as "Lacinato" are making a comeback thanks to seed saving groups. Most kales varieties belong to 1 of 4 types: Scotch (very curly leaves), Russian (flat leaf, serrated edges), Japanese (ornamental rosette types) and Other - (Lacinato, walking stick etc). Here is a list of some of my favourite varieties:

  • Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch - squat plant, cold hardy, easy to mulch if temperatures drop, can be grown in a 5-gallon container.
  • Winterbor F1 - Scotch type, hybrid variety, very winter hardy
  • Redbor - a red Winterbor, extremely ornamental although the taste isn't as good. Lacinato Kale
  • Red Russian - purple veins at beginning of season turn red in the fall, flat leaves probably most tender of all kale varieties and can be eaten fresh in salads
  • Nagoya - Japanese type, deep center, frilly comes in white or red, nice tasting
  • Peacock - Japanese type, deeply serrated leaves, large head, better for wet climates.
  • Lacinato (Nero di Tosca) - Italian heirloom, dark blue-gray leaves, puckered & up to 2 ft long, hardy and ornamental


Few insect pests bother kale. Slugs and aphids can be hosed off easily on this sturdy plant. Imported cabbageworm seems to be the only pest that will do serious damage to kale. Handpick the worm or prevent the butterfly from laying its eggs by using a floating row cover. Otherwise, spray with BTK for an organic treatment.

Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva Organics. When she's not planting peas or picking zucchini, she answers questions about organic gardening at: You can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable Gardening at

Growing Gorgeous Amaryllis Indoors

by Monica Resinger
Amaryllis flowers are gorgeous, and they come at a perfect time of year -- when our (some of us) gardens are sleeping! My neighbor has had his Amaryllis for about 10 years. He showed them to me one day and I couldn't believe my eyes! In his windowed laundry room, there stood the biggest Amaryllis bulbs, flowers and leaves I have ever seen! They were giants! I know Amaryllis can get pretty big, but I never imagined this big. I'd say the leaves were about 2 1/2" wide or more and 4 feet or more tall. The flowers were probably double what we're used to seeing and same with the bulbs. I didn't know they could get that big! At that point, I didn't even know they could be grown for flowers year to year. Now I know differently and I'll tell you what I have learned.


Late October is the ideal time to plant, after the bulbs have gone through a dormant period. If there are off shoots, you can take them off and plant them as new plants. Use a small pot in relation to the bulb size. Clay or ceramic pots would be best because they are heavier and will help keep the plant from toppling over. Give only an inch of room for soil on the sides of the bulb. Amaryllis prefers a sandy-loam soil mix. You can mix your own by combining one part leaf mold or composted manure, one part loamy soil, and one part coarse sand. Some garden centers also sell soil mixes especially for bulbs. When you plant the bulb, keep the upper half out of the soil.


Water thoroughly after planting and keep the soil slightly moist until flowering. At flowering, increase waterings to prolong flowers. The blooms will last 6-8 weeks depending on temperature, light and variety.

Light and Temperature

When grown in the home, Amaryllis need as much sun as they can get! A southern window is best. They prefer 70-75 degrees for best growth. But when the plant begins to flower, cooler temperatures (60-65 degrees) will extend the blooms. As mentioned above, my neighbor had his in his windowed laundry room. The windows were southern and western which means lots of sun. One more important tip is that a laundry room produces humidity so this is something else they like.


Fertilize with a week solution of compost tea every 6 weeks or so. Fertilizer will determine the size and quality of flowers and foliage.

After Flowering

Good quality bulbs may produce up to six flowers on a single stalk. When a flower fades, cut the stalk about 2" from the base. This will save energy for the other flowers. Don't cut the foliage because this is next year's food for next year's flowers. Keep watering and fertilizing the foliage as you would before flowering until next September. At this point, put the plant into a warm, dark and dry place such as a closet. Don't water or fertilize during this rest period. Then late October, move it back to the sunny window and start the process all over again.

When properly cared for, Amaryllis can flower for up to 75 years! So take care of yours for years of gorgeous flowers.

Copyright, 2000, Monica Resinger

Monica Resinger is editor/founder of Creative Gardening newsletter, a FREE and fun interactive ezine. Each Monday you'll be able read, answer or ask gardening questions! Also included in the ezine is a gardening article and a seed swap. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: To find out about Monica's other ezines, Creative Home and Creative Home Money, please go to: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Santa Claus Loves Gardeners Too

by Don Trotter
Hello fellow Earthlings, and seasons greetings to all of you. As the days get shorter and our gardening time is either eliminated because of snow or cold or because we're just too busy making sure that our other family members have a happy holiday season, let's take some time to think about the garden. So let's take a stroll out to the kitchen drawer where all of those catalogs we never read during the growing season are stored.

This time of year we often find ourselves occupied with thoughts of Turkeys, Menorahs, Christmas trees, and twinkling lights. I find that when I have a moment to myself during this time it is always good to have a plant, tool or seed catalog handy to remind me of warmer weather and the peace of the garden. Reading these catalogs also gives me ample opportunity to put my wish list together so Santa knows exactly what I could use in the following spring. Just imagining hoeing weeds with that new one that Santa got for me from A.M. Leonard or pruning fruit trees with my new Felco pruners that were in my stocking from Smith Hawken makes me wonder why everyone doesn't garden. Subtle hints are easy with catalogs. Just lay the open book around with a big red circle drawn around the items you think "Santa" should know about.

The Jackson and Perkins rose catalog is another one of my personal favorites. I love to visualize new additions to the garden, and the same strategy works on "Mr. Claus" or any of his elves that may see the open catalog. I love this time of year! Isn't it great when you find out that luxury item you had been wishing for just shows up at the doorstep or under the tree?

While the weather or lack of time prevents us from enjoying our passion it is a comfort that these colorful and descriptive catalogs are available to keep us in touch with the amazing bounty of the garden. Bundling up and visiting the garden to see how things are sleeping is also a very good project if time allows in the winter. I like to go out and imagine the bulbs popping through the mulch layer with the first promise of early spring color or think about the blaze of color from blooming fruit trees. I often find that this is the time of year when I get a lot of gardening project not directly involved with plants done. Sharpening tools, getting the mower tuned up and getting the blades sharpened, as well as sorting out seeds and seed starting stuff are all fun projects. These are also the chores that we never seem to get to during warm weather while the garden beckons us to come and play.

Winter is a time of year when we can most appreciate our efforts of the previous growing season. Nothing tastes better than a holiday meal seasoned with dried herbs from our gardens or the frozen marinara sauce we made from our homegrown tomatoes. Gardens can be incredible conversation when a guest asks about the amazing flavor of that pasta sauce. It is a lovely thing to reminisce about the garden or to romanticize about how big the tomato plants were that produced the sauce. These conversations evoke thoughts of warm weather, quiet days in the sun, and lemonade no matter how chilly, rainy, or frosty it is outside. I just love hearing the oohs and ahhs of people envisioning a garden full of healthy, nutritious food and colorful flowers when it's bloody freezing outside.

Oh did I forget to mention I love this time of year? Next time we will be discussing some helpful tips on getting your garden tools ready for next season. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanza, and an amazing real millennium celebration. Be safe, be happy and I'll see you in the Garden in the twenty first century!

Got Questions? Email the Doc at Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. For lots of helpful gardening tips check out Don's books Natural Gardening A-Z and The Complete Natural Gardener at bookstores near you and at all on line booksellers. Both from Hay House Publishing


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