Sunday, 19 May 2013

What's In Your Beds?

Good morning urban farming friends!

Spring time has officially sprung in Toronto and here at BUFCO we couldn't be happier! There's much to be done - as I'm sure you know. Those of you with gardens are fully aware that the growing season is in full force with the first crops of the season popping up all over the place.

Right now we're seeing...

Salad & Baby Greens


Baby Kale



What's in your beds? Are you planting directly in the ground? Or in raised beds? Pots? Do you have lots of space for growing? Or are you making use of your 2' balcony? Need some advice or some gear for this growing season? Throw us a line - it's what we're here for!

Tell us about your growing plans!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Heat Loving Tomatoes

I fell in love in Italy. 

Not with a man, or the art or architecture. In the heat of the seductive Mediterranean I savoured my first mouth watering, sweet and juicy tomato and my quest to find its equal began. In my opinion, the only place to find it is in your own backyard.

Back here in Canada, supermarket tomatoes have been hybridized for uniformity and pest resistance or genetically modified to withstand hundreds of miles of travel. No wonder they’re so bland and unappealing. 

That’s why if there is one edible plant you should grow it’s a tomato.

The vibrant fruits come in a host of colours, shapes and sizes. They’re delicious, nutritious and best of all, relatively easy to grow. They are the Queens of our garden and occupy the prime real estate of the yard - where the sun shines hot and bright.

There are literally hundreds of varieties from traditional reds, golden yellows, black striped, green shoulders, round, oval, tiny and gigantic – so how to choose? 

I like to narrow it down by grouping them into slicing, saucing and cherry tomatoes and choose at least one variety of each. Kids love cherry tomatoes and will eat them right off the vine. Beefsteak varieties are great for slicing up in salads, sandwiches and burgers while the fleshy, less seedy plum tomatoes are perfect for sauces and salsas.

There are basically three types of tomatoes – determinate, indeterminate and semi determinate. Determinate are smaller, bush-like plants that provide one or two flushes of fruit and are done for the season. They are perfect for growing in containers due to their relatively compact size and generally don’t need much staking - those common tomato cages will do. 

Indeterminate or semi-determinate tomatoes are large vines that flower and provide fruit all season long until first frost. You can leave them to meander all over your garden but I prefer to get them up off the ground by tying them up to a large stake. Staking the vines increases air circulation and helps prevent various diseases like early blight. It also makes it harder for little critters to get at the tempting fruits.

Tomatoes are actually tender perennials which means they can thrive for years in warm sunny weather. Those of us in Northern climates treat them as annuals and start new plants every year, indoors a good eight weeks before they need to be planted out when all danger of frost has passed. In my neck of the woods, the May 24 weekend has become ritual tomato planting time.

Choose a sunny spot where your plants will get at least five hours of direct sunlight. Tomatoes, like most plants love rich, well-drained soil so make sure you add plenty of compost. Plant the seedlings deep, right up to the bottom of the first leaves because the entire stem will produce roots and provide a strong anchor.

Set marigolds with your tomatoes, one or two per plant, to fight off those nasty aphids that like to suck juice from the stems and leaves. Another great companion for tomatoes is basil, which is said to improve their flavour. But grow potatoes in another spot as they are both are susceptible to the same diseases.

When you’re watering, think of watering the soil, not the plant as water on the leaves can increase the spread of leaf born diseases. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and try to be consistent, watering early in the morning or late in the evening so evaporation is kept at a minimum. Inconsistent watering can lead to blossom end rot.

The next two weeks are the weeks to “harden off” your seedlings in anticipation of next weeks planting. Hardening off is the process of slowly introducing the plants to the great outdoors. Over a period of about a week, put the seedlings in a sunny and protected spot in your garden and leave them out for a couple of hours. Then bring them back inside. Gradually increase the time they stay outside until you’re ready to plant.

Once the plants are well established it will be time to prune them. But that is a subject worthy of its own post, coming in the weeks ahead. For now, choose the best seedlings you can. Look for plants that stand up tall with no more than two plants per pot. Avoid plants with yellow leaves and take a peak underneath to make sure there are no little bugs hitching a ride.

You can get wonderful organic and heirloom varieties at farmers markets. Visit us at the Trinity Bellwoods Market on Tuesday afternoons and we'll have a full selection of tomatoes, marigolds, peppers, eggplants, onions and herbs. And check out our Pop Up Shop and we'll gladly sell you a few - not to mention all the free advice that we're just brimming with!

Are you growing tomatoes this season? What varieties are your favorite? 
How can we help? 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Beans: One of Three Sisters

Mmmm... fresh from the garden sweet peas! No, that was last week. Today we're talking about Beans!

Beans are more than good for your heart. They’re good for your garden too! Not only do they feed you, they feed the soil with their nitrogen rich roots. That’s why ancient agrarian civilizations planted beans along with corn and squash. This clever method of intercropping is called The Three Sisters. Corn provides a stalk for the beans to climb, the beans provide the much-needed nitrogen for the corn to grow tall and low-growing squash with its broad green leaves provides shade to keep the soil moist and weed free. Brilliant, yes?

Beans are a welcome addition to any urban garden because they're ready to harvest when your peas and radishes have all been eaten and your tomatoes and eggplants are still a month away from ripening. They are a perfect mid season crop that is super simple to grow. Their large seeds are easy to handle and they can be started indoors in early spring or direct sown in warm, moist soil after all danger of frost has passed - about 2 weeks post-last frost. Like, about now.

There are so many varieties to choose from: bush or pole, snap or shelling.
Pole beans, also known as runner beans, are very productive plants that are great space savers, but they need to climb up a trellis or some kind of string. You can also create a “tee pee” structure using three or four sticks or bamboo canes tied together at the top. Whatever method of trellising you choose, make sure it is in place at the time of planting so you don’t disturb the shallow roots as they get established.

Bush varieties are not quite as productive as pole beans but the 36-inch tall plants don’t need staking and are ready to harvest sooner. Plus they save space in your garden for other climbers like squash or cucumbers. If you are using a square foot gardening method, plant 4 or 5 beans in each square in a dice formation. Use good quality mulch on top of the soil to keep it moist and prevent slugs.

Snap beans are eaten when their seeds are small and the flesh of the bean is crunchy and full of juice. Shelling beans are grown for the bean inside the pod and usually dried and stored, except for lima or soya beans which can be eaten fresh. Yum!

I usually grow bush beans because I like them early but pole beans are very decorative, especially if you combine varieties for a pretty show of flowers. Try growing the classic Scarlet Runner with Trionfo Violeto for a gorgeous mix of bright red and deep purple flowers.

Beans are good companions for most other plants. They love well-drained soil in a good sunny spot but they can handle some afternoon shade. Make sure you harvest the beans when the leaves are dry. You are more likely to spread disease when the leaves are wet.

I like to harvest my beans when they are young and sweet, well before the bean inside starts to swell. If you harvest continuously the plant keeps producing. Talk about cost saving! If you allow the bean to mature on the plant it will stop producing which can be a good thing if you plan to save your seeds for next year.

Seed saving is easy, satisfying and cost effective as well. All you have to do is allow the beans to dry on the vine when the leaves start to yellow and productivity slows down. You can then cut the plant down at the base of the stem and hang it up to finish drying. Leave the roots in the ground to infuse the soil with nitrogen.

To find a good selection of bean seeds order online now from West Coast Seeds or Amishland, visit your local farmer’s market or if you're in the Greater Toronto Area, there's a lovely little store downtwon called Urban Harvest.

What beans will you be growing this year?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Incentive Giveaway Winner!

The results are IN!

It's official - the Indiegogo Campaign is officially finished, our bailey's is tucked nicely into our celebratory coffee this morning and we're relaxing out in the Spring Sun! ...well, for the next 10 minutes anyhow. And then it's back to Spring planting and business as usual.

Thanks to all of you we raised a whopping $2,853.00!! That's going to go a long way to helping BUFCO with the Pop Up Shop, greenhouse and demonstration garden. So, thank you thank you thank YOU!

And now for the important news - the WINNER of our Indiegogo final days "mention" giveaway! 


(drum roll please)..... 

And the liter of organic & all natural Better World plant food goes to...... 



Congratulations Karen - we're very excited for you!!

To claim your prize, please email Arlene and Marc @ - they'll get that to you ASAP so your vegetables can grow big and grow happy all season long!
To everyone else - again, thank you so much for all your contributions, shares and support. We wouldn't have raised this money without you and it sure makes us proud to be a part of SUCH a supportive and fabulous community here in Toronto.

If you need advice, seedlings, mix, raised beds, raised-raised beds, feel free to drop us a line at the above listed email, check out our website, or visit us at our store @ 3290 Keele St. at Sheppard Ave., Toronto, Ontario. We'd love to see what you're growing this season and help out in any way we can so don't be shy.

Again, congrats to Karen and all of us - because making real, organic, seasonal food accessible in our spectacular city makes us all winners. 


Thursday, 18 April 2013

New Incentive - GIVEAWAY!

Hello lovely BUFCO Blog readers!

In celebration of the final hours of our Indiegogo Campaign, we're hosting a GIVEAWAY!

This new incentive is all about you and making sure your vegetables can grow their best this season. We want you to grow local, eat seasonal and love your food as much as you can. 

Here's the deal: For every share, re-tweet, re-post, update, etc... that you make about our Indiegogo Campagin, you get entered to win a liter of Better World Plant Food! Better World is derived from insect frass and contains no additives, synthetic chemicals or pollutants. It's sustainable, locally made and uses only certified organic ingredients.  

What to do:
Simply MAKE SURE you include a link to our campaign: 

...AND include us in your shares so we can enter you for every single mention you give us! The more you talk about our campaign, the more likely you will WIN!

Facebook: @BUFCO
Twitter: @BUFCO
Pinterest: @BUFCO
Via Email: CC
...Or if it's a blog post, leave a comment here or send us an email,
At the end of the campaign, we'll announce the winner and get you your FREE container of Better World Plant Food!

Now let's get a'sharin and make the world a better place - including your own veggie patch! 

There are only a few more hours to go!! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The ABC's of Peas Please

Good morning to YOU!

My first taste of peas came from a can. My mother loved to serve the pale green mushy things cold with a little Miracle Whip. It’s little wonder I never developed a taste for peas. That is, until I picked one fresh off the vine. Then there was no turning back. 

Thank goodness for Thor the Norse God of thunder who apparently shot peas down from the heavens to plug human wells. Was this an act of vengeance or a gift? Either way it seems a few missed their mark and ended up in the soil where we can lustily feast on them today.

Peas are great to grow in your own home garden not only because they are delicious but they are also one of the first things you can plant in the season. Like, now.

Unlike tender plants such as tomatoes or peppers, peas are cold weather hardy and can be directly sown in the ground up to 4 weeks before last frost. Don’t worry if you haven’t gotten them in early - peas can still be planted until early summer before things get too hot.

There are basically two kinds of peas: Shelling and Snap. Snap peas can be eaten shell and all while shelling peas can not. Both are available as bush type plants or vines. What you choose to plant will depend on your space. Both grow with little tendrils coming off the stems that will cling and climb up a trellis or netting. Lucky for you, we sell that.

Find a nice sunny spot to plant your peas and make sure the soil is nice and fluffy. If it isn’t, mix in a healthy portion of a good, well rotted, organic compost. I like using vermicompost (worm castings) - something you can find at our store. Mushroom compost is good too.

Another great thing about peas is that they, like beans, are “nitrogen fixers”. What that basically means is that their roots, stems and leaves add nitrogen to the soil, a very important ingredient needed to grow healthy plants. That’s why it’s a good idea to plant them next to nitrogen suckers like corn.

In fact, most herbs and vegetables are great companions for peas except for onions, garlic and potatoes, so find another spot for those.

The practice of “companion planting” is an old idea that is used for a number of good reasons. Plants can help each other improve flavour, repel bad bugs and attract good ones. Planting different plants together creates a natural and integrated pest management system for your garden so you won’t need to use those nasty chemicals.

Your peas will be ready to harvest after about 70 days. Make sure to save your seeds for next year by letting a few pods dry on the vine. Owning seeds is owning life - Monsanto doesn't get to be the only ones invited to that party. Power to the people and their right to seed! Am I right?

When all the peas are harvested you can leave the roots in ground for more nitrogen fixing and composition. 

...And don’t worry if you find a few single-podded peas. They’re said to bring good luck! Kind of like you!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It's easy being green! ...Isn't it?

Hello darling urban farm food lovers!

You know, there are a lot of reasons to be green. In a good way. It's more sustainable for the environment, healthier for the animals, better for our bodies - it just feels good.

...And who doesn't wanna feel good? We're all sensual hedonists when it gets down to it, aren't we?

And while recycling, eating local and hanging your laundry to dry on the line are much simpler than they were 10 years ago, in a oil-dependent culture it can sometimes get a little confusing.

That's one of the reasons I dig gardening in the city. Or outside the city. But generally I'm in the city. So let's go with that.

Urban farming has brought a lot to my life. There have been times when I've only had a small pot of basil on a windowsill, and times when my entire yard was a seething, oozing jungle of plump, juicy edible plant life - either way, I've found myself embedded in a culture and community of happy food enthusiasts. The sense of community I felt not only helped to localize my social circles, but it also fed me. Nourished me. Filled me right up. Figuratively and literally. When I'm growing vegetables, I eat well. Real well. 

Sourcing my seeds from a local seed sanctuary, growing the food right in my front yard, and walking them from garden to kitchen seriously cuts down on my oil foot-print. In this case, more like a toe-print. I know exactly who grew it. How it was grown. Whether there were any artificial fertilizers or chemicals involved in the process. If the person who harvested it was treated fairly. There were no transport refrigeration costs or soaking the vegetables in gas to ripen them. I learned what was in season in my region and what needs to be planted and when. Speaking of which, it's 5 weeks until last frost - are your hardies in the ground?

Growing my own food was deeply organic, in every sense of the word. 

It's pretty straightforward - seed, soil, sun, water, love and then eat. 

But not everyone gets to eat their own home-grown corn on the cob. Which means they need to procure them from someone. And until we re-master the barter system of actual fair trade economics, The 2013 Green Living Show will do just fine.

Watch for the BUFCO booth from April 12 - 14 at this year's event, located in the Direct Energy Centre. Join us at this eco-friendly exhibition to taste, tour, shop and discover! We'll be there talking about all things organic urban farming - will you??

What does living green look like to you?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Welcome to BUFCO's new look!

Like all good things, Tumblr has come to an end. And while the team works hard to create a new home here, we know you're working hard to get your garden up and growing!

We're down to 43 days before the last frost. If you haven't started planning your garden by now, it's time to plant or get off the pot. Your hardies can start going out now too - radishes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, mizuna, tatsoi, cabbage, and kale (to name a few)...

And to help you early birds along, BUFCO is offering 10% off all orders placed before the end of March! That gives you only 5 more days to get one mother of a deal on your seed starts or your entire Summer garden! Small garden plot or full-grown urban farm, take a moment now to get in on this Early Bird Special! (not that you're old or anything - but I spirit. I jump on the Early Bird train every chance I get. Choo Choo!)... All aboard!

You can get in on the action through the BUFCO website OR by dragging your fine gardening tushie down to their grand opening this Saturday from 11AM - 3PM. Everything you need to get your garden started and keep it producing all Summer long, will be available for purchase. Not to mention the free drinks and treats - who wouldn't want to spend a glorious Saturday morning meeting fellow farmers, gardeners and good food lovers?

Speaking of gardens - how crazy is the Indiegogo campaign?? So many have been so fantastic and generous and we're slowly plowing toward our goals. A very special thank you to everyone who has supported us in this endeavor - and a warm Spring welcome to those who have yet to contribute. It's your food system my friends and you have not disappointed.

I know real food matters to you - making it accessible is something that has obvious value. BUFCO has appreciated every single comment, share, (re)tweet and contribution you've given us - but the work isn't done. I'm not going to beg - but I beg you - if you haven't already (or maybe you wanna take another stroll around the watering hole), please take a moment to visit our campaign site and help us fund our pop up shop - which I know we'll see you at this Saturday - greenhouse and demonstration garden.

In closing - again, thank you all so so so much! Please - keep tweeting and sharing our campaign. There's less than a month left and we really want to make Toronto a real food hub of activity. Community matters - you are our community. You matter. Please help make a difference - you know you wanna. C'mon - we're making it easy for you!

What do you do to make a difference? How are you making good food real in your community? How's your garden coming?