Tag Archives: Urban Harvest

It’s all about the soil

This year I decided I would try starting my own seeds. I spent months humming and hawing over the best type of soil to use. I read Gayla Trail’s posts on seed starting mixes and decided I would take the easy route and buy pre-bagged soil but I couldn’t find the Nature Mix seed starting mix she recommended in response to a post in the comments section. I was looking in March so it may have been too early or perhaps it was no longer available (the post was from 2008). In the end, fate stepped in at Urban Harvest.

I was at their table at Dufferin Grove Market buying seeds at the end of March. Before I left I casually asked the owner, “can you recommend a good seed starting mix?” She thought for a moment and said, “I have just the thing.” Saved! Their store was opening the following week and she had some soil that was appropriate for pots and starting seeds. A week later I headed down with my cart and bought a 20lb bag for $8. It was an experience carting it home on the subway (I walked from the store location at Landsdowne and Bloor to Dufferin to take advantage of the elevator).

20lb bag of soil, along with some kelp meal in the paper bag

20lb bag of soil, along with some kelp meal in the paper bag

The girl at the store told me that the soil was fine for starting seeds now but if I wanted to use it for permanent pots, I would need to add some perlite to loosen it up, otherwise it would be too dense.

More on seed starting later.

I ended up buying another bag for the community garden (yep, I came back after a 2 year hiatus). After hurting my trapezius carrying the cart down the stairs to the subway at Lansdowne, I swallowed my pride and asked my friend with a car to help me get 5 more bags to the garden. He’s an engineer, so as a bonus he used his skill to level the plot for a professional looking finish; much better than it would have looked had I done it myself.

We left his tool bag in the shot for effect

We left his tool bag in the shot for effect

I received several complements on the quality of my soil! My neighbour to the east was in the garden when I brought the first bag. He stuck his hand in, pulled out a handful, sniffed and said, “this is really good soil!” I loved the way it felt when I was using it to start my seeds, but it wasn’t until I poured the first bag into my plot that I noticed how wonderful it smelled! Wow! He suspected that it was worm compost and he was right. Leaf mold to be exact. It was so memorable that when I was putting the garden to bed at the end of the season (with the help of my engineering friend again), another gardener asked what I had used.

I would use the leaf mold for starting seeds again but it was too costly to cover the 32 square feet of my plot. Perhaps if I had more success with this space, I would have thought it was worth it, but that wasn’t the case. We put the plot to bed with manure and straw for the first time this fall so we’ll see how that works.


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Seedy Saturday 2014!


Once again Seedy Saturday found me unprepared.

At the beginning of the year I was checking the Toronto Community Gardening Network‘s website religiously for word on dates and then I got busy with other things, as you do. I was hoping that one of the many gardening sites I follow on Facebook would have mentioned something. So I got lax with my garden planning and as a result there is no plan. This week I happened to check the TCGN  site and found out the first event of the season was at the Brickworks on Saturday. How convenient! I could go right after my yoga class.

After attending the 10am class at The Yoga Sanctuary Danforth, I walked over to Broadview station to take the shuttle. While I was waiting I was mobbed by a flock of pigeons residing in the area. First they flew around me, then a few actually landed on me! I remember cringing with my arms held up, looking at the one on my left arm out of the corner of my eye, noticing how fat and wrinkly his toes were as his claws gripped my coat, feeling a few others on my shoulders and one perched on my hat, thinking about how I could get my phone out of my purse to take a picture of this ‘cuz who would believe me… I was eating a banana at the time so I assumed that they jumped on me to get at it. I tossed the remains on the icy ground but none of them went for it. I’m not sure what caused them to suddenly fly off with their band of brothers, but I was very thankful that I came out of the affair poop-free.

This incident began a very interesting conversation with the lovely older gentleman also waiting for the shuttle (we were the only ones there at the time).  He commented on how aggressive pigeons in this city had become and that people must be feeding them. I responded that this had never happened to me before and that I would have preferred to have more interesting birds land on me than pigeons.

I asked if he was coming to the Brickworks for Seedy Saturday and he said yes. I admitted that I was not prepared to purchase anything today but I planned on browsing. He was coming to help man one of the booths but he also planned to browse the seed selection. He was looking rare things that caught his fancy.

As we waited for the shuttle, he told me that he belonged to a beekeeping cooperative which he had been involved in for about 8 years. He really caught my attention with his story about taking a beekeeping course at the Botanical Gardens  (gear provided) and said that being with the bees wasn’t scary and in fact for him being in the midst of the bees was like “zen.” He said there are quite a few colonies across the city, including one on the 14th floor of the Fairmount Royal on Front Street. It’s quite a commitment as “you are there for the bees, not when you want to be there.” I wondered what this zen experience would be like and if at the end of the course one got to leave with a jar of honey. He told me, “I think so. I did.”, and we laughed.

As we rode the shuttle down to the Brickworks, he told me about his experience growing an exotic tomato from Asia that had thorns and tasted a bit like guava (but the taste varied depending on how ripe it was when you picked it), how it was really great at keeping the “four and two-legged raccoons” out of his allotment plot in High Park. He also regaled his experience of attending the garlic festival at the Brickworks, the only place on earth where it was OK for men and women to have bad breath :).


We parted ways inside the Marketplace and I set my sights on finding my favorite seed purveyors: Urban Harvest. There was a lot going on: seed exchanges, community workshops, and organizations concerned with food issues hoping to engage with and garner support from like-minded people, in addition to what I assumed was the usual Saturday fare at the Brickworks.

In case you were wondering, this batch had no smell and felt very fine

This sample had no smell and felt very fine and dry. Interesting!

I saw a few interesting books I’ll look for at the library:

I love the retro cover!

I love the retro cover!

Foodshare's cover looks so appetizing!

FoodShare‘s cover looks so appetizing!

I wonder what it would be like to raise animals, like chickens, in the city?

I wonder what it would be like to raise animals, like chickens, in the city?

Urban Harvest was crowded and I spent a good 45 minutes picking up and reading the back of seed packets and making a list of what seeds I might want to purchase. Although I hadn’t checked what seeds I needed before I showed up, in a frenzy of excitement I bought 10 seed packets and some kelp meal.

This was just one of five racks at Urban Harvest's table

This was the smallest of five racks at Urban Harvest’s table – so much to choose from!

I  still plan to go to the next event at Scadding Court next Saturday, which I was told by the owner of Urban Harvest, was the original site for the event when it began in Toronto.

Good healthy food for all!

Good healthy food for all!


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