Gardening Help—Spring 2016 Edition

Written by Denise Deby.

Could spring finally be here? If you’re ready to start your garden soon, there’s help available.

Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa – St. Lawrence – Outaouais (COG-OSO) is running their Urban Organic Gardening Seminars series Apr. 12-May 3. Topics include growing organic vegetables, herbs, fruit and nut trees, bed and container gardening, seeds, soils, disease and pest management, and more. Sign up for one or more seminars, or do all 7. Check the website for the schedule and location.

The Community Gardening Network at Just Food is holding spring gardening workshops. The season starts Apr. 12 through May, and includes Herbal Tips & Tricks, Working with Nature in the Garden: Permaculture Principles & Design, Natural Pest Control and Companion Planting and Beginner Organic Vegetable Gardening. Dates and details on the website.

Friends of the Farm hosts Master Gardener Lectures from Apr. 5-May 17. They also offer gardening tours, a rare and unusual plant sale (May 15) and other resources.

Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton provides lots of help for gardeners of all skill levels. Check out their workshop on Garden Design for Evolving Realities (Apr. 23), and links to other advice and resources on their website.

Gardening workshops offered through the City of Ottawa include “Parent n’ Me” on May 7 and Organic Gardening on May 14.

Interested in creating a pollinator-friendly neighbourhood? A child-friendly fairy garden? Check out these and other events with the Ottawa Horticultural Society.

Want to delve into ecological gardening through permaculture? Check out the courses at

The Wild Garden has plant walks and workshops—see the website for details.

There’s a talk on “The Science behind the Amazing Things Plants Do” by author and horticultural professor Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott on Apr. 28. See the poster on the Just Food website.

The Ottawa Citizen maintains a comprehensive list of gardening events at

Know of other events or sources of advice on gardening? Please let us know in the comment section!



Dry Skin Solutions (That Work for Hair, Too)

Written by Denise Deby.


There’s an upside to the seemingly endless winter we’ve been having. It’s that I’ve had the chance to try several products that help ease dry skin—the kind that results from cold weather and dry indoor environments—and I’m sharing this with you.

Granted, I tried only a few of the many eco-friendly products available now in Ottawa, but here are three that worked well (depending on one’s skin and hair type, of course):

Purple Urchin Winter Hand Balm was very effective in calming my dry, cracked hands. It contains natural ingredients and has a piney-lavendery scent. (It includes almond oil–I mention that in case nut allergies/sensitivities are an issue–and you’re advised not to use it if you’re pregnant.) It isn’t billed as a hair product, but it gave my hair shape in the way a texturizing creme or styling wax would. I picked it up at Westboro Organics, but you can find it at other places around town including Ottawa-based Purple Urchin itself.

worldBuzz hair (and body) dressing, made by Toronto-based WORLD, contains just beeswax, jojoba oil, coco crème and olive wax. Just a small amount works like a pomade or wax—but without the parabens, phthalates, sulfates or fragrances that many conventional products contain. It’s great for dry skin, too. I found WORLD products at terra 20.

Coconut oil is a great all-round moisturizer for skin and hair. When not warmed up, it’s in solid form, but quickly melts in your hands. As with the other two products above, a little goes a long way. (I picked up some Now solutions “100% natural” vegan unscented coconut oil ages ago at Whole Foods, and still have half a jar left.) You can find organic, non-GMO coconut oil in many stores, from Kardish to Bulk Barn to Loblaws, too.

Bonus tip: olive oil and argan oil also work well for both skin and hair.

In general, look for products without harmful chemicals: take along a guide to the “toxic ten” or “dirty dozen” substances to avoid, and check ingredient lists when you shop. Often, the fewer ingredients the better.

Seedy Saturday in Ottawa

Posted by Denise Deby.

Poster courtesy Seeds of Diversity
Poster courtesy Seeds of Diversity

It’s Seedy Saturday!

Shake off the snow and come out to buy or swap seeds–and meet some of the people and organizations promoting heritage seeds and local food production in the area.

The day includes workshops on:

  • Gardening even when you’re away during the summer;
  • Growing edibles;
  • Starting seed libraries;
  • Getting to 50% local food production in Ottawa by 2050.

Seedy Saturday happens at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre at Britannia Beach (102 Greenview Ave.) on Saturday, March 5, 2016 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Details and schedule at (You’ll also find links to Seedy Saturday and Sunday events in Brockville, Pembroke, Perth and other locations.)

Organic Master Gardener Course

Posted by Denise Deby. Thanks to Julia Dupuis and Anouk Mackenzie of Canadian Organic Growers for the information.OMG_OTT_2015_flyer

If you’ve ever wanted to take your gardening to the next level, here’s an opportunity.

Canadian Organic Growers is offering its Organic Master Gardener Course in Ottawa again this fall.

The course covers sustainable practices for growing food or ornamental plants. Topics include botany and adaptations within ecosystems, soil ecosystem, soil testing, mulches and compost teas/brews, garden bed installation, soil fertility management, waterwise gardening, pruning, turf, landscape health, permaculture design and organic standards.

The course is for urban growers, community gardeners, landscapers, environmental advocates, naturalists and others, including people who’d like to improve their skills and/or start a practice or business.

It runs over three weekends: October 17-18, November 7-8 and November 28-29, 2015 at COG’s National Office at 1145 Carling. The course fee includes a text, online resources and a one year e-subscription to The Canadian Organic Grower magazine and library.

Find more information here and here; register here by October 9.



Local Food Events with Savour Ottawa

Posted by Denise Deby. Thanks to Talia Klein of Savour Ottawa/Just Food for information.

Heirloom Cherry and Plum Tomatoes by Heather Flournoy - Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License
Heirloom Cherry and Plum Tomatoes by Heather Flournoy on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

Savour Ottawa, which promotes local food producers, retailers and restaurants, is organizing a couple of great opportunities for people to discover and enjoy locally grown, creatively prepared and tasty food.

Savour Ottawa Tables

Between July 15 and August 30, 2015, Savour Ottawa is collaborating with several area restaurants and farmers to offer menu items that feature ingredients grown close to home. Participating restaurants, kitchens and cafés will be offering a table d’hôte menu, a special event, or prepared, take-home meals based on local ingredients. You’ll find dishes made with heirloom vegetables, seasonal herbs, local cheeses, organic poultry and beef, for example. Check out the menus at

Harvest Table 2015

The fifth annual Harvest Table happens on Sunday, August 30, 2015. This is a multi-course lunch where Ottawa chefs partner with area farmers to create dishes that celebrate the local harvest. It will be held in the Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park, next to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market; you need to buy tickets in advance. Check here for details.

Savour Ottawa is an initiative of Ottawa Tourism, Just Food and the City of Ottawa. (Check out Savour Ottawa Online, where you can order food from local producers and pick it up at the Parkdale Field House every week.)

Tables General Facebook all chefs


Ottawa’s Community Farm

Written by Denise Deby.

Just Food barn - D. Deby

Just Food has operated a working farm on Greenbelt land near Blackburn Hamlet since 2012. It supports new farmers to learn organic farming, and partners with area farmers and community groups on projects that improve access to sustainable food in the Ottawa region.

A couple of weeks ago, Just Food and the National Capital Commission signed a 25-year lease for a community farm on 150 acres of land at the site.

The agreement means that Just Food can continue to offer space and programs to support farmers, provide public education on food issues and help create a viable, healthy and sustainable local food system.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s growing on site these days, check out the Just Food Start-Up Farm Program farmers. Their vegetables, herbs, wild and forest foods, honey and other products are available to buy at the Just Food farm stand or from the farmers directly.

Just Food has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it grow. They’re welcoming donations to upgrade the soil to make the land more productive. (The campaign coincides with the 2015 International Year of Soils.)

As well, anyone can become a member of Just Food. More information here.

From Just Food:

Just Food is a community-based, non-profit organization that has been working towards vibrant, just and sustainable food and farming systems in the Ottawa region since 2003.  In addition to the now established Just Food Farm, Just Food programs include Savour Ottawa, the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa, Buy Local Food Program (including the Ottawa Food Hub), and diverse food policy and food access initiatives.”

Update: Just Food launches the Farm Stand on Sunday, July 26! Check out the fresh, local produce grown by Just Food farmers.

Where to Find Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Written by Denise Deby.

CSA bounty - D Deby

Fresh vegetables, from a local farm to your kitchen: that’s community-supported agriculture (CSA).

With CSAs, you pay a farm for a “share” in what it produces over the season, and the farmers provide you with a regular order of fresh vegetables, usually every week.

CSAs are a great way to eat local; many of the farms are organic. You’ll also be supporting local food producers, who benefit through a more stable income source. Of course, you’ll be getting a variety of healthy produce, usually vegetables and herbs. Some CSAs allow you to order eggs, poultry, beef or other products.

Most CSAs offer half-shares or a range of share sizes depending on how much you think you can use. They usually also have ways to work around your holidays, if you’re away for part of the summer.

The producers often include newsletters with recipes, organize farm visits or have other ways of engaging their customers, so you get to try new foods as well as get to know more about the people growing the food.

There are more farms than ever offering CSAs around Ottawa. Farms usually deliver to drop-off points around the city, so you can look at their offerings and find one that delivers near you.

You can search for CSAs on Just Food’s map at C.S.A. also provides a map of CSAs by drop-off point and lists several local CSA farms. There’s also the Ontario CSA Farm Directory at I’ve had CSAs from Roots and Shoots and from Karen Farm at the Just Food Farm, but as you can see there are lots of options. Farms and CSA offerings vary, so check that too.

Here’s a list of CSA farms I compiled, in alphabetical order, with links to their websites. Check the websites or contact the farms directly to confirm whether they’re offering CSAs—and do let me know if I’ve missed any.

Arc Acres

Aubin Farm

Busy Beaver Farm

Beat Greens Garden

Bluegrass Farm

Britannia Backyard Edibles

Bunching Onions

Bryson Farms

Carrot Boots Farm

Covenant Farm

Day Brighteners

Ekoroot Farm

Elm Tree Farm

Emabel Farm


Ferme aux pleines saveurs

Ferme Lève-tôt

Foster Family Farm

Funny Duck Farms

Gableridge Farm

Grazing Days (beef)

Herbivor Farm

Heritage Harvest Farm

Jambican Studio Gardens

Juniper Farm

KLEO Karen Community Farm

Knotty Bottoms Farm

Luxy Farm

Mike’s Garden Harvest

Our Farm

Our Little Farm

Rainbow Heritage Garden

Riverglen Biodynamic Farm

Riverside Garden

Rochon Gardens

Rock-N-Horse Farm

Roots and Shoots Farm

Roots Down Organic Farm

Saffire Farms

Teamwork CSA / Maplelane Farm

Threefold Farm

The Veggie Underground

Waratah Downs Organic Farm

Whitsend Market Garden

The Wild Garden (wild food and herbs)