Matchbox Garden & Seed Co.

New Year, New Garden Plans!

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Well it’s been over 6 months since my last post, apologies for the long silence! Things have been moving along nicely on the farm and as I focus on the 2015 season, I thought I’d share some photos from last year and new happenings for 2015.

2014 was great year for us, exceeding all my expectations. The garden grew well, producing lots of food and seed. It also did this without giving me horrible burn out by mid October! With any luck that will carry over to this year. Feeling like I had things under control last year, I decided to apply for a grant through Carrot Cache in Toronto. The grant was to cover the cost of a new 20×48 hoop house for winter production, increased seedling production, and experimental biennial crop seed production. As you can see from the picture below, we got our hoop house! A big thank you to the board at Carrot Cache, and a huge thank you to everyone that came out to help get it up. This hoop house will really help to grow the business and increase earning off season.

Hoophouse under construction, 2014.

Hoophouse under construction, 2014.

As I’m packing seed and sending out catalogues(click here to request one!), I keep thinking about how great most of the crop was last year. I ran a number of trials and many of them made it into this years catalogue. Now, I’m ordering new varieties to try out. Some of them are heirloom patty pan squash, specialty cucumbers, open pollinated shallots, cantaloupes and melons. I’m also looking for a nice French filet bean to add to the roster.

In keeping with the topic of seeds, Matchbox has partnered with Seeds For Change in York Region to support their initiative – 2,015 Food Plot Gardens By 2015 Challenge. Seeds For Change, and their growing number of partners, Whole Food Markets (Unionville), York Region Food Network, Shell and York Region Food Charter Group are committed to creating healthier neighbourhoods through food-producing gardens anywhere there is underutilized space – on a windowsill, balcony, backyard, rooftop, place of work, place of worship, in schools and community gardens. If you are growing a garden in Ontario this year, you should check them out. It’s a great project to help bring food security, gardening skills, and community together.

Criteria for garden registration:

  • Commitment to start a food-producing garden with the intention of continuing it to at least 2015.
  • Register on website
  • Provide before and after photos of the site (not mandatory)
  • Care for at least 3 food-producing plants/species
  • Permission to use the land/space to grow food
  • Use organic practices to grow food (no pesticides or chemical fertilizers)
  • Food gardens must have been started after January 2012
  • Commitment to share produce/knowledge with family and neighbours

If you sign up to become a member garden you also get 20% for all your seed purchases at Matchbox! I hope Seeds For Change not only meet their target, but surpass it. The more food we grow, the better our connection and understanding becomes of how food makes it to our tables.


Late summer harvest of: Orange Bell, Marconi Red, Sweet King of The North Peppers, Cocozelle Zuchinni.

This year, I am also continuing my work as a participating farmer in the Bauta Family Initiative for Canadian Seed Security. I am tremendously excited to see where this program will go, and how it will help to grow the Canadian organic seed industry. Last year I introduced 5 varieties to this project, I can’t imagine how many new varieties they received from all the participating farmers. There were over 150 farms across the country that participated in the program, how many will there be this year? Given recent changes to legislation (Bill-16), the more farmers there are saving seed the better. Food security does not belong in the hands of multinational corporations, but in the hands of the people.

On al ighter note, and keeping with the seed topic, this year I am attending 14 Seedy Saturdays around the province. If you would like to find out if there is an event near you, visit Seeds Of Diversity events page.  If you would like a listing of all the Seedy Saturdays we’ll be attending, visit Matchbox Garden Events page.

This year I have my amazing husband building new seed display racks, it’s been such a long time since I created a vendor booth and I’m looking forward to putting it together. Over the years I noticed it was difficult for people to see all the varieties I have, so I’ve designed the new display with that in mind. Better labels, more space, easier to find what you’re looking for! Of course I still have the online seed shop (revamped too!) with lots of pictures and descriptions to help when making garden plans. Since moving to the farm, I’ve also been able to increase seed production so that I can now offer bulk seed on certain items. My goal is to make all my seed available in bulk sizes for small farms. It can get expensive buying seed at retail prices, the more variety we have in bulk the better for small farmers.


Japanese Heirloom Soybean – Sayamusume Edamame. Delightful flavour, sweet enough that we ate most of them fresh. Kids loved them.

On a final note, we are also completing our 4th pre-certification year with EcoCert Canada, that means we’ll be certified organic within the year! I’m really looking forward to the 2015 growing season, with season extention, new varieties, new partnerships and more opportunites to get people growing and eating organically. Last year was the UN Year fo The Family Farm, every year is the year of the family farm when we support our local, small farm communities. Know your farmer, know your food!

Written by matchboxgarden

January 15, 2015 at 7:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Harvesting, Curing, Seed Saving

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Mid-July. If you are well prepared, better managed, and very lucky, the bulk of your weeding, trellising, and mulching is done. In all the years I have been working as a farmer, I have had the good fortune of being in this position only a handful of times. Of course, this fact goes back to the idea of not biting off more than you can chew. A problem I have had many times over the years! This year, however, appears to be one of my better years. The garden is weeded(well enough), I’ve mulched as much as I can, and trellising work is down to bi-weekly checks on tomatoes, to make sure they have enough support to keep going and hold up all the fruit. This brings me to this weeks group of topics. It also brings me to some of my favourite pastimes in the garden.

Our harvest has started to come in earnest now, and I’ve discovered that I need considerably more time to get everything ready for market and CSA. There are a few items that are not doing as well as I had hoped, but on the brighter side of things, I can see why certain crops are not flourishing as well as I had expected. Here’s a quick break down of my not so happy crops, and why:

Beans: My first 2 bean plantings have given poor results. The first, because I didn’t protect it from spittle bugs, not a problem themselves, however, they carry disease and it hit my beans pretty hard. My second crop began wonderfully, I used my netting and hoops to protect them from pests, but I’ve noticed that now they too are looking a little sad. It is a similar problem in this general area of the gardens. This tells me the soil needs a lot of compost and building up to bring it back to solid production. To remedy the problem, I’ll be loading up the compost in the fall and again in the spring. I expect it will take a few to get this area into shape.

Squash: A similar problem to the garden that is showing slower growth and poor soil health. I plan on giving this area the same treatment of lots of compost.

Tomatoes: I am dealing with some Wilt in about 10% of my plants. Luckily I have a number of gardens spread far apart on the farm and the problem doesn’t seem to be spreading from one to the next. I have been removing and destroying all infected plants. A shame though. I’ve lost all of one trial variety. Will have to try it again next year.

All in all, the garden is doing very well for a first season in new soil, and a new place. We’ve had hot peppers and eggplant for 3 weeks now, and tomatoes for 2. Cabbages are coming in strong and I think I might even have them all season long(a first for me). Succession plantings are all in line with the schedule, and today I harvested all our garlic and the first onions ready for curing. The market table will only be getting bigger for the remainder of the season.

Market day close up(left to right): Arugula, Touchstone Gold and Detroit Dark Red Beets, Sqaush Blossoms, Mints.

Market day close up(left to right): Arugula, Touchstone Gold and Detroit Dark Red Beets, Sqaush Blossoms, Mints.

Curing. This is such an important step if you want to store your onions, garlic, squash, and potatoes. This year I am using our greenhouse as a drying and curing room. So far it’s working beautifully, as long as I can keep things coming out as soon as they’re ready! Right now I have onions and garlic curing in there, as well as peas, spinach and rapini seed drying and waiting to be cleaned.

There are many options for curing your onions and garlic. This year I am placing them on elevated, framed screens. It will take about 2 weeks until they are ready for storage. They must be kept out of direct sunlight, in a dry, slightly warm place in order to cure properly. Alternately, you can bunch them in groups of  10-12 and hang them in a dry place out of direct sunlight. I like both methods and use whichever one is more appropriate to the space I have available. Once we get to potato and squash harvests, I will touch on curing methods for those crops.

Onions being cured. Rossa Di Milano, New York Early, Riverside, and Walla Walla.

Onions being cured. Rossa Di Milano, New York Early, Riverside, and Walla Walla.

Last but certainly not least, seed saving. This is perhaps my favourite task in the garden. Weeding out inferior plants, selecting the strongest plants, nicest looking fruit. Cleaning the crop to reveal all the possibilities in a handful of seeds. This year I selected 100 rapini plants for seed production and have been rewarded with a full 1 litre mason jar of seed!

Rapini Seed ready for a final clean.

Rapini Seed ready for a final clean.


Every week I walk around the gardens with my box of labeled jars and collect seed from flowers, tomatoes, and any other crop that requires weekly seed harvesting while the plants continue to grow. During this time I also check on the crops that require full beds to mature before any seed harvest begins. All of this is done in the afternoon on hot sunny days when any hint of moisture has evaporated. Water is the enemy of seed saving. Occasionally I will pull a seed crop if we are expecting rain and the seed is almost ready for harvest.

If you’re looking to save your own seed, there a number of books out there to help you along. A few books that I have used over the years are Kokopelli, Seed to Seed, and Seed Saving for Beginners. They are all incredibly helpful, great for beginners and experts.

photo 3

RIverside Storage Onion. I love growing onions.

I hope you are all revelling in the bounty of your gardens and the serenity of having your toes and fingers in the dirt!

Written by matchboxgarden

July 26, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Knowing Your Garden

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The past few weeks have been chalk full of weeding, trellising, and harvest. In light of our current garden events here at Matchbox, this week I’m going to talk about time management, careful observation, and maintenance.

Years ago, when I was just beginning to work in kitchens, a chef said to me, “if you don’t have three things happening at the same time, you’re not working efficiently.” I have had those words floating around my head ever since. At the core of his statement is time management, and that approach has served me well in the garden.

At the end of each day, I make a list of tasks for tomorrow. I refer to previous lists in order to make sure I’m finishing each task, and not leaving lose ends around the farm. Lose ends stack up VERY quickly. Once I have made my list, I number the items in priority of importance. Doing this allows me to attack the next day with clarity. It also helps in avoiding distractions, and keeping me focused. It’s so easy to get side tracked by a bed that needs weeding, even when you’re supposed to be harvesting peas before they get past their perfect harvest period.

Walla Walla Onions neatly weeded.

Walla Walla Onions neatly weeded.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your own garden, take a walk about one evening. Enjoy your garden and take the time to make observations of plant health, growth rates, insects, weeds, etc. If needed, bring paper and a pen and make a list as you walk around and notice different things. This is a great way to enjoy your work, as well as get a handle on what REALLY needs to be done on the garden. A glass of wine to accompany your walk doesn’t hurt either!

This is also a wonderful time to take pictures, the light is just right and plants will look their best.

Careful observation of your garden is one of the best defences agains pest, diseases, weed pressure, and more. It can mean the difference between a mild aphid presence and an infestation. Much of a gardens success depends on solving problems before they become to big or before they even start. For example, we have had a fairly dry 3 weeks. As I have been working, I’m seeing the earth start to crack(we’re on very heavy clay), in response, I have watered dry beds heavily and then applied mulch to lock in the moisture. This method also keeps plant roots cool, suppresses weeds and stops cracks from developing.

Another example, I have noticed some of our tomatoes wilting. They have all been pulled and burned or bagged. This is quite possibly related to our Black Walnut, however, it could also be Wilt. Because of my nightly walk about, I was able to identify and remove infected plants immediately.

Moving into harvest, July really starts to see a wider selection of veggies ready for harvest. This month we have started to pick beets, peas, beans, green onions, herbs, cabbage, and tomatoes. This past week, we have had a string of very hot days, 30 – 35C with humidity. The shelling peas are not happy with this. It has meant that we had a very large harvest at the beginning of the week, which is great. However, it also meant that the second round of blooms dropped due to the heat. Had we not been watching the pea crop, we would have missed a better portion of the harvest. Our peas ripened so quickly, we were having to pick every twelve hours for 3 days. Shelling peas are now sadly done at the farm, but they were sooo sweet and delicious!

Green Arrow shelling peas.

Green Arrow shelling peas.

Staying with the topic of harvesting, we are also beginning our seed saving. There isn’t much ready right now, but this is a great time for starting harvest of some of our flowers such as Bachelors Buttons and Marigolds. While we’re harvesting flower seeds, rapini and pea seed is setting in the field and will soon be ready for picking and drying. Arugula, radish, spinach, and lettuce seed is flowering, and by mid August, we’ll be knee deep in seed collection.

Bachelor's Buttons

As we look forward to the next few weeks, I will be looking at winter plantings, season extension, and greenhouse expansion.

Written by matchboxgarden

July 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Garden Maintenance: Giving the best for your harvest.

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This week I’ve been focusing on garden maintenance. I try to make this the focus of June every year. After the fluster of April seeding, May transplanting, and all the garden prep in between, it always seems that the weeds to start to get a jump on you, and the extra little things that help the garden along, get lost in the shuffle. After many years of trial and error, I have learned that if I want to have a really great harvest, I need to put the time in during the first few months of the garden season. This year has been no exception. After spending two weeks focusing almost entirely on get plants in the ground, I began looking around the garden and seeing weeds well on their way to creating seed banks. Thankfully I’ve managed to stay on time this season, so this week I spent every free moment weeding, turning beds for second plantings, and staking. In light of this weeks tasks, here are a few things I like to do to keep the garden moving along.

Red Russian Kale and Evergreen Hardy Scallions intercropped for pest management. An undertow of clover is present to reduce weeds and fix nitrogen into the soil.

Red Russian Kale and Evergreen Hardy Scallions intercropped for pest management. An undersow of clover is present to reduce weeds and fix nitrogen into the soil.



Mulched Pumpkin. I like to mulch all my squashes, melons, and cucumbers. It helps retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.

Mulched Pumpkin. I like to mulch all my squashes, melons, and cucumbers. It helps retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.


The next weeding task. Staying on top of the weeds is priority. Especially with the root crops. They have trouble competing with the fast growth of the weeds. This group of beds consists of onions, carrots, swiss chard, cabbage,and brussels sprouts. All have been planted to take advantage of their benefits to each others growth.


The potatoes. I used straw last year to hilly potatoes and loved the results. This year, they’re growing so fast I can hardly keep up! If you can believe it, I had these almost completely covered in straw yesterday.

This week, I get to do some odd jobs such as pruning the lilacs, prepping and seeding one last garden for seed production, and prepping the greenhouse for curing and drying. I’m also getting ready for our first CSA week starting the 22nd. It looks like our CSA members will be getting an early treat of young beets in their first share, tonight we picked a few beets for dinner. For the first week of our CSA I expect I’ll have scallions, salad mix, kale, chard, arugula, peas and beets. If you’re interested in becoming a member, please contact us at

Looking forward to having my first peas of the season and hoping your garden is glorious!

Written by matchboxgarden

June 13, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Radish Kimchi and Community

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The past couple of weeks have been incredibly busy. The same will be said by any farmer at this time of year. It is our window to get in all the frost tender crops from tomatoes to soy beans. In our county, I’ve been planting all my tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. While out in the garden I also see all the other local farmers driving by in their tractors as they make their way to various fields around the area. This observation fills me with conflicting thoughts and feelings. It brings to the forefront of my mind, the damage our current food and agriculture system inflicts upon our land, our water, our environment, our communities, and our families. It also reminds me how hard ALL farmers work, no matter what they are growing. There is great pride in farming, even if our numbers are dwindling.

It is very easy to look at conventional cash crop farmers and wag our fingers at them and their farming practices. It is a much more difficult task to look at the situation with honesty, and acknowledge the many layered issues that have led to the current state of our food production chain. It is no easy task (or cheap either!) for a farmer to convert their entire operation. It is not simply a change of farming methods, it is a change of market, a change of perspective.

As I look around the country I am both inspired and frustrated by all the efforts made by individuals and communities to make our food production system sustainable, both environmentally and financially. So far this year I have seen only ONE honey bee. Kudos to Prince Edward County for adapting a neonic ban on county property, and calling on provincial and federal governments to impose a moratorium! I hope to see more of those across the country. Grassroots action is the only way that we’ll see positive change in our fields and grocery stores. We have the right to know what is in our food and how it is produced. However, we must make our voices heard if we want that to happen, federal government and big business will not do this voluntarily. In fact, if the U.S is any indication, they will fight it tooth and nail. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s move on to some more positive events.

On May 31st we had our first plant sale at the farm. It was amazing to see all the people from our local community come out to see what we’re doing and get some plants and seeds for their gardens. I can’t wait to see pictures of their gardens and hear about their successes and challenge’s through out the season. It was really inspiring to chat with everyone. We had beginner gardeners, all the way through to folks that were full of gardening information from annual veggies to permaculture production. I’m looking forward to hosting this event every year,  learning and sharing gardening knowledge, and being a part of the community.

Radishes. I love to grow them. My family loves to eat them. This year, my husband decided to make a Kimchi with our extra radish. It is tasty and beautiful! Here are a few pics as well as his recipe. I hope you enjoy! Such a great introduction to preserving, as it is an incredibly easy method.


Radish Kimchi – Recipe by Chef Jason Inniss

4 tbsp Kosher salt


Getting ready for Kimchi!

1 litre water

600 g radishes thinly sliced

1 watermelon rind


140 g onion

37 g ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp dried chili

Thinly sliced radish using a mandolin.

1.Dissolve salt in water by heating it slowly.     Allow to cool completely.

2. Cover radishes with brine and allow to marinate for 3 hours if sliced. (8 hours if wedged.)

3. Drain brine and reserve for later use.

4. Grate together, onions, ginger, and garlic. Once grated, add dried chile flakes, more if you like it very spicy.

5. Add paste to drained radishes and mix thoroughly.

6. Stuff into a glass jar or ceramic crock making sure liquid covers the top of the radishes. Add some reserved brine if necessary. Weigh radishes down with another jar or pot so that they are completely submerged.

7. Store and allow to ferment in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Stir and taste every day making sure the radishes are submerged when you are done. It should take 5 days for sliced and  7 days for wedges.

8. After fermentation is complete keep refrigerated, if they make it that far!

Kimchi is made! Now all we have to do is wait...

Kimchi is made! Now all we have to do is wait…


In the coming weeks, I will be trying my best to keep up with my weekly post, however, as I’m feeling a bit crunched at the moment, it may turn into a bi-weekly post. We’ll see, I’ll keep you all posted 😉 !




Written by matchboxgarden

June 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Picture Day and our Inaugural Plant Sale

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Things are pretty busy around the farm these days. I’ve just begun to plant out tomatoes and marigolds, which means there’s lots of trellising, staking, and caging to be done. I always enjoy this task, it’s fun to see the garden as I build the different layers in, and before the plants have taken over and engulfed all the structures. At this point in the season, our first veggies are coming in and the balance between greenhouse, planting, maintaining, preparing, and harvesting in the garden is at it’s most difficult. Having said that, it really only lasts about three weeks. SInce it is so busy right now, I thought, this week let’s do lots of photos for the blog. They’re fun, informative, and can give people great ideas for your own gardens. Below, are pictures from the greenhouse, and garden, I hope they inspire you!





Plants hardening off. We rotate them outside during the day for at least a week before they are planted out or taken to market.


Baby Arugula. The first of the season for us. Thinnings will be harvested for market, in order to extend the harvesting period.


Cherrybelle Radish. A lovely round red radish with a hint of sweetness and a nice kick. We just started to pick these last week.


Rapini! My first go at this crop. These have been under row cover because of a heavy flea beetle presence. Still a bit holey, but great flavour.



View of the central garden – 90×40. The large trellis is for Sugar Snap Peas, and the shorter trellis is for our Green Arrow Shelling Peas. Straw is down on our seeded squash and cucumber beds, and the row cover protects our kale, salad mix, arugula, carrots, and beets. Also in this picture, onions, tomatoes, marigold.

On another note, our inaugural annual plant sale is coming up this Saturday, May 31st! If you’re looking for plants for the garden, or would like to come out and see the farm in person, follow this link for more information:!events. I expect we’ll have our full selection of plants available this year, and I’m really looking forward to having folks out to see how we’re farming.

Written by matchboxgarden

May 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Long Weekend Tomato Planting

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Long weekend tomato planting is a long standing tradition in our part of the woods. It’s the big date for all tomato gardeners to get out into the dirt and plant these darlings of the vegetable garden. This year however, Queen Victory day has come a week early. Does this mean it’s time to put our heat loving plants into the garden? No, not necessarily. Personally, I have always preferred to rely on watching the temperatures over the three weeks leading up to the long weekend. Most often my tomatoes get planted over a period of three weeks, starting in mid May and running through the first week of June.


The lovely Coyote cherry tomato. This plant can reach up to 12 feet tall! The sweetest cherry tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. We’ll have these and other tomato plants for your garden at Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market until mid June.

Giving myself that three week planting period for all my tomatoes is a great way to ease the pressure a bit. I have about 200 tomatoes to plant this year, as well as 60 eggplant, and 250 peppers. I ally plant all of these crops, which means that I’m also planting Marigolds, Basil, Parsley, Onions, and Nasturtiums during this time. It’s wonderful to see the garden come together at this time of year when infrastructure such as trellis, row cover, and stakes begin to show the direction the garden is going to take.

Getting back to tomato planting, as it is a bit on the cool side here at the farm, I am not planting tomatoes out until Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m using this weather to weed, finish up in the greenhouse, set up trellising, and mulch. In preparation for planting my basil and tomatoes next week, I have tilled the beds, weeded them using my wheel hoe, and this weekend, I’ll start planting ally plants. I will be planting parsley, onions, and nasturtiums. I will wait until next weekend to plant out my basil and marigolds. Below is a quick reference for tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplanting, growing , and trellising/staking.

As I mentioned earlier, you want to make sure your planting site is properly prepared. Here is what I do, step by step:

1. Till, wait 6 days.

2. Weed with a hoe or wheel hoe. Waiting the 6 days allows for weed seeds to germinate and get just big enough for you EASILY remove them from the garden bed.

3. This is up to you. Wait another 6 days and run your hoe through the site again. I only do this if the site is really weedy. 

4. Get some nicely composted animal manure. I prefer horse, but sheep or mushroom compost are good too. 

5. Dig your holes for the transplants. I space my tomatoes anywhere from 1 1/2′ to 3′ apart (in 4′ wide beds) depending on the variety and how large it can grow. Place a handful of compost in each hole.

6. When planting your tomatoes, I recommend removing the bottom 2 or 3 leaves. You do this by pinching the leaves off right at the stem. Once you have done that, plant your tomato so that the soil covers the stem almost right up to the leaves that you have left on. This practice strengthens the stem and promotes greater root growth. The result is a stronger tomato plant with more vigorous growth. If your tomatoes are very leggy(tall) dig trenches instead of holes, and lie the tomato on it’s side in the trench with the leafy part above the soil line. Your tomato will most likely lean slightly when first planted, but have no fear, it will right itself within a few days.

7. Eggplants and Peppers. Plant both of these no higher then their existing soil line. Unlike tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will not send out new roots when their stems are buried below the soil line. 

8. Water all your transplants immediately after planting. (unless you’re expecting considerable rain the same day)

9. I like to get as much of my stakes, cages and trellising systems in place as soon as possible after transplanting. It’s a much easier job done when the plants are small. I use various support systems based on the growth habit of each tomato variety I’m planting. In regards to peppers and eggplants, I only provide a stake for very tall plants in windier places. 

10. Planting allies. I plant 1 marigold for every 2 tomato plants or every 4 feet of peppers and eggplant. I like to plant an outside row of basil or onions with my tomatoes. Not only does this look beautiful, but it provides a reliable integrated pest management system for this Night Shade family of my garden. It also means I don’t have to run all over the garden when I want to make a tomato and basil salad!

Once this is done, it’s time to sit back for a bit and watch the plants get big and strong. You can mulch with straw to retain moisture and suppress weeds, or you can try an undersow of clover. Clover will also provide the area with a pollinator attractant, nitrogen fixing in the soil, and a green manure crop at the end of the season. I like to use both methods.


Amish Paste Tomato plants allied with Spanish Brocade Marigolds, and Basil.

I have been planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplants this way for almost a decade. I have NEVER had an aphid problem. I have seen 2 (yes only 2!) tomato horn worms in the past ten years. I would not rely on any other method to keep my night shade family plants pest free. I hope you find all this tomato planting talk informative and give it a try in your own garden. If you do, or you have another method you swear by, please share it!  

Wishing you all a happy tomato planting season and sweet dreams of tomato sandwiches!

Chickens, Tomatoes, and Tulips…Happy Mother’s Day!

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What a busy week! As we wind down the week here at the farm, I’m looking forward to taking a couple of days to spend with the family, and step out of the garden. I like to do this mainly because it gives me a chance to truly observe the gardens for a couple of days and come back to them with fresh eyes and new ideas. Especially after a week such as this, when we spent every daylight hour balancing between finishing the chicken coop, potting up the remaining plants in the greenhouse, getting ready for market, weeding, seeding, building new perennial gardens(lasagna style!), tending to new chicks, and babies, and big kids :-)!

Looking back on the week, it was absolutely wonderful to go to market for the first time in almost three years. We had a great selection of seedlings for cooler spring planting weather, and it was great to see people I haven’t seen in at least a year or two. Everyone was happy to see Matchbox back in action. It’s such a great feeling to see my plants go out into the world and grace other peoples gardens. I’m looking forward to hearing how Matchbox plants perform through out the summer.

When I wasn’t getting ready for market, my husband and I were working on the chicken coop. It is now ready for our chickens, and as soon as the weather warms up a bit, our eldest daughter will be painting it “a la nine year old”. I can’t wait to see what she does. This has been a great opportunity for us to work on a project as a family, and the girls are super excited about having chickens. So excited in fact, that the first night we brought them home, our youngest was up at 3 am to go see them and wouldn’t go back to sleep until she did. Our eldest then woke up at 5:30 to feed them. And again at 6. And again at 6:30. I think my girls are in love with the chickens. On a more adult more, we now have 13 Chantecler chickens, 10 meat and 3 layers. The Chantecler chicken is the only Canadian chicken breed and it is a heritage breed hailing from Quebec. Here’s a little more information about this gentle and multi purpose Canadian breed:

The Chantecler originated in the Quebec Province of Canada and is a fine example of a dual-purpose breed. Brother Wilfred Chatelain first thought of the idea for the Chantecler when he was walking through the Oka Agricultural Institute’s poultry flocks, in Quebec, and realized there was no breed of chicken from Canada; all of the breeds being used in Canada originated in Europe or America. He wanted to create a breed of chicken that could stand the harsh climate of Canada, and that could be used for both egg and meat production.
From the French ‘chanter,’ “to sing,” and ‘clair,’ “bright,” the Chantecler is the first Canadian breed of chicken. Under the supervision of Brother Chatelain, the monks of the Cistercian Abbey in Oka, Quebec, sought to create, “a fowl of vigorous and rustic temperament that could resist the climatic conditions of Canada, a general purpose fowl.” Although work began on this breed in 1908, it was not introduced to the public until 1918, and admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1921.
The Chantecler was created by first crossing a Dark Cornish male with a White Leghorn female, and a Rhode Island Red male with a White Wyandotte female. The following season pullets from the first cross were mated to a cockerel from the second cross. Then selected pullets from this last mating were mated to a White Plymouth Rock male, thus producing the fowl as seen today. Although this produced a pure White Chantecler, Dr. J. E. Wilkinson of Alberta, Canada, decided to create a similar chicken with a color pattern more suited to range conditions, one whose color pattern would blend with its background. He crossed the Partridge Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Dark Cornish, and the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn, to create the Partridge Chantecler. The Partridge Chantecler was admitted into Standard in 1935.
The breed is noted for having nearly no wattles and a small cushion comb – the comb appearing much like a small round button sitting low on the head. The small comb and wattles allow this breed to withstand the cold Canadian winters without worry of frostbite. Not surprisingly, the breed is noted for being very hardy, is an excellent layer of brown eggs with a reputation as a good winter layer, and has a well-fleshed breast.
The Chantecler can still be found in both of its original colors, White and Partridge; both having yellow flesh and legs. It is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a productive fowl that will excel in a wintry climate. The breed is noted for being calm, gentle, and personable.

Photo and description from The Livestock Conservancy –

In the greenhouse, it’s time to pot up, pot up, pot up! The greenhouse is bursting at the seams, but we’re almost finished getting everything into it’s proper sized pots or planted out to the gardens. We’ve been very lucky this year with greenhouse pests…none! The plants are looking better than ever and we’re really looking forward to our May 31st Plant Sale at the farm. If you’re in the area, stop by and see how we’re farming! If you’re planning on coming out to Trinity Bellwoods Market this coming week, you can expect find the following garden plants at our table:

Cabbages, Brussels Sprouts, Chards, Green Onions, Basil, German Chamomile, Jerusalem Artichokes, Parsley, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Mints, Lovage, Bachelor’s Buttons, Marigolds, Sunflowers, Nasturtiums, and more. 


Sweet Basil and German Chamomile Seedlings

Moving on to seeding and weeding….Ohhh weeds. Well we have a ton of Dandelion so, not only am I weeding, but I am also harvesting tender dandelion greens for sautéed dishes! Two birds with one stone, what a great way to make weeding a little bit more fun! I use a few different methods when weeding. Hand weeding, various types of hoes, and a trusty wheel hoe. They all serve their purpose for different stages of the weeding process. I do a lot of hand weeding after I have seeded and the plant are just getting started. Once I see the line of sown seed, I start using the variety of hoes to get close to the crop, and after the crop is well established, I move on to the wheel hoe. I also use the wheel hoe every 6 days before I have seeded a bed. This process goes a long way in reducing time spent weeding later in the season when my focus needs to be on crop production, seed saving, and harvesting.

Speaking of crop production, this week I am planting my early potato crop. I plan to use the same method I used last year with the straw, instead of hilling with soil. I am adding compost to the beds, which the potatoes will sit on, then layering with straw as they start to grow. This method worked beautifully for me last year, so with any luck, it will prove a productive choice again this year.


Straw potato bed


Chieftan Potato grown in straw.

This method is also a great way to slowly create more garden. After the potatoes are harvested, I will remove the straw and place it on the garlic or in some paths ways to suppress weeds. Then I will till the potato under and it will be ready for planting next spring or early this fall for an early spinach crop next year. 

Well, I could go on and on about the happenings at the farm these days, but then I wouldn’t get anything done. I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks post and learned a little something for your own garden. Happy growing and get out there and enjoy this wonderful spring weather!




To Market, To Market

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Yes, it’s that time of year again! Our first market starts this coming Tuesday, May 6th. This is the first market I’ve done in over 2 years and I’m so excited to get back to it! Over the past 3 years, Matchbox has gone through so many changes. In 2011 we operated a 4 acre market garden, 1500 sqft greenhouse space, 90+ member CSA program, restaurant and grocery wholesale, and 3 farmers markets. Fast forward 3 years through relinquishing of land, very rough pregnancy, a lovely baby girl, potentially never farming again, and……buying our first farm(!). Now we are here, and in a sense, I suppose I’ve come full circle. What a learning curve!!

Spanish Brocade Marigold and Sweet Basil

Getting big in the greenhouse. Spanish Brocade Marigold and Sweet Basil.

Back to my original statement – market day is fast approaching. This week has been all about getting everything ready for market. From hardening off plants and potting up more plants for the coming 6 weeks of seedling sales, to checking the tent, tables, and display materials, this has been a busy week of making lists and checking them twice.(Yes, I just said that, ho ho ho.)

As this year is essentially a start up year for me, I have had to make some adjustments in order to stay within my budget. I had plans to purchase an enclosed trailer, however, they’re prohibitively expensive. Instead, we went to our local odds and ends dealer – Triple M in Canfield(if you’re in the area you should really go check them out, lots of cool stuff), and purchased wood to build moveable shelving for the family van. I think it might actually work really well, and it’s sooo much cheaper.

At this point in the week, I’ve checked almost all the items off my list. I may even get a day or two for some relaxation! By relaxation I mean helping my husband finish the chicken coop and get the chickens, weed some beds, and plant some beets ;). Chickens! We’re getting 13 chickens, 3 for eggs, 1 rooster, and 9 for meat. I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time the meat chicken are ready, our girls will have named them and fallen in love. Much to the chagrin of my husband, Chef Jason Inniss.


Our chicken coop, mid – construction. We’re using reclaimed wood from our awesome neighbour. We’re starting with 3 layers and 10 meat chicken.

If you’re in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood this Tuesday, come on out to the first market of the season and see what’s happening! I know they’re will be lots of seedlings and seeds, I’m sure there will be some fresh leafy greens, meat, fish, baked goods and much more(we’ll have CSA registration forms available as well!). This is the eighth year of Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market and I’m so happy to be a part of it. Looking forward to seeing old friends and getting back into the swing of things….


                                                         Our booth at Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market.


Written by matchboxgarden

May 2, 2014 at 6:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Pest Management – Ally and Companion Planting

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This week I’m going to talk about ally and companion planting. This approach uses the idea that specific plants repel certain pests from other plants. Not only do certain plants help in reducing pest issues, they can also improve growth rates and flavour. As some of you may know already, plants, soil, insects all work together and “communicate” with each other. Planting a tap rooted plant with shallow rooted plants is another example of symbiotic-like relationships within the garden. The longer rooted plant generally pulls up nutrients from deep within the soil which then become available to the shallow rooted plants growing near by. This method also allows for both plants to grow without too much impediment, as they have different root habits.  I have been using this method of ally and companion planting for years, and it has never let me down.

Waiting to go out to the garden.

Marigold, Spanish Brocade. An excellent ally plant for many vegetables in the garden.

There are a number of sources you can go to for detailed information regarding ally, companion, and incompatible plantings. Yes, incompatible. Not all plants like each other! For example, we have a beautiful Black Walnut tree in our gardens and because of a toxin called juglone that the tree produces, certain plant families cannot grow well(if at all!) near it. This means I have to tailor what I grow around that tree to juglone tolerant plants. The same can be said for many plants in your own garden. Whether because of “toxins” excreted from a plant, or pest that it attracts, what you plant beside each other can have a detrimental or beneficial affect on your harvest.

Below is a brief reference table of ally plants, the plants they help, and the pests they control. Some of the plants, such as Marigold, have a wide range of plants they benefit. If you are considering using the ally and companion planting method, I suggest doing more thorough research so that you can utilize this method of pest management to its maximum potential.

Ally Plant Plant Enhanced Pest controlled
Marigold Tomato Aphid, Tomato Hornworm
Beans Mexican Bean Beetle
Squash Squash Beetle, Nematode
Mint Broccoli Ants
Brassicas Cabbage Looper, Moth and Worm
Squash Squash Bug
Many vegetables Whitefly
Nasturtium Beans Mexican Bean Beetle
Cucumber Aphid, Cucumber Beetle
Pepper Green Peach Aphid
Squash Beetle and Squash Bug
Onions Beet Insects, general
Carrot Carrot Rust fly
Brassicas Cabbage Looper, Maggot Worm
Potato Colorado Potato Beetle
Clover Fruit trees Aphid, Coddling Moth, reduces Leaf Hopper population
Many vegetables Repels Wireworm
Corn Repels Corn Borer
Cabbage Cabbage Root Fly
Catnip Beans Flea Beetle(plant in borders)
Cucumber Cucumber Beetle
Pepper Green Peach Aphid
Squash Squash Bug
Many Vegetables Aphid,Flea Beetle, Japanese Beetle
These are just a few examples of the benefits of ally planting, more information can be found in such books as The Gardeners A-Z Guide to growing Organic Food, By Tanya L. K. Denckla.