Our journey to the North and what we are growing this year !

Our journey to the North and what we are growing this year !

Hello everyone ! I am dropping in to share with you our journey to the north and what we are growing this year !

May 5th 2022 we made our journey from the southeast of BC to the northwest of BC. It was a long 16 hour drive to our new acreage. We hurried to unpack so we could get focused on planting our first northern garden. Without knowing much about this land and its ways, we literally watched the light for a few days, made a garden map and then went all in !! We grew as much food as we possibly could with the existing 100 ft by 60 foot garden plot. It turned out to be one of the best gardens we have ever had.

 As we worked on the existing garden, we chose another area of the land for our future apothecary garden. It was overgrown and full of bull thistle, burdock, dandelion, vetch, and tough northern grasses. We are very opposed to using plastics in gardens but to clear this amount of land we knew we would have to employ some sort of system to choke out these weeds and transform this area. We covered the ground in lumber wrap and decided to see what a year of black plastic cover would do for us. I will share later when we uncovered the plastic to build beds.

Our location is 54 degrees north of the equator. This is a different land all together than we have ever known or cultivated crops on. The extra day light and cold night temperatures have taken some adjusting. We quickly realized how far north we really were when the sun wasn't going down at 10 pm. Today we are at 16 hours and 50 minutes from sunrise to sunset. By solstice we will have 17 hours and 23 minutes.... As I write this it is almost 11 pm and still light out !!

We knew our medicinal herb garden would have to wait until next year as the growing season was upon us and there is no medicinal herb growers with starts.  I have to admit, I did begin to worry that we had moved into a growing zone that many of my beloved herbs might not grow.
After reading a local written book "Gardening Between Frosts" and speaking with locals, I understood almost anything can be grown here....with exceptions. Most perennials will be annuals, you need hoop houses, greenhouses and frost covers. The most valuable advice was to disregard all information on seed packet. With our extra sunlight hours, plants grow exponentially faster than the south and YES, it is possible to grow finicky or sensitive plants. The nights can be cold but these extra sunlight hours do make a huge difference. An example is a vegetable that is listed on seed packet will take 90 days to maturity, will be more like 75 days here.
                                                                                                                                So fast forward a year later and we have made many changes and expansions.  As the snow started to melt, we started planning our new apothecary garden zone. Our aim was to build as many new beds on the land this year as we could. Most of the soil here is hard clay, so building up beds was a must. 

As of today we have taken up the plastic, completed  8 raised beds measuring 6 feet by 4 feet in the apothecary garden, 3 raised beds measuring 5 feet by 3.5 feet on one side of the greenhouse and 1 long 20 foot by 3.5 foot bed on the other side of greenhouse. This was a huge undertaking and I give so much credit to my husband for his hard work building !! With all these raised beds we sure needed a bunch of soil. This is where we had some bad luck.....

We met a farmer across the valley with great composted manure mixed with topsoil but going back and forth in our truck started to not make sense (we wish so badly we had stuck to this). We did some research and chose a highly recommended company to bring us a dump truck of soil. We filled those beds, celebrated and started to focus on mulching the paths. Within a few days I noticed thistle popping up and basically a sheet of lambs quarters growing in the soil that came from the dump truck. We started to dig around and literally was shocked and saddened to what we found. There was so many chopped thistle roots in the soil it was overwhelming. I called the company back and after much debate we were fully refunded, but left with sorting this soil by hand. We went through every bed with a hawk eye and fine toothed comb. As I mentioned above, we wish we had stuck with the awesome farmer across the valley, as we have had no weeds and the soil is very healthy. This mishap affected our enthusiasm greatly as we had just made our best efforts to get rid of these exact weeds.....ouch.

There are many different microclimates here in the north. Some folks swear it is garden zone 2, some say they garden zone 5 ! We decided to experiment with our veggies last year and planted some things 1 to 3 weeks before the official last frost date of June 10th. Everything worked out beautifully ! After watching this land with careful observation this past year, we think we are in a little microclimate and guess that we are zone 4. As I say this I would note that we planned to have the garden transplanted and seeded for May 24 but night temps were still to chilly for some of the herbs. We rescheduled for this weekend but the night temps are dipping down to 1 degrees for few days.... Another ouch !! Current vibe is going with the flow, and staying in the moment. Maybe we are not zone 4 !! More observations and experimenting is needed.


Ok let's get to the fun stuff. What are we growing ? So this year in our veggie garden we are growing cabbage, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, chives, beets, strawberries, raspberries, kale, lettuce varieties, zucchini, garlic, onions, peas and dill ! In our greenhouse we are growing tomatoes, cucumbers, regular basil, squash, pumpkin and some of the medicinals listed below. 

We are growing 25 medicinal herbs this year ! Heck yes. We are so excited to be trying this out in the wild north. Our varieties this year include meadowsweet, yarrow, chamomile, calendula, helichrysum, wormwood, mugwort, valerian, marshmallow, holy basil, lemon bergamot, lemon verbena, lemon balm, 3 varieties of mint, goldenrod, lavender, skullcap, arnica, evening primrose, borage, motherwort, betony, rosemary, california poppy and tobacco !

 This year will be an experiment. Many local folks I have spoken with have never heard of anyone growing some of these medicinal herbs here. We are breaking some ground. The climate here is changing quickly. I have sought out some folks in their 80's who grew up here and they tell me of a much different landscape and climate. This is bittersweet. I know it should be cold, even in the summer, this land needs it. I am also thankful for an increasingly temperate climate that will allow a generous harvest of more diverse plants. I will keep going with updates and write about our wins and even our fails !!                                       

Wish us luck ! Thank you for reading.


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