Earth M-A-G-I-C in the Veggie Plot

As the first thaws of March stir a sweet restlessness in the souls of all gardeners, the last frost date is still months away. There’s little to be done but sigh wistfully over seed catalogues and maybe start a few pots indoors. Or is there…? Now might be a good time to put some thought into a soil-building program. After all, Mother Nature usually bares the earth some time in April, weeks before even the hardiest plants can be set out.

Although there are numerous plant fertilizers on the market, these won’t improve your soil structure, foster beneficial micro-organisms, supply trace elements or encourage earthworms to take up residence. So rather than just feeding your plants, practise a little earth magic and feed your soil as well.

Mulch – Enough can’t be said for the benefits of organic mulches such as straw, spoiled hay or leaf mould.  Not only do they retain soil moisture and suppress weeds, but they break down, adding nutrients to the soil. Don’t limit use of mulch to the growing season—lay it down in the fall to prevent winter leaching of nutrients.  “Mulch Queen” Ruth Stout[i] has written persuasively about the time- and back-saving gains from a thick layer of mulch over the entire garden.

Ash – Wood ash from your own or a neighbour’s woodstove contains a surprising number of elements and microelements[ii] that plants require. If your soil is acidic, use ash instead of lime to amend it, but at twice the application rate (approximately one five-gallon pail to 1,000 ft2). Wear a mask when applying wood ash and work it in at the root level of the soil. Ash should not be applied immediately before planting.

Green Manure – Plant an early crop of a legume such as clover or alfalfa. Mow it and turn it under a few weeks before you plant. Green manures improve soil structure, fix nitrogen, add organic matter and encourage pollinating insects in the garden plot.

Intersowing – Plant a cover of low-growing clover between garden rows. It offers the benefits of green manuring while the garden in is progress.  It also serves as a live mulch to suppress weeds, prevent soil compaction and retain moisture, with the added advantage of enriching the soil when turned under. It’s nice underfoot too!

Compost – The black gold of the gardening world, compost is easily made in any back yard, or yes, even indoors. Vermicomposting is a wonderful excuse to poke around in dirt all winter while worms turn your kitchen waste into rich, odourless compost. Kids take particular delight in “feeding” the worms and separating them from the final product in spring. A quick search of the web will introduce you to options ranging from readymade worm condos to do-it-yourself worm composting kits. When your worm population expands, you can add a second composter or pass on some of your wriggly wealth to a friend.

Soil enrichment is an integral part of sustainable agriculture. Any veggie plot, no matter what the size, can benefit from a little earth magic!

[i] The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book, Rodale Pr (1971)
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Save Our Society

The year 2017 will be the Society’s 70th anniversary. And we are looking forward to it!

It is our goal to continue to support the community; however we need your help.

The Society has had another successful year: 42 plots of vegetable gardens, six guest lectures, tour of six exceptional gardens, beautiful flowers in our new black pots in downtown Deep River, etc. Unfortunately, some events were not held due to late registration, such as the children’s bird feeders workshop.

Our Annual General Meeting is on:

Wednesday, November 9th@ 7 p.m. in the Program Room, W.B. Lewis Library

In addition to the business portion of the AGM, we will be announcing the winners of the Photo Contest and the Flower and Vegetable Shows. The evening kicks off with a lecture on “New and Improved Varieties” by Jay McLaren from Algonquin College.

We have a need for new volunteers who can give a small amount of time, such as assisting in the Flower and Vegetable Show (3 hours in August). We also have vacancies on our Executive Board: President and four new Directors, in addition we need a Membership Director, Yearbook Editor, Tool Loan Director, Communications Director and Youth Leaders. There are seven Executive Board Meetings per year (1-2 hours duration). No experience is required. The past four Presidents have all been new members to the Society.

We are in the midst of re-evaluating the needs of our Society. We have 280 registered adult members and 33 youth members. Based on participation, members used the following: forty-two 30’ X 30’ garden plots, 50 attended the annual garden tour, 80 people attended the lectures and 11 youth entered the Flower and Vegetable Show and there were hundreds of free uses of the trailers and tools.

We are interested in receiving feedback: What did you use and enjoy? What services would you be most distressed to give up if the Society could not continue due to lack of volunteers?

Please contact us by e-mailing

Like Us On Facebook Deep River and Area Horticultural Society or leave a phone message at 613-584-3499.

Like many local organizations, we have many members who enjoy our services, but we are currently short of volunteers to assist in running them. It is our goal to continue to operate but we need to take a hard look at our ambitious 2017 goals. We invite people to come to a special open meeting to set the future direction of the Society.

The special meeting will be held on:

Wednesday, October 19 @ 7 p.m. in the Program Room, W.B. Lewis Library

Thank you for our support.

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Chokecherry Wine

Another Goodie from the Past!

Getting wine from your own backyard is rewarding and satisfying. Whether you have apple trees or rose bushes in your backyard you can get great satisfaction out of turning the plantings into a refreshing wine you can truly call your own. The internet is a great place to search for recipes about turning just about anything you can grow into wine. You will need a few basic things in order to keep things hygienic and safe. To start with a clean food grade plastic bucket to be used as a primary fermentor and a glass or plastic carboy to move the wine into once the fermentation has slowed down a bit. I have found some basic food strainers and bowls of various sizes useful at different stages of producing my garden wines. The important thing is ensuring anything the wine comes in contact with is sanitized with bleach or a chlorine based detergent.

They say that: patience is a virtue, and when it comes to making garden wines this couldn’t be truer. Let me give you an example of how true it is; in August, 2004 I picked about five pounds of Choke Cherries from a small tree at the end of my driveway which then produced 11 bottles of wine that I bottled in November 2004. I thought that I would try a bottle the following year around Canada Day and could hardly get it past my lips! To say it was a bit too soon is an understatement. Then at Christmas time in 2005 I brought a bottle to my father-in-law in Powassan, we opened it and I found it a bit better then before but I could not enjoy is because I had to drive home later on that night. At least that bottle didn’t get poured down the drain; my father-in-law was not one to ever let something go to waste. After that about every year or so I would build up the courage to try another bottle and it seemed to be getting better and better each time, I think once we poured one bottle into the roasting pan to help us cook a roast.

Why I ever wanted to attempt to make another batch of Choke Cherry wine is beyond me, perhaps writing these blogs for the Deep River Horticultural Society has encouraged me to give it a try. This week I found the Choke Cherries at the end of my driveway were ripe and juicy, ready for the picking and so I did. The recipe I decided to use called for ten pounds of cherries for five gallons of wine, again I got about five pounds from my tree and scoured around town to find another two and a half pounds. I think I left about five pounds on my tree that were a bit out of my reach but I know of a couple of people who have fallen out of trees or off of their ladders and I didn’t want to end up a statistic. For safety I decided I would have to make do with just seven and a half pounds.

Now here’s were my past experiments came into play, I know what the results were the last time and so this time I have an opportunity to try and improve the recipe. The other two main ingredients for my choke cherry wine were sugar & raisins. Since I was two and a half pound short on the choke cherries this year I decided to alter the quantities, heck I even decided to modify the ingredients. I used five pounds of raisins and added two and a half pounds of craisins, otherwise known as dried cranberries. I dropped the ten pounds of sugar needed down to eight pounds and then added one litre of white grape concentrate and one litre of red grape concentrate to get the right starting specific gravity (1.090).

I placed the choke cherries into a muslin bag so that they can be removed when the SG gets down to 1.030. If all go’s well I should be filtering and bottling this wine around November 1st 2011. This year I am also expecting to produce about thirty bottles, enough to enjoy once it has matured to perfection in about five or six years.

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Wines from your Backyard

I found this in our archives. Enjoy from 2011!

From among the many pleasures you can have from harvesting your own fruits and vegetables, one has got to be creating your own homemade wines. Making wine from fruits is simple and rewarding; all you need is the right equipment, the right ingredients, the right recipe and time. I’ve made a few interesting fruit wines in the past and I would love to try some more. If you are interested in making some fruit wine this year give me a call. If you supply the fruit, I may supply the equipment and some additional ingredients and together we can make some sweet wine.Great wines can come right out of your back yard!

Of course I won’t be able to accommodate everyone but I do plan on sharing our viniculture experiments with everyone by writing about our adventure. In fact I have already partnered with one member of our community to start a batch of Maple Sap Wine. We have taken 21 litres of Wylie Road Maple Tree Sap and added two litres of white grape concentrate, 4 kg of sugar, some wine tannin and added yeast to create the first batch of the year. After we added the yeast we kept it in a warm place and checked the fermentation process daily. I was very surprised at how fast the primary fermentation lasted, in just 10 days the specific gravity was at .990 telling me that there was no more sugar to ferment. We siphoned the wine into a 23 litre carboy and put it in a cooler area of the basement. We plan on bottling the wine in June and then laying it away for a year. Remember I said one of the things you need to make homemade wine is time, and a year is not uncommon with many of the wines you might want to try.

I would like to try some Dry Rhubarb Wine next. As you might have guessed by now I don’t currently have a garden to grow my own Rhubarb or anything else for that matter, so I am seeking willing partners, the kind of partners that do have the gardens and the skills to produce the fruits and vegetables needed, I know you’re out there, give me a call.

Getting back to the rhubarb wine; to make a full batch (23 litres) you will need the following:

  • 18 lbs of rhubarb stalks, sliced into ½ inch pieces. Choose vibrant red stalks for a colourful wine, select greener stalks if you prefer a white wine. Either way there will be no difference in the taste of the wine.
  • 3 lbs of golden raisins, chopped
  • 15 lbs of white sugar
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons of wine tannin
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons of pectic enzyme
  • 1 Campden tablet
  • 6 Teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 Package of wine yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Additional juice if necessary

Put the rhubarb and raisins in a primary fermentation vessel that can be fitted with an airlock. In a pot bring 3 gallons of water to a boil, and then dissolve in the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour the water over the mixture in the primary fermentation vessel. When the mixture has cooled add the wine tannin, pectic enzyme, and orange zest. Crush the campden tablet and add to the primary fermentor. Stir well, cover loosely and let stand for 24 hours.

After 24 hours – In a jar, make a wine yeast starter culture by combining the wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and the juice from 1 orange (room temperature). Cover, shake vigorously, and let stand for 1 to 3 hours, until bubbly; then add to the must in the primary fermentor, secure the lid and install an airlock.

Ferment for two weeks, then rack off the solids to fill a 23 litre carboy, pressing hard to remove all the liquid from the fruit. Cheese cloth works well to squeeze out the maximum amount of liquid from the must. Top up the carboy with additional orange juice if necessary, add an airlock and let ferment for another 6 months. Rack the wine into a second carboy and let stand for 1 more month. At this point rack the wine back into a clean vessel leaving behind any sediment and then bottle and cellar the wine.

Wait 6 moths before sampling your first bottle.

Rhubarb is usually the first fruit available in the springtime and besides being great in a pie there are several other uses. The last time I used rhubarb for wine I added fresh strawberries and honey. I can tell you it was a big hit with everyone who sampled it.

It is a bit early to tell, but if the pre-bottling sample of the Maple Sap Wine I just bottled is any kind of an indicator, then come Christmas time it’s going to be pretty darn good stuff. We started with a bucket full of Maple Sap on the 8th of April and bottled 35 bottles of a beautiful yellow coloured wine on the 15th of June. The plan is to put the wine down for about 6 more months and try the first bottle around Christmas time. Thanks to Fred and June for supplying the sap and the encouragement to try some other experiments now that this one has turned out so promising.

Brian McInall holds up a glass of Wylie Road Sap Wine just before running it through the filter.

The finished product bottled in both clear and dark bottles. The label reads; Wylie Road Wines – 2011 Maple Sap Wine – Produced and bottled at Valley Wines, Deep River, Ontario

If you may recall in my last letter for the Deep River and Area Horticultural Society I had put out a call for some fresh Rhubarb so that I could make a batch of Dry Rhubarb wine. Well I was supplied with about 25 pounds of the stuff and have already started my second garden wine of the year. There seems to be a real big call for Rhubarb around here in the spring with a lot going into pies, jam’s and stews all of which are so hard to resist because of their sweet and yet tart flavours.

I’ve made Rhubarb Wine in the past and in the past I have added strawberries and honey to sweeten the wine. This year I have added orange zest and raisins to offset the sourness that comes from the stalks. My recipe called for 8 KG of sugar but I cut it back to 6 and added 1 liter of a Red Grape Concentrate and 100 ml of Wine Conditioner. There is no question that the wine will be a bright pink colour when all is said and done, and by said and done I mean by about mid May 2012.

So now that the Sap Wine is bottled and the Rhubarb Wine is started you might ask what’s next. I am certainly open to suggestions and if you are willing to provide the locally grown fruits and/or vegetables I’ll do my best to find a good recipe and look after the post harvest production. Soon the blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and other berries will be ripening. I have already been reading some recipes for making wine from barriers and I have noticed that it takes a lot of berries to make wine. For one gallon of blueberry wine it takes one gallon of blueberries.

I also noticed that this looks like it’s going to be a good year for chokecherries. The little green cherries are starting to develop. If you do plan to make a batch of chokecherry wine this year, be sure to keep an eye on their ripeness and be prepared in advance for the harvest. I say this because as soon as they do ripen the birds seem very willing to clean you out before you can find your bucket and a tall enough ladder.

Here is a recipe for a semi dry chokecherry wine that I used about 5 years ago. This recipe is for one gallon, but the recipe can be multiplied to make a larger quantity. This makes a nice deep red, dry wine. Not bitter, not sweet.

2 lbs. Chokecherries
1 gallon water
1 lb Raisins
2 1/2 lbs. sugar
1 Campden tablet
1 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 tsp. Acid Blend
1/2 tsp. Pectic Enzyme
1 pkg. Wine Yeast (One pack of yeast is good for up to 5 gallons)

  • Pick fruit when it is ripe (black purple).
  • Wash and remove stems, leaves, and bruised fruit.
  • Mash the cherries, the pits are too big to remove but be careful not to break them as they are bitter.
  • Put the pulp into a nylon straining bag and squeeze out juice into a primary fermentor.
  • With the bag tied closed, place it in primary fermentor along with all the other ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE YEAST.
  • Wait 24 hours, and then add yeast and cover.
  • The SG should be about 1.090 – 1.095.
  • Check the SG daily and push the pulp bag down into the juice, you can even squeeze the bag a little to help with the juice extraction.
  • At SG 1.030 take out pulp bag, squeeze out all juice and siphon into a glass carboy.
  • Leave it in the secondary for 3 weeks or until SG is 1.000.
  • Rack into clean carboy and hold for at least 2 months before bottling.

Brian McInall
Owner of Valley Wines
Deep River

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Lecture, Workshop and Plant-a-rama


The first two weeks of June are going to be busy ones for the Deep River and Area Horticultural Society. There are 3 events: a lecture, a workshop and our Fourth Annual Plant-a-rama event.

The Lecture

Award-winning local photographer Don Beauprie will share tips on how to photograph nature’s beauty and capture that prefect photo. Don’s photos have been featured in nature and gardening magazines, as well as the book he wrote and on the cover of Lee Valley Tools catalogue. His photo entry of crocuses in last year’s photo contest category “caught in the rain” adorns the cover of the 2016 Society’s yearbook. The talk takes place at the North Renfrew Long Term Care Centre – Drop-In Centre at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7. Doors are open at 6:45 p.m.

The Workshop



A great Incredible Edible Volunteer Opportunity: Our fourth annual Plant-a-rama! We will meet near the cemetery at the corner of St. Mary’s Lane and McElligott Drive on June 11th at 10 a.m.

We will be benchpreparing and   tidying out our old beds, maybe building a second raised bed,  planting and working on our food forest.

We will have a free lunch for volunteers. (If you are a vegetarian, let Jen know.)

Dress to get dirty and for the weather. Don’t forget work gloves, bug spray and water.

If you can (and want), please bring any of the following:

  • Tools like shovels, rakes, hoes, hammers, screwdrivers etc.
  • Plants to Donate
  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Food to share for BBQ

The more the merrier! Please feel free to come for only part of the day. Even an hour of your time will make a BIG difference.

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Spring and Summer Show Schedules

Click below to see the Spring and Summer Flower and Vegetable Shows’ Schedules. Any member can participate. Membership sales open today!

2016 Spring Show Schedule

2016 Summer Flower and Veg Show Schedule

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Volunteer Opportunity

We are looking for people who are interested in helping to sell memberships over the next couple weeks. Contact any member of the executive for more information.

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