Aside from being the most exciting month in the garden, May brings Mother’s Day which is just an awesome excuse to celebrate the mothers, grandmother’s, sisters and aunts in our lives. Between us, we are celebrating a lot of women.
This could be a particularly special May for Ben and his wife Sam, as Sam is due to become a mother before the end of the month, and by extension Ben will become a father.

Becoming a new parent changes everything. Even the way we look at the garden.
In Ben’s case it has a profound way of reorienting him towards the long-term future and raises the stakes for environmental responsibility.

For Mark, it was standing in his backyard with a bottle of insecticide malathion in his hand, looking over at his new-born daughter Lynn when he decided to go chemical free almost 40 years ago. 
As Ben prepares to welcome his first-born son this month, preparing for the gardening season has been a different exercise than years past. For one, he is thinking about what type of garden he can keep on little-to-no sleep. We will save that for another newsletter. His other consideration is what he can grow that will work for baby food as the little tyke starts eating solids just as this year’s harvest comes in.

Here is our list of baby-friendly vegetables to grow-your-own this summer.
*Legal Disclaimer* - we are not baby-nutritionists, only gardeners!!!
Please consider these recommendations as suggestions only, and not bonified medical advice. Perhaps someday we can convince one of the mothers in our lives to guest-write a parenting column. For another day….okay- let’s prime that kitchen blender for a workout! 
Broccoli is a cool season crop –we are even a bit late for a spring crop now but you can plant store-bought transplants.  For an autumn crop, sow broccoli seeds 7-9 weeks before your last frost date for an autumn harvest, early to mid-August in Ontario.

Perfect timing for Ben’s little guy to start eating solids.

Direct-sow three broccoli seeds together ½ inch deep into a fertile, well drained soil so that you can thin them out when they reach an inch in height – leave the strongest one standing. Water as needed until harvest. Broccoli, like all brassicas, is susceptible to many different insect pressures and does not like scorching heat.

That is why it is a good idea to grow these crops under a light floating row cover, to diffuse some sunlight and keep the likes of aphids, cabbage moth and flea beetles at bay. After harvest, steam two cups of cut broccoli and puree with one apple or a small, boiled potato for a toddler feast. 
Carrots are so popular with some babies it turns them orange. So we are told, anyway. You can direct-sow carrot seeds any time throughout the gardening season, just makes sure that if you are establishing them in the summer heat that they get adequate moisture while young. 

The small seedlings can shrivel in a heatwave very quickly. Carrots are happiest in a loose, loamy soil with a smooth prepared seedbed for good seed-soil contact. The easiest way to sow these tiny seeds is by mixing them with about four parts sand and scatter on the surface, then cover them with a ½ inch of fine compost. Once established, thin them out so they are three inches apart.

When orange tops start showing above the surface of the soil they are ready to dig. Steamed and pureed carrots are perfect for many babies given the natural sweetness of carrots or roast them with a medley of other root vegetables before blending. 
Butternut squash is great for its natural sweetness and ease of blending – it is smooth enough you might want to dip into this one for yourself. Growing squash is easy but be advised squash can take up a lot of space as the vines can grow up to 15 feet. 

Sow squash seeds now through the end of May. They take about 120 days to maturity- so it is best to start them indoors or find transplants at a garden retailer. Plant into a fertile, well draining soil and feed throughout the season for greatest yield. Rich compost will do the trick. Keep an eye out for insects on the broad leaves and spray if necessary, with insecticidal soap.

Tip: training your vine up a small lattice or structure will keep your squash up off the surface of the soil and produce a smooth, healthy squash.

Cut in half lengthwise, coat with olive oil and roast for 45 minutes at 375F. When cooked, scoop the insides into your blender and puree.

Here is to a happy, healthy summer in the cabbage patch for new parents and grandparents – and happy, healthy, home-grown babies. 

Mark and Ben cullen
Merchants of Beauty and Beans.
Get Ahead of Insects and Disease with dormant spray. Wait until nighttime temperatures are above freezing for an after dark treatment of your trees, shrubs and roses. Apply before the buds have fully broken.

Start your zinnias, marigolds, cucumbers, squash and other fast growers or wait another couple weeks and direct sow them outdoors. Always in a sunny garden.

Overseed the lawn with quality lawn soil and grass seed and apply CIL Iron Plus to existing lawns.

Prepare your containers. Containers should be emptied of last year's soil and replaced with quality stuff. The point is to replace used, tired container soil with the best new soil you can get your hands in and put last year's container soil in your garden. If you live somewhere off the ground, like a condo, give the soil to a friend who owns some real estate.

Prepare the soil. Meanwhile, back on the ground, enhance the quality of the soil in your garden with generous quantities of compost. Mark spreads two to three centimeters of compost over most of his garden this time of year. He lets the earth worms "work it in" to the sub soil. You can turn yours under by hand or use a rototiller if you wish.

Plant. Most Canadians live in a growing zone where frost is expected for at least the next couple of weeks. All of us can plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses now. If you find perennials that have not been greenhouse-forced, they can be planted out as well. 

Sow. Many veggies can be sown by seed now, regardless of frost in the forecast: peas, radishes, beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
On this week’s podcast, we are chatting with Angel of Good Fortune Farmstead. Angel and her partner Raph are experienced farmers in search of their farmstead.

Their mission is to grow abundant, delicious & nutrient-dense food to feed and beautiful flowers to delight!

Good Fortune farming practices will regenerate the soil (increasing its long-term fertility), protect our precious water and increase the land’s drought-resilience. Their goal is also to strengthen local food sovereignty in the face of climate change, a global pandemic and racial injustice — issues which are known to be deeply interrelated. The business plan includes offering subsidized farm educational opportunities to BIPOC youth and adults.
Tune in - on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.
We write a weekly column for the New In Homes & Condos section of the Saturday Toronto Star.
In case you missed it, these are the exciting gardening/environment columns we wrote in April.
By: Jody Allair
As I type this, May is just days away. For me, that means the return of amazing neotropical migrant birds that spend the spring and summer months in Canada. As a life-long birder, I consider May one of the best months of the year. No other time has the same diversity of brightly coloured, singing songbirds. These birds include thrushes, wood-warblers, grosbeaks, buntings – and of course those retina-burning, life-changing, electrified ornaments – the tanagers.
Western Tanager
Photo credit: Jody Allair
During the month of May, most North American wood-warblers, thrushes and sparrows are nearing their final destination in Canada’s boreal forest. Some of these amazing migrants have travelled from as far away as Central and South America. And as I’ve talked about before in this space, these incredible birds fly at night and use constellations and the earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate.

I thought I would mix things up a bit in this month’s article and highlight a species of tanager that can be found on spring migration only in Canada’s western provinces – the undeniably stunning Western Tanager. The striking males of this species (seen here in my photo) are bright golden-yellow with fiery-orange heads and black wings with yellowish wing bars. The females, beautiful in a more subtle way, are greenish-yellow with similar dark wings with pale bars.

Western Tanagers breed in the boreal and montane forests from northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, across BC and up into the Northwest Territories. On migration however they can be seen in backyards or anywhere there is forested green space. They seem to like foraging in fruiting trees and shrubs that have leftover food from the previous season. To try and entice one into your yard, you can try putting out citrus fruit much the same way as you would to attract orioles.

So with this little teaser on the amazing birds that are about to fly through our neighbourhoods, I hope you take the time to get outside and enjoy this avian spectacle.

Happy spring migration, everyone!

Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair
Feature Recipe - Cucumber -Melon & Feta Salad

Chef Ilona Daniel shares with you her fresh take for this unexpected salad!
Are you craving fresh and juicy salads, but are looking for something off the beaten track? My cucumber-melon salad has not one lettuce leaf in the mix, but rather it’s packed with 3 different melons, cucumber, and feta cheese. Think of this salad as the cousin of the Greek chopped salad. This tastes great on its own, or you can serve it on the side with your favourite grilled meats. Click here for the recipe