Category Archives: Vegetables

Vegetable Gardening

Twice in the last month I have had each of my sisters ask me about how to start a vegetable garden.  One has a rather large-ish city lot, but more interest in eating local than the actual act of gardening.  The other is helping a school create a large garden plot.  As I was researching various aspects of their projects for them, I came across, which had a great comparison of three different types of veggie gardens:

Traditional Gardening

  • A large plot of earth tilled up, and organized in long rows.
  • Requires a lot of space, and a lot of work.
  • If you have good soil the startup costs can be very low–just purchasing some seeds.
  • Challenge:  weeds. Mulching can help, but you will inevitably battle as many weeds (or more!) as you have plants.

Square Foot Gardening

  • Garden beds are built and filled with soil. Raised beds are easier to access, especially for those with physical limitations.
  • Plants are spaced very close together, eliminating “rows.”
  • Utilizes vertical gardening–supporting plants with trellises, staking, etc. This reduces the space needed on the ground by growing vining plants up instead of out.
  • Challenges: startup costs can be much higher because beds must be built or purchased, and soil must be replenished each year. You may need fertilizer to provide enough nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.

Container Gardening

  • For those with very small yards or just a balcony or a porch to use, container gardening is a great option
  • Many “dwarf” varieties have been developed to help those growing in such small areas.
  • Benefit: requires very little space.
  • Challenges: harvest may be limited, the soil will need constant improvement and fertilizer, and plants grown this way can be more susceptible to disease.


And because whenever I begin looking at pictures of veggie gardens, I have to dream a bit, here’s my ideal garden, a blend of traditional and square foot gardening!

Potager Garden

Starting Seeds Indoors

Welcome to another great year of gardening! I’m super excited to share gardening tips and tricks, and learn new things along with all the staff and customers at Lacoste this year!  This year on the blog I’m hoping to try out some “gardening hacks” from around the web, experiments with new varieties and old favourite plants, and as always new recipes from local produce! I hope you’ll come along with me, and share your experiences too!

Today, I have a few thoughts on starting seeds for springtime.  The other night we were watching a program on Netflix called “The Mind of a Chef”.  Chef Sean Brock is very keen on using heritage crops in his cooking, and is a big proponent of seed-saving from one year to the next. Starting seeds indoors can be a great way to get a head start on your garden for spring, and help to speed the transition out of winter!

By the end of March, it will be time to start any indoor seeding, so now is a great time to gather supplies.  You’ll need a growing medium (peat moss), containers (cell packs are available at the store, egg-cartons will also work!), and a variety of your choice of seeds.  Most seed packets will have general instructions regarding when to start the seeds, how much light they need, how far to space them and how to water, but here are a few more tips!

  • Moisten the growing medium (peat moss) so that it isn’t soggy, but rather similar to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
  • Cover the freshly seeded containers with a transparent lid.  Once the seeds begin to germinate (sprout), remove the lid to allow air to circulate, and the plants to become stocky rather than stretch out.
  • Grow-lights, or cool fluorescent tubes are the best option for providing light, however a bright sunny window will often do the trick too!
  • Water the seedlings when the top layer of the soil appears dry.  Use a small watering can with a fine spray.  Be careful not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to a fungal infestation!
  • Seedlings first sprout with two “cotyledons” or “seed leaves”, once there are true leaves, you can begin adding fertilizer when you water. Begin at half strength for a few weeks.
  • Once the risk of frost has passed, and you’ve gradually acclimatized your plants to outside, you can plant your plants in the garden!

When you’re choosing seeds to seed, consider what you will actually use, and enjoy in your garden.  Basil is a great choice for beginners, as are beans.  If you’d prefer to skip the veggies, and concentrate on flowers, pansies and petunias are also quite reliable!

Before we know it, all those little seeds will have turned into mature plants that every at-home chef can use for their own delicious creations!

Thanksgiving Recipes with Local Produce

I’m not sure about your house, but at mine, it seems like fall is moving very quickly this year! I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is coming up this weekend!  This year we’ll be attending two dinners, one of which will be at our house.  Fortunately, both are collaborative affairs, which mean that I personally won’t have to worry about cooking a turkey, or inventing a complete menu.  One of my favourite things about this style dinner is that it provides some freedom to try new recipes!  Fortunately, there is still lots of local produce available that can make these recipes that much more delicious!

I have a standard Butternut Squash soup recipe that I can make in my sleep, but the addition of the apples and herbs in this one, makes me think that I might need to expand my repertoire a little!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash; peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
2 carrots, cut in thick slices
1 med onion, cubed
2 gala apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp of dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup light cream
32 oz vegetable stock, pre-made or from scratch

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss squash, carrots, onion, apples, and garlic in large bowl with olive oil and the dried herbs. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil. Roast in oven for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven and place the vegetable mixture into a large soup pot over medium heat.

Add vegetable stock.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove the pot from the heat. Working in 2-3 batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. You can add more vegetable stock if the soup is too thick. Stir in cream until thoroughly mixed and serve!


I found this recipe in a magazine this summer and LOVED it, and even better, so have guests, AND kids!  As an added bonus, the potatoes can be boiled ahead of time, and the roasting done just before supper, which makes them a bit of a time saver!  I also have added paprika (smoked paprika would make it even tastier I’m sure!) with the salt and pepper, for an added kick.

Baby Red Potatoes (about a dozen or so, depending on size)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in pan in one layer. Add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are cooked through and can be pierced easily with a fork.Drain potatoes well and pat dry if necessary.

Preheat oven to 450F. Place on baking sheet and gently press each on with your palm to flatten. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt & pepper. Roast potatoes for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; flip each potato over, drizzling with more olive oil if any looks dry and seasoning with more salt, if necessary. Roast for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are sizzling and crispy.

Serve immediately.



Dill Pickle Recipe

It is definitely produce-season at Lacoste; we’re continually receiving all sorts of local veggies and fruits, and some not-so-local fruits too (maybe one day there will be orchards of oranges and peaches here ;) ). All this produce means one thing to many people; myself included.  It is time to can all this summer-goodness so we can enjoy it long into the winter.

So far this year I’ve made both strawberry and raspberry jam, and have a bunch of peaches waiting in the fridge for me to tackle this week.  Salsa is on the horizon too, and likely some spicy beans. BUT the most important of all the canning I do is the dill pickles.  It is both the most important and the most work intensive.  Between washing and prepping the jars, the lids, and the cucumbers, peeling the garlic, and trimming the dill, making pickles it is definitely a two-person job.  Come to think of it, it is a three-person job, as these days someone needs to be on baby-sitting duty, to keep the little monsters away from the boiling, salty brine!

I wish I could share my recipe with you, as it is delicious, but it isn’t so much a formula as a general guideline.  It was given to me by a woman who worked in the nursery, and everyone loves her pickles, so my goal is to just make sure that they are as tasty as hers! Some years, depending on the freshness of the garlic and dill they may be more dill-y or more garlic-y, but they usually all are eaten by the time the next batch is ready!

Debbie’s Dill Pickles


7 ½ cups water

7 ½ cups vinegar

½ cup salt

Fill the jar with as many cucumbers as you can, mixed with 2 dill flower heads, and 4 cloves of garlic.  Pour the brine to fill the jar, and seal up in whatever manner works for you!


  • I make sure to use not only local cucumbers and dill (because they’re both plentiful this time of year, and so delicious!) but also local garlic.  I find its spicier, and more flavourful
  • To determine how many pounds of cucumbers to use, I usually assume that it’s a little less than the number of jars I make. i.e.:

30 lbs cucumbers = 26 Jars of pickles

(I used 12 bunches of dill and 16 bulbs of garlic)

  • I’m not sure if my method of sealing jars is safe from food-code violations, but the jars seal, and I don’t sell them.  I usually wash the jars in the dishwasher, and keep them in a 250° oven.  The lids I keep in a boiling pot of water.  After I pour the brine into the jar, I place the lid on, and while they cool, the button pops to seal them up.  I know there’s lots of ways to seal jars when you search google, but this works for me!

The occasional year when I’ve not made pickles, or run out early has convinced me that the effort is worth it, as I’ve yet to find a store-bought pickle that satisfies what I’m looking for in a pickle.  Hopefully this will be the year you try it out too!!  It’s fun and delicious, and make great Christmas gifts for neighbours, friends and co-workers!!

Q & A for New Gardeners: Am I too late to start planting?

Is it too late to start planting?

I like this one! It is definitely NOT too late to start planting.  I still have a couple of flats of impatiens waiting to get in the ground.  They’re at least sitting beside where they will go, but we’re just waiting on a free hour to get them in there!

Bedding plants, vegetables and basket stuffers are still available in the greenhouse, and will be just fine to plant anytime. (Though be warned, the selection is no longer as extensive as it was in early May).

Starting seeds, with proper selections is still possible too.  It is unfortunately a little late to start tomatoes and peppers by seed, as they require a longer growing season than we have left.  However, there are lots of choices that only require a 60-day season.  Lettuce and arugula grow quickly, and you will be enjoying fresh salads before too long.  Beans, radishes and beets are also great choices, and you can enjoy them later in the season, after others’ are finished!

How to Start Seeds Indoors

Spring has sprung; or it is about to anyway! We’ve started some seeding and planting as of last week, and things are starting to pick up at the greenhouse.  Some of our plants are started from seed (such as Basil, and Rudbeckia), but most actually arrive at our door as “seeded plugs” or “rooted cuttings” which are essentially tiny baby plants.  They come in a flat of and are transplanted either by hand, or by a transplant machine. Now, since you won’t be ordering plugs, and probably don’t have a transplant machine hiding in your garage, Canadian Gardening Magazine offered these great tips for starting seeds at home:

  • Annuals and vegetables are the easiest to grow.

Tip from Lacoste: basil, pansies and petunias are the best options for beginners in early spring; beans and marigolds are great for later spring planting

  • Propagating kits include four or six cell packs, a tray to hold the packs and a plastic lid. Newly sprouted seedlings may look alike, so label containers as you sow!

Tip from Lacoste: consider using “plantable” containers, that you can simple pop into the ground when it is time to move your plants outside

  • Use fresh, sterile seed-starting mixture. Moisten mixture about an hour before sowing; it shouldn’t be soggy, just as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Tip from Lacoste: Using a proper seeding mix will greatly reduce the chances of fungus forming on the soil. We sell the same bags in the store that we use for our planting

  • Seed packets contain information on timing, lighting requirements, sowing depth, and optimal germination and growing temperatures.

Tip from Lacoste:  include microrhyse (“Myke”) to encourage exceptional root development

  • Lightly water freshly sown flats, and then cover with plastic dome lid. At the first signs of germination, uncover or remove from plastic bag.  
  • When the top of the soil looks dry, water carefully using a small watering can with a fine spray. Avoid overwatering: soggy soil and poor air circulation can lead to damping off, a fungal disease that can kill baby plants. Prevention is best, but the fungicide No Damp can also help.

Tip from Lacoste: a sprinkling of cinnamon, or watering with chamomile tea is another option to prevent damping off

  • A bright window works, but grow lights or cool fluorescent tubes are better. Keep seedlings about eight to 10 centimetres from light source to prevent plants from becoming too spindly.
  • When seedlings have two sets of true leaves (the first leaves are called cotyledons—or seed leaves—so wait for the true ones), start feeding once a week with a balanced (20-20-20), water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength, working up to full strength after a few weeks.
  • Plants grown indoors need hardening off before they are planted outdoors. After the last frost date, start by setting them outside in a shady, sheltered spot, initially for half a day, then gradually leaving them out all day. Progressively move them into sunnier and windier areas to acclimatize to garden conditions.

Starting seeds at home can be a fun and simple way to get ready for spring but may require a little practice, and a little patience. Fortunately here in Winnipeg, we’ve been practicing patience all through this cold cold winter!:)

Unique Pumpkin Carving Ideas

While the Halloween season certainly doesn’t fill me with dread, as it does Beaker and Bunsen Honeydew, I do sometimes have feelings of pumpkin carving inadequacy!

Around this time of year, I start seeing all the pumpkin carving kits at the grocery and craft stores, and think to myself, “this year is the year, this year I’m going to do something cool and unique”.  Invariably, when I’m sitting on a carpet of newspaper, in the middle of the kitchen floor, surrounded by pumpkin innards, wielding a large, sharp knife, I end up cutting out the traditional triangle eyes and nose, and toothy mouth.

It’s happening again this year; I’ve cruised Pinterest for inspiration.  There are some that are just beyond my ability and patience:

Then there are some that are unique ways of looking at the options:

The 1st uses a drill to create patterns, the 2nd and 3rd add props, and the 4th turns the typical carving on its side!

But, if you want to stick with a traditional, carved pumpkin, here are some basic patterns, that look achievable, even without a carve-o-matic 3000.

If you’ve got little ones, don’t forget to check out our pumpkin party this Saturday from 10:30-2:30. We’ll have three different creation stations to decorate three different pumpkins  ($5 each).  There will be Halloween crafts and treats for all ages! I’d love to see you there!

Roasted Vegetables

This weekend marked the first “official” day of fall.  There are many indicators that fall is upon us; first days of school, frost warnings at night, the return of the pumpkin spice latte, to mention a few!  January 1st often gets all the glory of “New Year’s resolutions” but I know for many, September is also a time of new beginnings, and a time to kick-start good habits.  Myself, after a summer of barbecues and wiener roasts, I’m ready to add in some more vegetables to my mealtime. Luckily for me, fall is the time of year when an abundance of vegetables are being harvested, and I have TONS of options!

One of my favourite ways to eat more veggies is in soups; I feel like you can pack a ton of nutritious goodness in one small bowl.  It’s a bonus that most soups are quite easy to make!  My go-to soup these days is Butternut Squash soup.  I’ve made it so many times that I can do it without thinking, and in less time than it takes to order a pizza! I tried a new one last night, and it took longer, but was definitely worth it!

Butternut and Roasted Vegetable Soup

1 Butternut Squash

1 Leek

1 Onion, peeled, cut in half

5 Shallots, peeled

1 bulb Garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 Carrots, peeled, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 Stalks Celery, trimmed

1 Small bunch of Fresh Sage Leaves, stems removed

Olive Oil

Salt, Pepper



6 – 8 Cups of Chicken Stock

Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. or 180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, reserve them. Trim the root and the toughest part of the green end of the leek, cut it into quarters lengthwise from the root end toward the green, stopping before the end so that the layers are held together, rinse well under cool water, dry. Lightly coat the vegetables and sage leaves with olive oil. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all of the vegetables lightly with salt, pepper and whole sage leaves. Sprinkle the butternut lightly with cinnamon and drizzle it with a few drops of honey. Roast the vegetables in the oven, checking after about fifteen minutes, remove them as they become soft and turn golden brown on the edges and reserve them. When the butternut is quite soft, scoop out the flesh, cool it slightly, squeeze out the garlic to remove the peel, add with the rest of the vegetables to a food processor and puree until smooth. Place in a stockpot and add the stock. Simmer the soup for a few minutes, adding more chicken stock if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Lightly toast the butternut seeds in the oven. To serve the soup, sprinkle with toasted seeds and shaved parmesan.

Taken from:


Bonus: We’re currently selling free-range chickens at Lacoste, so after you’ve roasted one up for your Sunday dinner, while you’re cleaning up, toss the carcass in the pot, and make some broth!

I usually chop an onion in half (skin and all), break a few carrots and stalks of celery into chunks (unpeeled), toss them in a pot with some salt, pepper and a bay leaf or two.  It usually comes to a boil by the time the dishes are done, and then I let it simmer for an hour or two, strain out the broth and throw it in the freezer until next soup day!