Thursday, April 27, 2017

Blue Spring and Vultures

Since rebuilding the raised bed, the temps dropped considerably so things slowed down outside. But under the grow lights inside, tomatoes, eggplant (aubergines) and peppers are growing well. They will not get put outside until the ground warms up, and only God knows when that will be. But the good news is, two days of light rain and the garden has certainly perked up! The little blue flowers of Chionodoxa are covering one bed, and other bulbs are putting on growth; seeing this is always a spring tonic don't you agree?
Pulmonaria blue ensign above, is blooming at the same time; the Cornus mas Redstone is a wet blur of yellow!

The Captain vacuumed the know what I mean? He used the lawnmower to suck up all the bits of debris from tidying the beds and what winter left behind under the snow. No grass to mow but surprisingly he said there were three bags full, just like when he does mow, so that is a lot of debris isn't it.
Usually we broadcast pelletized lime over the 'herbal' lawn after the vacuuming, and a little fertilizer to keep it from totally being covered with what is normally referred to as weeds. My son said once, how he loved the fact that our lawn was covered with natural growing plants; plantain, dandelions, moss, bluetts, clover etc. I took that in stride, continuing to be envious of the perfect lawn, but that is never going to happen around here. Plantain was never much of a problem when we had hares in the woods. They would happily much away and it really was their preferred lawn food. But we haven't seen a hare (hide nor hare))) for a long time. They were the reason we put chicken wire around the vegetable garden, at the bottom of the pickets, extending it down into the soil surrounding it.

There's been lots of bird traffic at the feeder; blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches and sparrows along with the usual bossy crows. The robins came to feast on the sumac cones and I've never seen them eat those seeds. However, one of the most exciting bird sightings happened late on the 21st of April when two turkey vultures landed just above the back garden and stayed the night. For any southern folks this would likely make you chuckle, to think we would be excited about this, but it is still considered a rare bird here in Nova Scotia, Canada. I was able to get a few photos as well. You can just see the second one to the right, with it's red head, behind the tree tops.
A good drizzle is falling out there now, and the temperatures are at twelve degrees C. so I know, those baby germinated choy, radish, lettuce, arugula, beets and chard are doing their happy dance, hoops uncovered, feeling their own spring joy, grateful to see spring arrive, as I am.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring In Progress

It was time! The two raised beds, where we overwinter or start our early crops, were rotting. Seven years..who would have thought they would last that long.
The Captain was prepared, cut all the boards ahead of time, and we got down to business. The rot was even worse than we imagined.
Our weather is still very cold, so we felt sure, once the sides were extracted, the earth would stand frozen, alone and unsupported, like a beautiful chocolate cake. That is pretty well what happened as you can see below. Soil on the sides crumbled a bit, and well you know how things go...there was a modest miscalculation caused by the decrepit state of the raised bed. And, we forgot about the wire at the bottom to keep out the rodents, and so, it did go as planned, except we forgot some things.
Originally we had lined behind the boards with plastic, mostly to keep the soil from washing out between the wood. Yup, we forgot that too...  We got up to speed pretty quickly, and although the wire has to be retrofitted, surprisingly it went along fairly well, until we I got tired and cranky.
Supervising is a tough job! One bed done, now for the back one. Maybe this year..maybe not. There are always jobs in the garden, it's just making time for them I guess, and that is often the problem. Making the time. Just do what you can, don't get too bogged down. The intention was and always has been, for it to be a joy in our lives.

I closed my eyes and thought of the first day of spring. Did you celebrate? It was a beautiful sunny day here on the south shore; a perfect day to be invited out for lunch, to raise a glass with an ode to the season recited capably by another guest. So dear friend, you knew exactly what to do when you found that forgotten bag of tulip bulbs in the shed...craft a centerpiece. Thank you so much for making it happen. Happy Spring Everyone.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Out And About

The ice has moved out of the bay for now, hopefully for good. Out on our recent walk, the gravel roads frozen like concrete, hurt your eyes blue sky above, we noticed a neighbouring home having a second floor built above it. We always referred to it as 'the pink house' but likely we will have to give it another name soon. The construction workers have had great weather to do this, with very little snow this winter.

While the temperatures were practically balmy when I wrote my last blog, we recently dipped to well below zero, cold winds making it feel bitter. But, during that warm balmy time, seeds were planted in the raised bed with the Lexan cover. It did not take them long to germinate and hopefully, they will continue to do well.
Knowing the weather was going to 'dip' this past week, they were covered with another layer of insulation I call Fleece or Reemay. This comes in different weights ..ours is a medium weight. But it does the job, keeping little germinated seeds alive under the white blanket and over that, the Lexan cover. Arugula, radish and spinach sprouted but not beets so far. As a wise gardener once told me..."think of that raised bed as an outside refrigerator"..and I do. It will keep the greens chilled to perfection until the days lengthen even longer and they put on more growth. We are going up to seven degrees on Wednesday so will remove the Remay and if needed, will prop open the cover as it does get very warm about one in the afternoon in that raised bed.

Looking back to last year's photos, it was remarkable to see no snow. In fact, on the 20th, we had fluffed up the beds, and had everything ready to plant. I am doubtful we will this year, but you never know.
Our neighbour's Witch Hazel is in bloom (mine is not but that's another story) and I notice the little Daphne that is native to Nova Scotia is wanting to open so signs of spring are appearing daily. I could do without the constant coo coooing of the Mourning Doves at crack of dawn though. No crows looking for nest material so far, but I have seen on the warm days, the chickadees and squirrels pecking and chewing on the maples for the sweet sap. It won't be long now and Nova Scotia gardeners will be in hyper mode!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My First Seedy Saturday

Even though our local South Shore Nova Scotia area celebrated its eleventh year of bringing gardeners and community together, this actually was the first "Seedy Saturday" I have ever attended. Well it was quite an event!

One of the tables set up by the sponsor Helping Nature Heal, offered home gardeners the opportunity to share freely their extra seeds from plants grown themselves, or seeds they might have too much of. So, over the last few days..sorting..measuring.. sifting and shaking.... little baggies got filled, labeled and sealed.
The tiny broccoli seeds were the worst to separate from their dried pods but with a little crunching, smashing and forcing, they finally tumbled through the strainer, and were packaged up.
The vendors were all local! How wonderful is that. Six years ago you would be hard pressed to find folks who were seeds persons growing, packing and selling locally, and now we have quite a few wonderful, exuberant, exciting youthful people with such commitment to community .....grateful is a word that cannot be overused!

A soup lunch was offered..shared in the same family spirit of kindness and goodness ... joy germinated everywhere! And to top it off, the guest speaker was Niki Jabbour, who has done so much to promote Year Round Vegetable Gardening, her first book is a number one seller at Amazon. The presentation today was on seed starting and I noted, there were few questions as the power point gave step by step direction, with huge encouragement on how to begin this 'scary business' of starting your own seeds.
The above means, weeks before last frost.
Note the Cucamelon (sometimes referred to as Mouse Melon) on the list above. This has been getting a lot of interest and there was one vendor selling them today, packages going quite quickly I noticed.

Yes the soup was fantastic, yes the speaker was fantastic, yes, the seeds men and women were wonderful, and yes, the buzz and frizzle in the air was electric but I will tell you what this gardener loved the most. I loved seeing all the many children that attended with family or friends, the future shining in their faces. If today was a cell pack full of spouting seeds, lets just say the growth was phenomenal...that happens you know, with fertilization, handfuls of love and mutual respect measured exactly right.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wintery February

We are finally getting some snow! One nor'easter after another to be exact. Where we live, on the south shore of Nova Scotia, very near the sea, the winters can be cold and long. But, that doesn't always mean we will have lots of snow and we can have 'dry' winters when not enough precipitation has fallen. The last Nor'easter was Thursday, dropping just enough of the white stuff to make me feel hopeful, we won't be struggling with lack of water from the well come summertime. Many people last year had their wells run dry, first time ever. This prompted me to wonder about groundwater levels, and the relationship with weather in the late winter and spring months. I am far too lazy to make the effort to research just so you know. However, I was pleased to read a piece written by the author Katherine Swift. (If you haven't read her books, have a google.... I love her writing). The author had contributed to a British Garden magazine noting a dry February was thought to be a particularly bad sign referring to old rhymes about 'February fill dyke, be it black or be it white'. So even though, it is tough going some days, local roads icy underneath and covered with snow, and more shovelling on the horizon, I am trying to be grateful for these February storms and not grumble.

On a positive note, the snow is happily keeping the garden warm, nestled under its soft pillowy blanket. The mice are probably making 'runs', scurrying at ground level a foot or more down, to and from the sleeping beds, gathering lost seeds, and eating whatever they can find I expect. In the spring, when the snow does melt, the evidence is quite clear, as there are many mouse highways across the lawn where they have run so many times, the grass is flat and poor.

For the first time in many years, I did not extend the garden season inside the picket fence, choosing instead to give it a rest. Also, the two raised beds which are about thigh high, (above photo) have not been planted/extended either. However, one of them, the one with the Lexan cover, can be seeded very early as it acts not just as a raised bed but also as a cold frame. (One of the wisest choices we ever made was building this.) A gift of "Celtuce" seeds arrived just the other day and this is definitely going to be one of my 'something new this year' to try. Not sure I am up to the task but am intrigued by it's growing requirements and the fact that one eats the stem more so than the leaf. I did note one can make a pesto from the leaves but really, this most unusual lettuce grown more for its stalk has me hoping to succeed. Below are the packets that arrived from our local Nova Scotia seed producer Annapolis Seeds. Excited!! If they can grow these plants here in Nova Scotia, gathering the seeds to share with us, then surely there is hope for success.
Meanwhile, the kitchen is fragrant with the smell of what appears to be the largest hyacinth I have ever nurtured in my life. Grocery store bought, when it was only just pushing itself out of the pot, this harbinger of spring entices memories of days soon to come, while the seeds promise a bounty yet to grow.
Onion seeds have sprouted under the lights downstairs...oh how I love fresh grown from seed onions. I can tell the difference, yes I can!
They are as crispy as an apple when you pull them fresh from the soil, and although this variety, White Wing, is also a keeper, mine never make it that far. White and glossy with their green grey stems, Onions are as beautiful as any hyacinth!