Friday, February 25, 2011

Making a Comfy Bed for Asparagus

The first time I actually saw a "real live" asparagus growing out of the ground, I had no idea what it was. We were caretaking a farm in British Columbia at the time, learning a whole new respect for where our food 'came from'. Mentioning this to Malcolm, the farm owner, he said "you mean that old asparagus bed is still producing!". By that time, the crowns had been in the field fifteen years. Within a day, we had the spears cut and die for!! So began our love affair with asparagus.

Thirteen years passed before we bought this property but putting in an asparagus bed was at the top of our list. We had help digging the trenches, filling them partly with rich compost, mixing soil with manure, lightening it with sand....ah, memories, family time well spent. We followed directions from a borrowed copy of Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening in Canada although I don't remember reading there, the crowns should be laid on little hummocks of sand but we did that, to prevent crown rot. Our two rows, about four feet apart and 23 feet long, are enough for a family for four.  The roots are particularly adverse to wet conditions and if you think you might find them a home in soggy soil with poor drainage.....don't waste your money or effort. They won't put up with constant wet.  This is the bed below on May 21st last year but the spears first appeared April 11th.

Variety ....Viking.  We like the flavor very much and plants are available locally. Careful not to let the area get weedy, we give a good cover of composted manure early spring, don't walk on the bed except to weed or pick the spears  (as the roots don't like it if you do) and usually we also mulch with straw although haven't the last two years. A good reference is here. They like the soil about pH 7.0 so must put some lime on this year as well. Harvesting stops when we don't see them for sale anymore at the farmers market, about July 1st. can kind of tell when they are tired and need to grow on into ferns to replenish the roots with energy for next year's crop.

What you have here is a great looking perennial plant with gorgeous fronds (here seen shimmering in dewy autumn) that will look great the rest of the season after you're done harvesting. If you do flower arranging..this is your Asparagus fern.

It's time now to think about putting a bed in. Yes, a bit of work at the beginning and you will have to wait three birthdays before cutting a full harvest... but you will pat yourself on the back for years to come, grateful that you made the effort.


Monday, February 21, 2011

What's up Here at Home

The days are slipping by..closer and closer to March, when the majority of our edible garden seeds will begin their lives in moist warm soil. Leeks, however, should be started now....thanks Owen for the advice! Speaking of advice though, I must say bloggers, you've let me down. When I showed off my "magnificent leeks" in an earlier post, absolutely no one mentioned there was very little white on the stalks. (You are all too kind, this I know) In fact, I wondered about directions in cookbooks warning...YOU MUST wash leeks very carefully! Gee...mine were always so clean...and now I know why))). This is what I recently learned.

"Leeks should be transplanted into a trench about six inches deep that has about an inch of compost or well rotten manure at the bottom." Keep the babies snipped to about four inches till ready to transplant. "Around the last frost date, plant the seedlings up to their mid points at the bottom of the trench, about four inches apart". (That doesn't seem far enough apart to me though but I'm dreaming of GIANT leeks)))) "As they grow, gradually fill in the trenches to blanch as much of the leek as possible. Once the trench is filled in, then mulch well or hill up." Apparently, leeks hate weeds and dry soil, "so water during dry spells and before hilling up. They can be harvested early, up to 100-120 days from when they were transplanted." This information was gleaned from the pages of Harrowsmith Magazine. Well, I'm game for this...anything for nice long white leeks which are more usable.

So what else is up...just after Christmas the local nursery folks offered us a bunch of yellow stem dogwood branches; it was year end and clear out. With little hope, I kept them trimmed and in water. Now they're sprouting roots and blooming. How's that for winter miracles.....pretty awesome I would say. Thanks Ken.

The local grocery was selling primroses..almost dead..honestly, why do they do that. Is it necessary to bring in plants to sell and just ignore them and let them suffer so? Today, they are shining back at me, their dear pink faces glowing in the late winter sun through the front window. How can a primrose not promise spring!

We did sow a packet of  mache in the raised bed one of the last mild afternoons. Don't think it will do any harm..and well, if they's all good. There are still greens coming out of the Red Shed, growing under lights with minimal warmth, except on clear sunny days when it gets pretty steamy in there. A perfect place to sit and dream about summer.......

............the potting soil fragrant, lady bugs dancing....sigh...only four weeks till spring!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gardening Friends

Click to Enlarge Photos

I've been thinking about Anny Scoones and wondering if Glamorgan Farm  is prospering. We're friends you know...I've lived with her in spirit on her heritage farm near Victoria Airport, as she struggled "restoring the old barns, log by log" as she writes in her book, "Home, Tales of a Heritage Farm". Anny doesn't know me of course, but I feel I know her. It's that way with authors, who share a personal story that touches you, they become your friends.

While reading "The $64.00 Tomato" I murmured to William Alexander, "I did just that very same thing"... spent so much for soil and worked so hard to make things right and by the end of it, calculated my tomato likely cost $64.00 as well. Oh we are good friends William and I, lamenting our finances while laughing our socks off at the ridiculousness of it all.

Now, Charles Dudley Warner, "My Summer in a Garden", was a little harder to get to know. You see, he was born in 1829 and died in 1900...a bit of an "ages" difference there! He does contemplate whether women should have the vote but, he shared his trials and tribulations with me, a mere woman, and do you know, his challenges are the same as mine!! Oh how we suffered together but oh how we rejoiced as well.

Beverley Nichols was a delight..just the best friend ever..witty, brilliant, colorful and well...the type of man you don't mind going to bed read of course. I have only one of his books "Garden Open Today" but how I enjoyed it. "Love makes things grow the greenest" he states...wouldn't you agree?

Have you read Des Kennedy and his first book "Crazy About Gardening"? He begins by stating "all gardeners are nuts" and we only have to "ask a person who doesn't garden but lives with someone who does"... I will tell you honestly, I read this book and laughed till I cried. He is rather brilliant but I do wish Des had written more books like this. The rest were good..but...well, as friends, we grew apart, sadly.

Now you know Monty Don? He's kinda handsome..yup...married, sorry. But, he has his struggles let me tell you. Just read "The Jewel Garden", 'a story of despair and redemption'. Oh...been there Monty...despair, redemption..oh we could be such close confidants but..well...I know you are busy, traveling the world visiting eighty gardens. You're tired..I understand.

One of the last friends I would like to introduce is Charles American in England. I particularly enjoyed "More Papers from The Potting Shed".  Regarding Christopher Lloyd for instance..Charles states that "Lloyd proved over and over that he not only knew more about horticulture than almost anyone else, but was also prepared to learn experiment, challenge, break rules".  Well isn't that just me all over))), the experiment and challenge bit, definitely not the knowing about horticulture. Am I  like Christopher Lloyd even a titchy bit??..... Charles, you are too kind.

Books ARE the best, friends.

Thanks Garden inspired.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter Greetings!

Winter Greetings! Can one be upbeat about winter? When you live in Nova Scotia, on Canada's east coast, you just put up with winter, embrace it in question. We always hope it won't last too long and as a gardener, really hope severe weather systems miss us and the plot doesn't suffer too much.

Sometimes, we have such beautiful snow days, with gorgeous sun and blue shadows, it makes you all melty (see, positive thoughts..melt snow melt!). Today was the first time in ages I wore a light fleece jacket; sunshine warmed my cheeks and lady bugs hatched in the summerhouse....yes they did!!

The snow has climbed almost to the top of the pickets and when you compare with the photo below, you can appreciate how much snow is out there.

The soil in the cold frame covered raised bed below (yes it is raised))), registered fifty degrees F today and the greens are still alive inside.

Looking out to the Atlantic on the drive home, I was thinking....a full four season environment is just fine by me. Sure it isn't always peaceful, but when it is..and when you stop to absorb the beauty, listen to the cracking of the ice, feel the heat of the sun on your's Bliss.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Show Color and Favourite Flower

Click on photos to enlarge...these are Russell Lupines

My thoughts are still brimming with color, texture and style ideas.... and ....the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. If you have ever thought of attending...DO IT)))) There's still plenty of time to book your flight and take "the tour". I linked to one but there are plenty out there.

So drawn to the high impact color specimen displays, I must have taken hundreds of photos.  Do you fancy seeing a few from 2005? Not many...I don't want to bore you but, it is nice to share don't you think and it is so cold and white outside.

The Great Pavilion is, as they say, "The Centerpiece" of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. World class plant specialists and growers absolutely amaze the many thousands of visiting public with their skill and knowledge. 

However do they make these bouquets stand out, so full, lush and beautiful, dripping in blooms, virtual mountains of beauty. These are Aquilegia ..Columbine..."granny bonnets" of my favourite flowers.

But, my all time favourite flower....sweet beautiful and almost always, delightfully fragrant. Just look at these bouquets.

If you can't get to Chelsea, rest assured Nova Scotia communities have wonderful and sometimes competitive displays as well. Entering specimens or arrangements is quite thrilling and satisfying...just plain fun even without the competition side of it and there's always tea you know)))). Folks can join clubs all through the province and you only need to look here to find a garden club near you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bold and Brilliant

Even a small garden like the beauty shown above can be Bold and Brilliant. If I had another garden in me, I would aspire to this ideal..."Bold Brilliant and Modern". When Thomas Hobbs came out with his book "Shocking Beauty" a few years back...I wanted his garden.....I wanted maroon, black, bronze, magenta and hurt your eyes blue with bright and deep gold, lime, acid green.... saucy orange to make it pop.  But, my style had been softer, it was what I knew then and it was comfortable. Wouldn't you think, our bed below would look even better with some bright burgundy foliage to add contrast...It's just a bit boring the way it is!

Which brings me to Sarah Raven and "The Bold and Brilliant Garden" . To get free shipping when I ordered her "Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook", I added the Bold Garden to the list.....blush...I've been a big fan of SR for a while now as you might know from following  this blog. Both books so enthused excited my kitchen and garden head is full of hot pairings; my taste buds and creative juices are anticipating spring!  But...where had I first encountered this exciting garden color scheme....mmmmm

Stuck in a winter storm here on the east coast today, I brought up old photos from 2005 when we visited RHS Chelsea Flower show with Cousin Ted. This was the year Nova Scotia had an entry..yes..from Chester, Nova Scotia...and they were awarded a bronze. Oh ya! a proud!

That same year, Australia won Gold for a very modern and minimalist garden. A tranquil setting, bold and brilliant and so immediately drawn to it, my shoulders relaxed; I wanted nothing more than to lie in the orange lounger))).

Outside, the snow continues to drift down softly and slowly...little snow big snow as we say in the Maritimes. Inside, I'm thinking maroon, magenta, bronze, black and hurt your eyes blue with bright and deep gold, lime, acid green, saucy orange to make it pop. Well, do I have another garden bed makeover left in me..I ask myself...

........maybe a renovation will do....