Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reds in the August Garden

My favourite red in the garden...tomatoes! Finally, they are ripening and we are enjoying juicy open faced sandwiches for lunch most days now. The last few years I've stopped growing a lot of the heirloom varieties we loved because of  late blight. Now, I grow early cropping bush types like Scotia, which was developed here in Nova Scotia and Sub-Arctic Plenty was has an interesting history. Developed in the 1940's to provide the US Air Force stationed in Greenland with fresh tomatoes, it has a unique ability to set fruit early under cool conditions. Good news for me. I do have a few cherry tomatoes, like Tumbling Tom in a container, and a good size Mexico Midget which was never touched by the late blight in years past, so I grow that also. The fruit are the size of blueberries and packed with flavor.

The weather has changed, with the clear skies of autumn, and cool overnight yet quite lovely and hot the last few days. So the other reds that are in the garden, in the flower beds, are looking very handsome and give the eyes a real boost. Crocosmia has survived three years now, only marginal where I am (Zone 6), and this year its outdone itself. The hummingbirds are enjoying it also, as their preferred flower, Scarlet Monarda has just about finished.
There's another plant in the flowerbed that is a long bloomer and also marginally hardy here so it doesn't become invasive. It is Persicaria Firetail and although not tomato red, it is another plant that makes the August and September garden glow.
We are eating beans, both the French Filet and the climbing, white Blancoma and red Cylinder beets, carrots and a fresh crop of arugula and mixed greens...perfect for those tomato sandwiches! Overdid it with the pumpkins, Acorn squash and Blue Hubbard squash, which is climbing over everything even the asparagus that's gone to fern. Rather wild looking here right now. The deer visited one night so we lost a lot of the leaves on the trellised beans but they are recovering. Sigh...where did August go?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mid July Already?

June disappeared. It almost seems it didn't arrive, and then came July with sunshine, warmth and a hurricane reminding us to not get too comfortable. The robin and chicks windvane took a beating but we think we can fix it. One of the industrial windows in the roof of the Red Shed cracked and so we will have to work on that as well....likely remove it although only one of the triple panes are broken. So far, it's been quite a ride into summer.

Every year in a garden, is different. I can depend on insects eating my germinating beans until the first week of July and then, they are left alone. There are other things I can depend on as well, indestructible rhubarb will uncurl from the soil, plantain will grow in the lawn, and clover will blanket the rest. Chipmunks will eat at least half of the tulip bulbs after they have died back and that one and only night we forget to bring in the bird feeders, the raccoons will saunter through the yard keeping us awake as they scream and fight over the seeds.

This year, another wet but cooler year, has seen a leap in the perennial bed that surrounds the vegetable garden, especially in the front.
What should be a pleasing mound of perennial geraniums, daylilies and baptisia, is simply a solid wall each plant fighting to gain dominance. It looks a bit too messy for me, so perhaps some division is in order. Certainly a good grooming. What I've also noticed this year, is a bloom growing on our Yucca! Now we have not seen a bloom for at least four years so there's no telling what a new garden year will bring.

As for the veg garden, well we are getting lots of peas right now, although the hurricane did it's best to lay them low. Put in bondage they are happy again.
The weather has been very good for the lettuce varieties but I must say, Tom Thumb lettuce has to be one of my very favourite, tolerates high temperatures when mature and resists bolting better than larger varieties. These below need thinning.
Thinking an old packet of Dwarf Blue Curled Kale from 2008 wouldn't germinate but not willing to waste the packet without trying...well we have had great success. As it was in the raised bed and covered, it's grown quite well and only now are we starting to see a few green caterpillars on it.
All and all, it is shaping up to be a good growing season here in our South Shore Garden in Nova Scotia. Soon our thoughts will be turning to what to plant out mid August for fall crop, extending the season in the raised beds. Better yet though, fingers crossed no blight...we should soon have ripe tomatoes. How wonderful that will be.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, May 16, 2014

What's Growing? Asparagus!

Two harvests so far, and oh, how deeply and deliciously wonderful! FRESH and green vibrate words of spring!
Would you like to know my asparagus 'story'. It begins on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia about 29 years ago. We were caretaking a farm, a little baby boy made three. Making ends meet was a challenge but we did okay. Captain was working on the B.C. Ferries..I was at home mom. That farm...we didn't know what we were doing to be truthful. One day, Cap brings in this stick thing..'what's this'. I kinda thought I saw it in the grocery store maybeeee....and remember, there was no 'home' computer back then..no google. But they were sticking up in a row in a small field covered with grass, and somehow, we thought they might be 'something' to eat. The farm owner came by on the weekend and when we showed him the spears he said..."you mean that old asparagus field my dad planted twenty years ago is still producing".  AHem..asparagus..twenty years ago??? What do I do with this? Good old "Joy of Cooking". First taste was not snapped off in the garden bed like I would do now, but steamed, then cooled, then rolled in processed ham slices, placed in a dish and topped with sour cream, sprinkled with blue cheese and baked till melty. WE honestly thought there was no other food on this earth to compare. Asparagus..we love you.

When we moved here to our Nova Scotia quick draining (sandy) garden thirteen years ago, first thing we did was put in an asparagus bed with twenty something son's help. Dug the trench, filled base with a load of manure, built up a sand hill under each root stem, roots spreading out nicely, and covered it over. Every year, we enriched it with more manure. Well the bed is going on fourteen years old now, still producing. I wonder if someday, when we are gone from here, will a young naive couple say..."what's this?. Looks like something good to eat". What are those sticks?

Update:  Captain says he did remember his British born dad eating canned asparagus but couldn't think those spears were the same thing ;-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Optimism of Spring

While it's been a long winter here in Nova Scotia, Canada, I do think...we are experiencing 'the change'. Gosh, that sounds like a menopause statement...but there are comparisons. The move from a time of life to another, although I do not think the drake and his missus below know anything about menopause. While I do!! But they do know, it is time to chose a mate, and to show her around the neighbourhood.
For the last few years, he's brought a significant other to our garden, only at this time of year. I feel he is saying..."well, here's the pond....and you have a nice feast under the bird feeders, quiet neighbourhood. Now, what about making some healthy babies". He is very attentive and very handsome. Actually, this is the first time we've had an amount of water they could paddle in and around the raised beds. Made my day just watching their loving attention to each other and his pride.

Yesterday was full of sunshine; 'let the raking begin'. Bulbs were freed from their leaf layer. Oh what a difference a day makes not just to the garden, but to the heart and the body. Yes, it aches today but in a good way.

I discovered accidentally that broad beans can take an incredible amount of cold if you have a cold frame. Already mine are showing wonderful growth, and the seeds only went in the ground a week or so ago.
I soak them a bit inside, till I just see them sprouting and on the first decent day, tuck them in the raised bed covered with a cold frame top (seen above with ducks), as the soil is usually loose and warm. Still frozen down below though. But those broad beans take like a duck to water. Amazing. Starting them early gives you a head start on avoiding the black aphid that loves them. These are dwarf broad beans so really looking forward to see how they preform.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hunkered Down

There's a Nor'easter on it's way to Nova Scotia. Environment Canada sent out blizzard and tidal surge warnings. The gas station was blocked with cars today, filling up or purchasing fuel for generators. Our local Irving ran out of fuel except for super! OH MY!

Meanwhile, the afternoon sun warmed my bones. Snow still covers half of the garden and mud at midday sticks to my boots on the walk to the cold frames. Time to harvest the spinach we seeded late last year. This early sunshine and cool temps are much much..to their liking. Spinach "Reflect' jumped in size and oh what a harvest. What I didn't know for years..how a cold frame would extend our season. I think, as ours are raised at about thigh high, perhaps it even has a better advantage?
Valiantly, the little patch of snowdrops are grasping the few rays of sunshine surprising me with their perseverance.
Little tips are pushing through the ground; bulbs, looking for spring.
Broad beans, germinated inside, quickly settled in the raised bed. Note the little leaf to the right of the chalk sign for French Breakfast Radish.
Early winter speedy veg have also germinated and with a covering of white fleece or remay, they have a titch more warmth and protection till the Nor'easter storm passes.
Inside...tomatoes will soon be seeded. But two plants have been held over from last year. Both are Mexico Midget. Neglected..yes, I will admit..neglected. But they have hung on...like myself, persevered through the long winter.  Experimenting with gardening is great! Hugely gratifying. Don't be afraid to do that. Enjoy the journey; that's half the fun of gardening.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Almost Done

Almost done with winter...in fact, after a couple of days of ten degrees C last week, just a tease really, my heart was set on an early spring and thoughts of lets get growing! The ice is starting to break up, although the Captain said the week ahead is going to be quite cold and with the sea temp at zero, it only takes overnight for it to make more ice. He travels out by boat most mornings taking workers to a Mahone Bay island, so personally, I really wish this ice would go and stay away, away.

Have you found this winter long as well? March seems so much more optimistic, but February is just so long yet, it's the shortest month of the year. Attitude Brenda..it's all in the attitude.

During those two warm days, I scratched a packet of winter lettuce, mache and spinach in the cold frame with the lexan cover.  Honestly, the soil was lovely and warm from the radiant sun and almost steamy. Oh the smell when the cover was raised...spring, possibilities, enthusiasm and pleasure.

To keep my garden spirits up the last few months, I started some peas for shoots. This year however they didn't amount to much so even though they say any pea will do, I am going back to my original variety next year. I did sprinkle a packet of speedy veg in a plastic shell from the grocery and they did very well. Have you read the book The Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz? Well I think it has as much advice in there for growing shoots and sprouts as one would need. Plus there's lots else to recommend it. Great photos and great advice.

Meanwhile, I also discovered the little bulbs of Egyptian Walking Onions that truly love walking all over the garden, if potted up, grow green onions all winter long. I snip off the greens and they simply grow back time and time again and even if ignored, they don't give up. This was an accidental discovery as I thought the bulbs were something else. Next year, I will pot up a lot more.

Soon it will be time to stick some peas in the ground, as soon as the soil can be worked they say, but only if there's a window of time when it isn't going to rain for two weeks and they rot in the ground. But, while waiting for the real thing, these below will have to do ;-)  I took a clay class and came away with a selection of peas. The glaze is a little thick yes, but I loved feeling the clay and shaping it in my hands. In fact, a girlfriend said, it was like holding my hands. I liked that. Thank you.

So...I'm changing my attitude, and plan on Marching into next month with a springy step and a mind full of possibilities and earthly delight. Come on Spring.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Little January Gardening

Nova Scotia has had some great spring like days, today being another one. Almost all the snow shown in my earlier posts, has disappeared and although not double digits, it's been a great week getting up to 9 Celsius. Not to worry, the snow VILL BE BAKKK! Today, I lifted the plastic off the row tunnel inside the veg garden and pulled out a few baby beets that didn't mature in the fall. These hung out in the 'outdoor refrigerator' just chillin. They were made into a sort of course pesto, with black current balsamic, olive oil and salt. Fresh...that's what I'm craving...and home grown. The variety is Bulls Blood and think one cylindrical as well. Yes. Bulls Blood has a soft lovely tender leaf in spring and summer, deep burgundy, and delicious in salads plus hardy. When folks come to visit and I pick some for them to eat fresh, they are always surprised they taste like beets but not bitter and feel so soft and buttery in the mouth. If you haven't tried them, you might like to. The beetroot part doesn't grow as big as other types I have tried, I must say.

The raised beds outside the garden, of which there are two, and one has a cold frame lexan cover and the other sheet plastic over hoops..well they were pretty well picked over by late autumn. So I tidied up one of them today and broadcast some Green Ruffled Mustard and Arugula seeds. What is waiting to grow bigger..tatsoi, speedy winter veg mix and spinach below... yup....just chillin'.
I do miss my green salads, but we are just not organized enough to have a true four season garden. This time of year, I pluck some leaves off Kale stems, glean a few Brussels sprouts from their thick winter stems, although the Stink likes these a lot and we have to share. Chief (aka THE STINK) is our dog! Lots of parsley still good under the hoops so another pesto made with that, kale and purchased arugula.

It's time to think about starting sprouts for sandwiches and also pea shoots. Stand by. I am craving green and more green.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

After the Blizzard

A new slate, A New Year, a blizzard to start us off. The hoops are almost totally covered inside the garden fence and I don't think there is a hope of shovelling that off for awhile yet. However, the raised beds, especially the one with the Lexan cover, still holds some promise and although we aren't harvesting from there right now, we will later on. Just too blasted cold.
If this is a taste of the months to come, it will give us lots of time to dream about what to plant. But, it's a good time to get out the seed packages, read all the new seed catalogues and refresh what you think you know, by bringing out two good vegetable garden bibles, Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest and Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by our own Niki Jabbour. By the way, she's coming out with a new book very soon!!
This year, there are some good dwarf offerings I am hoping to try, one being a dwarf French Bean Safari (Kenyan Bean) and a Broad Bean Robin Hood, ideal for containers or raised beds. Both will be going into the raised bed with the coldframe cover as early as possible. I've saved seed from last year's Fiesta Acorn squash I purchased and as it was delicious I hope we have some success growing it.

Always anticipating the New Year ahead when you're a gardener. Enjoy those catalogues and....Sweet dreams from the frozen north.