Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Of Cabbages and Things

As the garden winds down preparing for winter sleep; the oak and beech around us begin to drop their leaves, floating ever so quietly, blanketing the ground. The dogwood trees are especially lovely, their leaves turning a beautiful purple, fading to red and finishing so slowly they cling until they can hold no more. Their red berries have been snached away by squirrels, chipmunk and crows so it's usefulness in our garden landscape serves many purposes.

This is my favourite time of year. The robust earthy smells of composting, the crisp cool air reminding us winter is but weeks away, the hurt your eyes blue sky that only autumn seems to display and often, days full of the sound of wind and rain..."time to sleep, time to sleep".
Over the years we've noticed how much more purple we see in the garden especially this time of year. Purple Cabbage is one vegetable garden plant that has not performed really well in the past, and yet other brassicas do alright. But I couldn't resist a few six packs of transplants last spring and in they went. Was the secret this year, a long wet winter and short spring? The result has been a grand harvest.
We forgot how crisp and sweet, cabbage can be when it has been touched by frost, and shredded for slaw or braised with apples, sultanas and malt vinegar. A sprinkling of caraway seed is a nice addition.
Even on overcast days, the autumn colors glow; a good time to re-evaluate the bones of the garden. This year, we've made some tough decisions about what should go and what should stay. As I prepared to put my bulbs in, I felt I had lost my initial vision of a perennial bed surrounding the veg garden. Grasses had morphed into monsters, baptisias were failing, bee balm that is work year after year and this year, totally out of control....needed attending. So while the weather holds time to get the shovel, rake and barrow out, and get dirty. Well, at least there will be a nice rustic cabbage soup waiting for me after a long day if I make it before I go out ;-).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Busy Summer

If you are still out there friends and fellow bloggers, and I do sincerely hope you are, thank you for sticking with me over the summer break! It's been a great harvest season so far and more to come. My high-five cherry tomato this year has to be a variety called 'Jasper'. Sweet candy in clusters; we're still picking. It's a sprawler, so if you try this next year, be aware of that. But it is highly resistant to blight being an AAS winner and so far, so good!

Don't think I gave an update on the animal watering trough we filled with soil and planted with tomatoes, nasturtium and chard. It has done very very well and it looks pretty awesome in the front yard when you drive up. Would be a perfect solution for anyone physically challenged as in reality, it is simply a raised bed. Chief finds it very accessible as well and you know he loves his cherry tomatoes ;-)

The trough is not totally full of compost and has a drain hole to one side at the bottom which has worked well to keep the plants from being waterlogged. Yes it sprouted some weeds but they were soon covered over by the rapid growth which from first photo to second was only five weeks.

Most years, I am on top of garden weeding and harvesting, but the winds have changed in my life and there is too much to be done and hard to keep up. I no longer stress as before, and take more time to enjoy the fruits of our labour....and heh, if we don't get everything eaten or processed, it makes compost.

Off to my neighbours to get a load of dry seaweed and pine needles for the garden paths which are getting too compressed. As a senior gardener, I imagine I am looking towards more raised beds in my future but until then, it's carry on as usual. But remember to stop and smell the roses! Here's Vavoom in all her sweet scented glory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rainy Day Musings

We've jumped ahead soooo quickly since my last post in early May! It's a spring I can't ever remember experiencing before. The PJM Rhododendron bloomed along with the Magnolia. Early tulips opened with the daffodils; the cherry and plum tree are a flutter of blossom; close on their heels are lilac and Red Chestnut. Finally, days are warm enough to sit out and relax listening to an anthem of birds and bees. At least two blue jay families have set up home nearby, also two crow families but sadly, the one tiny male hummingbird distinctive by his slight size, has not convinced a female to join him in matrimony. He tries his heart out, swooping on his dare devil flights up and down, but I guess, we will just have to wait and see.
Ignoring his attention!
The beds are almost finished having their spring tidy up, but I am a little perplexed by a fern in the side bed. That's the photo in the header and if anyone would like to give an opinion on this unique scape (there are four or five of them) half deep green with the top almost white. I would appreciate that.

The tomato plants have grown well and we are glad we waited a few weeks longer to start them inside or they would be far too leggy. The're just about the right size now, so managed to get ten in the ground before our three days of rain set in. The rest will have to wait.
I've written before about our experience with late blight about four years back and how we lost so much of our tomato crop. So, with guidance and suggestions from Niki Jabbour and other blog friends, we are planting our so far faithful, Sub-Artic Plenty and new this year, Mountain Merit, Oregon Spring, Torento and Jasper. These should all crop early. Mexico Midget has always taken a long time to germinate but there was no success from the seeds this year, started inside, and out. Very hardy against late blight I might add. I love that little tomato and so does our puppy Chief, so we hope to get some reseeds from the garden itself. My original packet came from The Tomato Man via Niki...thanks you guys.

The raised beds with the lexan cover and sheet plastic cover, have kept up with their greens supply so we have not had to buy any so far. Even the radishes plumped up well this year.
Todays Rainy day Photo
I was so looking forward to the lovely dwarf cosmos I planted in the back raised bed and boy did it germinate well. Did you ever notice how much it looks like dill? Well we had a good laugh over that, as it was not cosmos in the raised bed at all. My foggy memory seems to think someone advised to plant dill when it is cooler and I must have thought, why not give it a try in the raised bed and plant it out if that works. Well, it did germinate. So you might try that if you find you can't grow dill as I had very poor success with it in the past.
The herbs are a wonderful addition to our salads now, along with the green garlic and baby Egyptian onions. Lots of zing along with the mustards and radish. But on rainy days, I don't feel like a crisp salad, so, we make a pesto out of whatever is going, with the usual cheese, nuts and oil, tossed with a bowl of pasta and a squeeze of lemon...hot and comforting.

Here's to a warm, wonderful June and a warm smile from Johnny Jump Up and his orange Pansy friends.

An update...the fern is full of spores and is called an Interrupted Fern! Only the mid area carries the spores which after being distributed, that part of the frond falls off, leaving top and bottom and no middle. Interrupted!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Busy busy

The garden crew of two have been busy. We took down the monster maple by the house, moved the Hamamelis 'Diane' and congratulated ourselves on a job well done! SMILE

I am surprised Diane came into bloom before the winter daphne (Daphne mezereum). The latter is native to Nova Scotia and smells divinely sweet but is a plant for the poison garden. Here is a photo from last year. Even though it is poisonous, the cedar waxwings strip the berries when they are ready.

Deciding to take the curves out of the long bed and edge a straight line was not taken lightly. Maybe we've bitten off too much, as there are spots to be filled now, but surely it will look better when the trees are in bloom. Don't you think, this time of year its good to make a few changes, just to give us a perk and make the garden interesting. That is, if you have help. You see, this is the time of year when the Captain is busy with boats. Boats that must be put in the water, repaired, painted...and floats that must be repaired, made safer, this and that to be hauled out, perhaps an engine installed in another boat. I might get an easy job out of him when he returns at the end of his work day, but he sure is earning his supper on the weekends!! He does most of the grunt work, I do the supervising. Works for me! But edging the beds, that's my job and I love it.
Here are the tools I use. Have had them for many years but still going strong. What can I say....I'm and edger.

So calming and uplifting to see the bulbs coming out of the ground, rediscovering that inner peace the garden brings to the heart and soul. We have a hot day here on the South Shore, best get out there. Happy Gardening!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring begins when? Not on the day the calendar says it does but on the day I see Mr. and Mrs. Crow gathering materials to line their nest. Or when the first Osprey flies overhead, finally back from the long journey south. It's when you can leave the window open and awake to the joyous sound of birdsong, robins claiming their territory and listen happily when rain showers fall, melting the last of the snow. That's when spring begins for me.

In the garden, Hamamelis 'Diane" has been in bloom for at least a week, but you know, I didn't even notice it. Poor thing, deep in a snowbank, it was awake and calling me, and I missed it's unfurling. But it still has brightness and is the only plant blooming in the front yard. There are many images out there for this variety, some much deeper red than ours, but I bought it as "Diane", thinking of a dear friend of the same name. Have you ever done that, perhaps in memory of someone you love?

Years ago, growing up in Cape Breton, when my little brother was about three, he and dad planted a flowering crab apple tree in the front yard. I can still remember that day, Philly with his shovel, and both of them watering that little stick of a tree in the ground. Although we lost Philly at a young age, that tree meant we never forgot him. It grew and bloomed it's heart out every year and we were happy for it. But, when my dad knew he was approaching the end of his time here on earth, much to the sadness of my mother, he took the tree down. I've perplexed over that for some time, but believe somehow, he needed to say goodbye to that tree before he said goodbye to us. We will never know. But I do think a gift of a tree or plant in someone's memory or their name, is thoughtful and honorable. I know Diane was pleased about us planting the Hamamelis.

Spring smells like damp soil and seeds sprouting under the grow lights downstairs. The delight of seeing little tomato shoots while saying quiet prayers they don't succumb to damp off is a reminder of a hopeful harvest to come. As I have written before, late blight is a trouble here in our Nova Scotia garden, so I start varieties that fruit before the blight arrives or varieties that are highly resistant. Thanks to suggestions from garden friends, and faithful performers of the past, this year we are again growing Sub-Arctic Plenty, and new to us: Torenzo, Mountain Merit and Jasper (seeds to try from Niki Jabbour with thanks). Oregon Spring is also new to us, but Mexico Midget which has done well in the past, still has not germinated. With our long winter, this is the first time I delayed starting tomatoes.

Thankfully, the Lexan covered raised bed, has kept much alive through the winter. Spinach, Purple Wave Mustard, surprisingly, tiny Tom Thumb lettuce and arugula.
Most of that was harvested for salad, but now, all the seeds planted in the raised bed on April first, have germinated.
In the back hooped raised bed, leeks are in and growing (indoor starts) and today, the peas are going in there as well. These are dwarf Peas so we'll see how they perform. It is ten degrees in the back yard. Warm by my standards!
 Ahhh Spring! You were late in coming but nature heralds your arrival. The nests have been lined, the Osprey has arrived, seeds are germinated, and beds are being readied.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Still Waiting for the Snow to Go

Just in under the wire for a March post. It's been difficult dealing with our winter weather this year here on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Homes and businesses have had roof collapses with the weight of it all. Very sad. We had a collapse of the cold frame Lexan cover but the Captain came to the rescue and it's back in place.  March 2014 we were picking spinach but not this March!
It will be interesting to see how this growing year ahead preforms, having deep snow so late in the season. Will blights and bugs be affected for the worse or better I wonder. The forest animals are having a difficult time, especially the deer who have found the deep snow a hardship. The hares seem to be doing okay as we often see their prints in the snow but I hate to think of the damage the mice are making in their tunnels deep below at ground level. As I write, flakes are falling but everyone here is hoping, this is winter's last hurrah. Please let it be so. I am putting on weight, not working in the garden ;-)

An anonymous commenter suggested trying Oregon Spring tomato because it is reliably early and cold tolerant, similar to my Sub-Arctic Plenty.  Thank you whoever you are! The leeks and onions started in February have been transplanted to bigger containers and are happily growing under lights. Just that simple pleasure changes the gift of a day for the better. Sifting through the seed packets I try to decide what goes into the raised beds first....spinach, broad beans (dwarf variety), some of the leeks, scallions and mixed greens.
This year I'm going to put more annual flowers in the vegetable garden. For ages, we always had cosmos, marigolds and volunteer flowers growing where they were not expected. I loved the wildness of it all, and realized I miss that look and feeling. "Mini cosmos blend" grows to 20 inches sounds outstanding and also, a taller 31" called Snow Puff. "Breathtaking, fully double flowers in pure white" from West Coast Seeds.

Old garden magazines are keeping me inspired and doing some hateful spring cleaning keeps me out of trouble. Let's hope today is the last day shoveling snow and instead, we'll soon be spreading compost!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Only Six Days Left in February!

It's not that this February is so bad, there's just so much snow and it won't stop. I'm trying to remember what past years were like. Definitely not the weather we've had this month. The roof is so thick with snow, I turn my head when I see it. What is that passage, "don't worry about anything, just pray about everything". I am trying not to worry.
Looking back at February photos in other years, we've had ladybugs flying all around inside the summerhouse. It was just lovely, heartwarming. "Spring is on it's way!" The days were getting longer. Anxious to get out and do what ladybugs do, they would be thick on the windows.
........But no sign of them yet.

However the peas for pea shoots have sprouted, and the Opal Basil I started, to cut for micro greens, have as well.
The onions have been slow, but not the leeks. I think I am going to bite the bullet and get a heating pad for seed starting. Does anyone have good luck with theirs?

Meanwhile, I plan to take another ceramics course from Marla Benton in Mahone Bay to help me get through this month. If I can't harvest peas right now, I can make them! Hopefully the next few will be an improvement. So difficult to know how glazes will react. There's room for more if you are interested.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Spring Thoughts

Outside, the snow is almost at the top of the garden gate, but inside, seeds planted a few days ago, are warm and cosy. The earliest packets opened are leeks and onions although, generally I don't start onions as we have Egyptian Walking Onions, perennial in their own way.  But every spring I regret that decision especially last year when I bought some Ailsia Craigs from a local vendor in Tantallon. He was kind enough to share the variety name and I await the seeds. You know how you read some onions are so sweet you can eat them out of hand, well that's how I felt about those Ailsia Craig Onions apparently named after a perfectly round island off the coast of Scotland ;-). But, as I had some New York Early and Northern Lights leek seed, the urge to plant now prevailed. They are on their way to sprouting.
This dead part of winter is when I crave fresh green pea shoots so I've started a pot of those as well. As I've written about how I do this, you might want to go to this older post of mine here if you are interested to try.  When they sprout and grow a bit, will post a photo. Although I am trying to be a bit more frugal with seed buying this year, a trip to Halifax Seed Company is always in order, especially when friend blogger Marguerite comes over from Prince Edward Island. It's our go to place to enjoy and share together, when we can make it happen.  So here's what jumped into my pockets and before anyone says anything about the packet of squash and my plan to not grow any this year...in my defense I have to say, it is considered a compact variety.  Well we will see about that heh!
The excitement builds with the handling of every packet. Are those Northern Lights leeks really going to be that blue? And will the peas really be ready in three weeks? Where will I put the Sunshine Squash now that I've committed to growing it?

If you have the same snowstorm today we are having, and winter is getting you down, down, down.....think Spring green thoughts and maybe enjoy getting your seeds out, and your hands dirty inside where it's snug and warm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

October Memories

Reading through all the seed catalogues this time of year, it's easy to get a bit overwhelmed. The first list I made, "the wish list full of want" totalled almost one hundred dollars. Oh my! Get a grip Brenda; be rational and stop daydreaming. Definitely over budget for our small garden! One thing I do know is, there won't be any pumpkins growing in the garden this year; took up way way way too much room. Mind you, they did produce and I am very grateful to have enough cured to get through the winter. The same with the Carnival squash above...too much room, although I am sure you will agree, they are delightfully beautiful, each one with different markings, and sweet to eat. Trouble is, I sometimes see the fruits of our labour through an artists eye. "Oh, just think how beautiful that would look growing up the bean wall. You know... we gardeners are great dreamers! We have to be.
Autumn light here in Nova Scotia, is crisp, clear, and luminous. There's that window in the season where all in the garden shimmers in the sun, and reflection and moods of darks and lights along with the earthy smells of the garden touches your very soul.
Hearty soups are coming out of the kitchen to warm us on those coolish evenings; bonfires are lit to burn the garden debris; the smoke drifts over our hill, down to our neighbours. The last swims are done, the last of the short sleeve tshirts and sandals put away. The seagrass has turned to gold.
Now back to paring down that seed list and ordering what does well, and behaves more modestly than those pumpkins of last year. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Flashback to September

Going through old garden photos reminds me what did well, what didn't and what we couldn't get enough of. Three top the list: tomatoes, beans and garlic. We have success with garlic in our garden, and even planting it in the raised bed cold frame in March last year, by September, it was ready to harvest. It's the first year I tried that, because I didn't get around to planting it in October 2013. The scapes below grew from Susan Delafield. Big thick cloves under the soil, a very tall scape, and a sculptural beauty in the garden.
As for the beans, seen behind the garlic above, well you know we built that back trellis especially for beans, and in fact, call it the bean wall. But the last few years, I find I cannot put seeds out too early because they get eaten, rot or get nabbed by the crows, mice or squirrels. Now, if I get them started inside, growing to about eight to twelve inches, and then plant out, all seems to be fine. Last year was a bit of a bust and in disgust, after planting three times I didn't want to buy any more seeds. I found a jar of organic dried beans in my cupboard, all different varieties, and so, I pushed them in the soil and hoped for the best. Well of course, some were climbers and some were just shrub but they gave a huge harvest and we had our fill. So the bean wall looked a little sparse in some places as you can see.
Tomatoes are probably the hardest plant for us to grow. For years we were trouble free, 'coasting' as one might say. Oh the bliss of it all. Then we were hit by late blight a few years back and that was the end of that. We now almost exclusively grow Sub Arctic Plenty, which doesn't mind a chilly spring, and gives us loads of tomatoes before the season of late blight. We also grow climbing Mexico Midget, chocolate cherry and sun gold which all seem to sluff off the blight. Plentiful, tasty and resilient are good hallmarks to aim for in a garden year after year and referring to old photos I find, are a great reminder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Get Up and Go

In the words of Pete Seeger "my get up and go has got up and went". Since August I've ignored the blog because I had lost my motivation and enthusiasm for writing. "Take a break" some of my friends advised but it seemed the more I was away from writing, the less inclined I was to go back to it. "What more can I write about that I haven't already written" I thought. Am I missing the point...why did I start the blog? That reason was based on keeping a journal for me to refer to, and to share my experiences growing our garden on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. Along the way, I met some wonderful people; the garden was photographed and published in two magazines and also a book. Who knew that could happen simply by making connections, sharing with others what is very personal, our own garden and what it means to me, to our family. Pete Seeger continues to sing, "but in spite of it all, I'm able to grin, and think of the places my get up has been". It has been a wonderful, and truly fulfilling joy, this blog. So, readers, I am loath to give it up.

The new year has begun with optimism. Last year was a difficult one but now, I am happy to say, or at least hopeful in saying, my Get up and Go, is improving. There's always something to write about when you have a three to four season garden. Even now, with snow on seedheads left for birds, beans that were never harvested and memories visited when looking at the bird bath not brought in, but forgotten, it is a beauty to behold.
Outside, the sun is shining so bright, the sky is 'hurt your eyes blue' and the snow is covering every seedhead and branch; fencepost and leaf.

But I know it will awake before I know it, and meanwhile, I will start growing pea shoots in pots, sprouts in a jar and plant Egyptian onion bulbs on the window sill to snip the fresh green growth. I will find primroses in the shops to brighten my January, and later, cut forsythia to force. And yes, I've written about this all before but perhaps that doesn't matter. Perhaps, what matters is that writing brings back the joy it always did, and to just put bum to chair and "write something for Heavens Sake!"