Saturday, March 10, 2018

Front Flower Bed Project - Part 3

 Our dump truck load of soil arrived (finally) at lunch time today & we were so ready to get moving it into the flower beds. The weather was perfect for being outside & getting physical.
 After only a few hours, we were finished with the front flower beds. I did have to bury a lot of what was starting to grow, but I'm really hoping the plants will forgive me & push up through the soil after a few rains.
 The cats were outside with us the entire time, playing in the sunshine & playing in the dirt. They also found one of my cat mint plants & quite enjoyed having a tasty treat. The rains should level out the soil & hide all their foot prints.
 I have some more soil to add to the back edge of the bed, which will be done by the shovel-full & a bit more gently than the rest of the beds as I do want all these lovely spring bulbs to flower. 
This bed required the most soil & I honestly have no idea how most of these shrubs & trees survived as they were planted in sand, on top of plastic tarps. We will be working with our neighbours to replace the fence & I think the fence line will come in a bit, so we did not fill the soil all the way to the fence line. In the morning there is a lot of shade, but by the afternoon, the sun shines on this bed. I would like to see if I could get some ferns for the back edge & I already have many buckets of spring bulbs to plant in along the front edge once they have bloomed for us this year. Many great planting ideas for the front - all that require minimal attention & are deer (& hopefully rabbit) resistant. The tree in the pot was planted after the photo & is a mimosa tree. 

Not all the soil was used & we hope to top up the back beds with what remains. More on that later...

Front Flower Bed Project - Part 1 & 2

On a spur of the moment idea, plus with great weather predicted for the weekend, we decided to continue working on the front flower beds a few weeks early...
~ This bed has been neglected for the 2 years we've been here. Well, no - we ripped out the plastic tarps that were underneath the few scant centimeters of 'soil' that is here & we removed some rhododendrons that were in poor shape & we heavily pruned the remaining shrubs. Oh - and battled with the horsetails... The stone work was installed last fall.

~ I threw handfuls of seeds out in the beds last year to see what would grow with absolute minimal attention. It's pretty amazing what will find a way to survive & surprise you. I hope to see some of that again this year! Namely; the rose & maple. ~

~ I have not yet cleaned up these beds this spring & it's only in the last few weeks that I've noticed bulbs pushing up leaves & seeds starting to sprout. The sedum gave a bit of character all winter but really needs to come down & thankfully, most of the rosemary survived. ~

~ The front flower bed is mostly in the shade & under the eaves, so there is a lot of moss in this area. It's also mostly spring bulbs, so this year I hope to find some perennials in the back yard to divide & bring up here for vertical character all summer. ~

Those are the beds 'Pre-Cleaning' & with our decision to get these beds finished this weekend, I got outside in the sunshine to clean them up in preparation for the next step... soil...

~ There doesn't appear to be much of a difference in this bed, but I did scrape out a lot of moss & early season weeds. I should have probably dug up a lot of grass from the front edge, but there will be a lot of soil going in here & I just might take my spade to it quickly tomorrow. ~

 ~ This area looks so much better with the sedum cut back & the moss & dead bits removed. Every time I do any weeding or moss removal, I find bits of blue paint that used to cover the walkway to the front door. Still brings back nightmares of that horrible blue paint & me vacuuming the flower bed the first year... ~
~ Biggest change is the front bed - again so much moss!! I'm not about to start using chemicals to get rid of the moss, so it will either be a yearly removal of moss & addition of fresh soil or I will find a way to live with some amount of moss as a ground cover. ~

Friday, March 9, 2018

Signs of Spring - part 2

Almost a month later since some of the first signs of Spring, with a hit back from Winter & Spring is still forging ahead with her plans...

~ purple crocus ~
~ purple crocus ~

~ white crocus ~

~ mini daffodil ~

~ mini daffodil ~

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Winter Has Returned

I thought it was rain I was listening to last night.

This is what we've woken to this morning & I believe it is still falling...

Will have to head out to shake off some heavily laden branches to make sure they don't break if the snow gets any thicker.

Right now the cats are out investigating.

So glad I have the veggie garden covered in fabric to protect what greens I do have there.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Signs of Spring

These are the first flowers to bloom in my gardens for the 2nd year in a row.

I'm very much in love with them, despite the fact they are only 3 inches high.

This year our winter has not been as harsh as last winter & for that I am thankful. The weather is still very unstable, with rain & sun being very intermittent each day.

But when the sun does shine, I go out to look for green growth & shoots & blooms.

I'm usually rewarded each time.

This spring I will start mapping out the flower beds to record what is already there, when it blooms &  how I can start to fill in some seasonal gaps to extend the blooms & colours. First ingredient will be another truck load of soil in about a month.

Am looking forward to playing in the dirt again!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

First Session in the Garden

Wow - was anyone else outside yesterday for that brief bit of sunshine?
Remember back to last year when we had at least a foot of snow....

Well, I got out for my first session in the gardens - weeding & removing dead debris from the flower beds to make room for seeds to sprout & new growth the come in on the perennials. As usual, I forgot to take a before picture...
This is my medicinal herb garden that I started last year.

Hopefully many of the plants I received will grow larger so I can start harvesting them this season.

Arnica, mother's wort, evening primrose (will self-seed), calendula (self-seed), valerian, yarrow, lemon balm, vervain, St. John's wort, mullein (self-seed), hyssop, rose and a few other items to be added this year as I come across them.

The tree is a wonderful lilac that should bloom a couple times in the summer.

We will add more soil/compost this season to bring the level of soil up & the stones will be arranged to allow for an easy wander to look at all the plants.

This is what's left in the gardens after the winter season. I've done a bit of clean-up, but not much.

The largest issue right now is that the cats have been using one area all winter (right where I had planted my garlic in October....) so I need to work on training them to find someplace else to dig in.

The mizuna is growing very nicely & I still have some arugula in the back! The winter mustards are now starting to grow a bit & in the next few weeks I'll be harvesting these lovely bitter greens to boost our meals.

I have covered the entire veggie bed with a heavier fabric as one of my 'training tools' for the cats. Of course, they immediately thought it was a new game & were jumping all over it as I was anchoring it down.

I'm hoping the winds don't rip it all up & the rains are still able to get through.

I planted broad beans where the cats had been going & will probably just grow some green cover crops/green manures there for this year to bring the soil back to where I'm comfortable with harvesting from it.
I also planted some early shelling peas - Alderman variety. Last year I planted peas very late in May & it took them all season to produce edible peas! This year, I'm going to plant a few things earlier & use my cloth covers to see if I can be a bit more successful with the cool weather crops.

Here is the mizuna - which can be eaten raw in salads or steamed quickly & added to stir fries or, like we did the other night, added to a hearty mashed potato dish with kale & other greens.

I picked up some cabbage starts last fall & they really didn't grow during the late summer days into the fall.

We'll see what they do as the days start to warm up.

This first hit of gardening was very much needed - am glad that the sun shone for an hour at least. This has allowed me to see some of the perennials that survived, the open spaces where annuals could go & what's going in the soil. Earthworms galore & a good healthy amount of mycelium that was not present in the previous gardens. Also a good time of reflection on what I want to grow this coming season - herbs & veggies & edible flowers. Lots of time to plan still!!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Marmalade Season!

I am slowly turning my attention back to my gardens & my hobbies.
Winter is always a difficult season but the sun is shining gloriously today & I was lucky to find some Seville oranges early this week, which meant I could finally make MARMALADE after 3 years!!

My initial foray into the world of Marmalade Making many years ago was based on this recipe: Dundee-Style Marmalade. I loved the idea of trying something completely different than my tried & true methods with Certo pectin & this was a great recipe to go with. Plus - it uses the whole fruit...

 So I'm just going to show you a few pictures of the process & how I've altered the recipe to suit my own personal tastes.

I like to use Meyer lemons as well as Seville oranges in my blend. It adds a bit of sweet-lemon to the tart-orange. And you don't need a whole lot of exotic oranges to do it either!

I like the ratio of weight of fruit to sugar & amount of water. An easy conversation if you have fewer fruit than in previous brewing sessions.

And I just discovered this year that once the oranges are boiled (to soften the rind), that scooping out the insides with a spoon is so much easier than using a fruit reamer!! Gotta keep things simple & efficient in the kitchen these days...

Slicing the rinds by hand allows for a more personalized style of marmalade. Some people like super-fine pieces either long or short, while I prefer short slightly chunky pieces that will give me something to bite into & get that hit of tartness. 

Another interesting ingredient I put into the jelly bag along with all the seeds & guts of the fruit (which is key to ensuring the marmalade will set - natural pectin!) is my bay tree! I love using fresh bay in marmalade - this particular variety has an eucalyptus flavour to it & works very well with the citrus.

Into the jelly bag goes some dried lavender as well. I just can't help tossing in some fragrant homegrown lavender at this time of year. It doesn't over-power the other flavours but there is something 'extra' there that might give a discerning taste bud a bit of a mystery to solve.

Lastly I add some shredded ginger. Well, by some, I mean about a cup in this recipe. We really enjoy the hit of heat that the ginger brings  & after all, this is a 'medicinal' type of preserve!

I should not say lastly as there is usually another ingredient I like to add, if the batch of marmalade is going to be a Private Stock variety, I will add some Jack Daniels to each jar once the marmalade is finished cooking. You know: one for the cook & one for the pot type deal... not too much...

Now I just have to be patient & let these jar set & side for a few months to allow all the flavours to mellow & marry together. If we have the patience for that sort of thing later on this spring...