Sunday, April 15, 2018

Garden Therapy Between the Rain Drops

This is what I saw outside this morning... a break in the weather!
The neighbour's magnolia is looking spectacular & I hope in a few years that ours will start to fill out like this one has after some rejuvenating pruning.
As you can see - the wheelbarrow still has bags of sea soil that I want to put on the veggie bed as a top dressing. 
Time to get DIRTY!!!

~ The shady spot of the veggie bed has leeks growing from last year (I should harvest some of them as they are now finally large enough), newly planted lettuce starts, spinach, cilantro & onion sets (not yet sprouted) & along the lattice edge are the remains of the crocus blooms ~
The garlic looks like it has recovered from being abused by the cats all winter long. I have reapplied the chili powder to the veggie bed a few times since uncovering it & I do think the cats have found other places to dig & make a mess in. I also have broad beans starting to sprout & hopefully I'll get some that grow big enough to flower & give me some seeds for next year! 
I've planted pea seeds as well as pea starts along this edge of the garden bed. Last year they were planted by the lattice & did not receive enough sunshine to grow quickly & that space was taken up by peas all summer long instead of being an early crop that could be removed to make room for other veggies. We'll see how they do in the full sun this year! I put in the bamboo weave support today & some twine along the very bottom to encourage the plants to start growing up. 
I've got lots of green onions that I grew from the rooted bottoms off the green onions you buy in the grocery store - so easy to do!! Now I need to start harvesting them & saving the bottoms off these & plant them else where. In the empty space to the right of the pea weave I've planted some arugula & mesclun seeds & with the rain returning, they should hopefully sprout quickly. The chili has been reapplied to the fresh sea soil to convince the cats to go elsewhere...
Ahhh.... the garden in the afternoon sunshine (with chance of clouds & rain). 
Wheelbarrow emptied of soil & water, lawn trimmed up, a massive mountain of garden pots removed from the tool shed (how is it I had that many pots after only 2 years??), herbs planted in the gardens & plants talked to...
Garden Therapy needed & fulfilled...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Can't Eat it Quick Enough!

I grew up eating & loving kale so naturally I plant kale in every garden I have. Sometimes there is just too much kale to be had by a household of only 2 (plus a dog that likes 'kale treats'). What happens in the spring is that the plants start to grow quickly & within almost no time... they send up their flower stalks!
~ this is my favourite variety - a Red Russian - & tastes so sweet after the winter. Right after I saw the plants were wanting to flower, I came back out & harvested half the leaves off the plant & popped them in the freezer for the next time we make boerenkool (mashed potatoes with steamed kale & farmer's sausage) ~

~ this variety - Lacianto (or also Dinosaur) kale is not one of my choices, but I bought a kale mix & it decided to grow while so much else decided not to. I'm letting it flower for the bees & other pollinators & I might try steaming the leaves at some point, but I find them very tough. ~ 

~ the curly kale is a very traditional variety in my family & I will harvest some of the leaves to mix in with the red Russian, but for now, I'll let the plants bloom & provide food for the insects ~
I will continue harvesting leaves off the plants over the next few weeks - mostly as an extra addition to salads as the sweet flavour goes nice with the spring bitters that are also growing right now. But as soon as the weather really starts to warm up & the flower stalks become giants, I will do one large harvest for the freezer & then pull the plants to make room for spring & summer veggies.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Back Flower Beds - Part 2

The back flower beds have all been top dressed & all the pots have been emptied of bulbs & various plants divided & moved around. Now we get to sit back & watch things grow...
~ mostly a shaded garden bed with the lattice fence installed for privacy but the plants did very well there last year ~

~ the bed outside the kitchen window with the magnolia tree & wee daffodils. Am hoping in a few years the soil will become amended enough that I can dig up the daffodils & divide them. Right now they are somehow surviving in dense clay with a thick layer of new soil on top. Amazing bulbs!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Breathing in Spring

Just a few pictures of what was blooming 2 weeks ago at the end of March. We were still getting chilly weather (snow on April Fool's Day!!) & lots of rain. The flowers didn't seem to mind too much...

~ these are my favourite crocus & I would love to have more ~

~ the back yard magnolia just starting to bloom - messy but very pretty when the sun shines ~

~ the wee daffodils are lovely to see under the shrubs & they smell quite wonderful ~
These were just a few blooms from back in March. I'm playing a bit of catch-up this weekend after a break in the weather & some serious garden therapy.

~ Spook & Chili quite enjoy garden therapy too - chasing bugs, digging holes & snacking on herbs ~

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Emerging Potential Fruit Harvests

This is a wonderful time of year as the fruit trees, shrubs & canes start to show signs of waking up & providing a harvest in a few short months.
 On the close right is our apple tree - again, variety not yet figured out. Over the last 2 years, we've pruned off a few branches, kept the height down & trained some of the branches to grow & maintain a more 2 dimensional perspective so they are not sticking out into the walk-way becoming damaged as we move in & out of the backyard. I still have a heavy metal post that I keep in the ground beside the tree to assist if it becomes too heavy with fruit & starts to lean. Last year, I pruned out an extra fruit from the clusters after the June drop so that the fruit would grow healthy & undamaged. It seemed to work, so I will do that again this year. We still had a very large harvest - maybe 40 pounds of fruit!!
 I love black currants, so have again invested in a bush. I'm hoping this year there will be lots of flowers & more than just a couple fruit for me to snack on. 
 The crab apple tree seems to be very happy where we planted it & I'm looking forward to seeing it in bloom bringing in all the pollinators to the rest of the fruit trees.
The rhubarb survived the winter! I mulched the entire bed with leaves for the winter & then carefully removed the mulch to add a thick layer of soil to fill the bed up properly. I've kept the mulch to put back on as the summer weather returns in a few months. This year I will not do my usual bucket trick to encourage the stalks to grow quicker as I want the roots to develop strong for the first few years. But having a few stalks this spring is going to be such a treat in things like our kombucha or maybe a spring dessert.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Uncovering the Veggie Bed

The time has finally arrived to begin working in the veggie garden.
Back in February I covered the entire veggie garden with garden fabric in order to discourage the cats from digging in the soil. Two weeks ago, I decided it was time to start uncovering sections of the bed to see what was surviving & to introduce the space back to the cats to see if they had become disinterested. My sage plant is not looking so hot but there is new growth showing on things like the chives.
 This particular section, where I planted the garlic last fall, was the area of highest interest for the cats, so I decided to sprinkle the entire garden bed with chili powder. 
Now at the end of March, this is what the garlic looks like. The chili has not affected the growth at all & has indeed kept the cats out of the bed.
The back section of the bed contains some left-over crocus bulbs from the redesigning of the flower beds & it seems they are very happy here. But the level of the soil has settled quite a bit. When I look at the entire veggie bed, the soil has settled over the entire bed & rather than dig & disturb the soil throughout the entire veggie bed to fluff it up, I would rather bring in some top dressing of sea soil or composted manure to freshen it up & over the course of the summer add mulch & home-made compost. This section of veggie bed is a rather shaded section, so I will be rethinking my growing rotation & more than likely try herbs & greens here instead of sun lovers like squash, tomatoes or legumes. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Back Flower Beds - Part 1

Hopefully this is the last year we will bring in that much soil...
This is the side flower bed with the apple tree & marionberry vines. Back towards the white fence is a magnolia tree with a few rhodos underneath & a maple tree. Right now, this is a nice warm spot in the afternoon while the trees have yet to leaf out, so that gives the rose & black elderberry plants along that fence a chance to grow quickly in the spring sunshine. This area took a lot of soil to bring the level up to where it should be. There were tree roots growing right on the surface of what is pretty hard ground. There was no way I was able to dig up the mini daffodils to divide them but hopefully in a few years once all this new soil & biodiversity in the soil works its magic, I'll be able to dig up some of the crowded bulbs & move them around. 
Our cherry tree bed received a lot of soil too. I dug out a cinquefoil shrub which is now in the front side bed to make room for the fruit tree. A lot of toadflax & columbines were transplanted around & the iris were brought back up to the proper planting depth. A wonderful red bee balm has been divided & moved around to various flower beds - we'll see where it is happiest & doesn't get hit with blight late in the season. 
Once we filled in this bed, I was able to move a lot of the plants from right under the lattice more to the middle & front of the flower bed. Another 2 pots of bulbs were added & hopefully they'll either flower later this season or recover & produce next season. I still need to get in & do some work on the honeysuckle behind the bird bath.
The Medicinal Bed was cleaned up & topped up. The lilac standard tree has a lot of blooms on it, so we are excited to see it flower for us this year. It looks like most of my perennials have made it through the winter & will continue to grow for me this year. I might be able to harvest some of them later in the fall. I left a lot of calendula seeds on the soil before bringing in the new stuff - I wonder if any of them will sprout & grow? Luckily I saved a lot of seeds & will get them started soon for transplanting later on. 
The last bed out back is the crab apple & rhubarb bed. I left the back edge full of the leaf mulch as I am hoping the neighbour replaces that fence panel this year & we can help get rid of some of the ivy & other tougher weedy plants. I don't feel the need to garden right to the fence edge anyway. But great to see the rhubarb survived & this year I did not put a bucket on top to force the stalks quicker. I want to develop strong roots & will take another season to let the plant establish itself. 

So, we were able to share a few garbage cans of soil with our mom down the neighbourhood & then a whole bunch of wheelbarrow loads to the neighbours across the street. Any dirt or soil I now bring in, will be by the bag full & only to top dress specific areas. 

I think there was a question of mulch... topic to be discussed at length later on in the growing season.