Saturday, July 30, 2011

Early Harvest

Spent some quality time in my raised beds today - getting dirty to the elbows, pulling the occasional weed (yes, relatively weed-free this year!) & hauling out monster size sorrel plants that need to find new homes. A raised bed is no place for a deep-rooted over-productive leafy green plant.

I also just noticed that I had a slight case of potato blight - still need to do some research on this, but what I ended up doing was pulling out all my red gems & most of my Yukon golds.

I'm quite pleased with today's results - I didn't have any success last year in my potato-in-a-bucket-experiment (not enough drain holes & not large enough, so things rotted). I planted only 2 Yukon golds (there are some still in the ground) & 2 red gems.

Am looking forward to some tasty potato dishes in the coming week or 2!

I am already planning on dedicating one whole bed to just potatoes. Am just wondering if I should keep to one variety or go with more? The red gems were the plants with the blight this year.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Joy

I'm removing the 'f' word from my garden language. Yes - the word 'failure' is not going to be tolerated any longer!! All I have to do is look out my window & see the rose that I rescued is blooming again. There are a few other blooms making an appearance & the new growth shooting up from the root stock is thick & healthy. The leaves are dark & shiny green - very few spots or evidence of insect attacks. I would say this is definitely a success in my book!!

Great way to start the day - even if it's foggy... (oops! There's another 'f' word!!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finding Joy during a Summer of Failure - part 3

Or: The Shape of Things to Come

Seems that in my intent to 'let my gardens be', I've removed a whole lot of work from my garden chores list. Feels strange to have time to play outside & yet not have anything pressing that needs my attention. And I'm OK with that, even if I can see that this area would look a little bit better if I just did that, or that area really needs a bit more of that...

I'm trying to focus on what is really happening in my space & also taking the time to walk around the community to see what's happening in the wilds of the back roads.

I enjoy taking the time to find the critters & this one is a new one for me. I call it a 'bee' but there are quite a few varieties out here. It's not a mason bee nor a bumble bee. Could this be a honey bee??

My raspberries are finally starting to ripen. It's a bit of a game to actually find them as I pruned back this year's fruiting canes this spring to a manageable height & this year's new canes are towering over them by a few feet. At least the birds don't see them!!

Have to really look for the beans too. I unfortunately planted them in my potato bed, so they are being shadowed by the potato leaves & then in between the beans I had put little calendula seedlings, which are now rather large. This is one lush bed of green leaves... At least the beans look much better than last year's attempt - all those where stunted & the beans spiralled into crazy fish-hook shapes & really weren't fit to be eaten. I might have to dig up some more potatoes for dinner & think about transplanting the calendula to another flower bed.

 A ground cherry in the making. I can't say too much about these as I've never grown them before, am not sure what I'm doing & since they are in a bed far-far away from my daily circuit, I don't tend to them often. The plants are stubby but sturdy & there are actually few weeds in the bed, so I'm content to let them do their thing & see what happens.

Castor bean. Not sure if this is supposed to be so short (I thought it would be 5 or 6 feet tall & slightly wider than it's current size of barely over 1 foot) but the colour & shape of the leaves are stunning. Am hoping for flowers at some stage.

Another one of those plants who's seeds were a gift & I've not yet figured out how it fits in my space. But it's good to see the deer are ignoring them & I do enjoy the contrast.

Back in the greenhouse, the peppers are still in recovery-mode from my attempt to rescue them from the aphid invasion. There is new growth both at the top & the bottom of the plants & many have put out a 2nd batch of flowers, which seem much more healthy than the first batch. I've also got quite a few peppers developing - some straight & long  & some curved & crooked.

I finally got into action with the mulch & have put some grass clippings around the base of the plants to help with moisture retention. The leaf virus/bacteria/disease seems to have tapered off as well. Now - just to wait for the fruit to grow a bit & start to change colour - that's the exciting part & hope to catch some of the changes on my camera.

There on the left are just a few of the heirloom yellow pear tomatoes. Love the tear-drop shape!

These on the right are one of my other cherry tomato varieties - either the early bush Taxi or the vine Moneymaker. Personally, I think they are vine tomatoes because these plants plus the pear tomatoes are growing well over 10 feet tall - and that's in a greenhouse that's barely 7 1/2 feet high.

I've had to do some serious leaf-removal as these lush, green monsters were shading themselves out & I also couldn't see how the plants were doing on the far side of the bed. I felt bad removing so much green matter, but I'm sure the tomatoes will appreciate the better air flow, more sun light & put that energy back into making tomatoes.

I think I need to go talk with them today & will bring along my twine & scissors as I'm sure there are vines that need tying or trimming. Maybe I fed them too much compost tea & that's why all the lush green-ness!!

And lastly, the nasturtiums I planted along with my peppers are doing fabulous. The ones out in the yard in raised beds or flower pots aren't quite as nice as these - very odd year for nasturtiums I'm finding. Seems they are doing the trick of inviting pollinating insects into the greenhouse (helps I leave the door open most days), and it's nice to munch on flowers while talking to the 'maters & peppers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Finding Joy during a Summer of Failure - part 2

This year I took proactive steps in my battle with the deer. It seems to be working - or else the deer have changed their mind about certain things in my yard (right...) The deer fencing is not pretty - re-bar stabbed into the ground with half-rotten black fishing net draped on it & around the berry bushes. I will be lucky to get 2 summers' worth of protection out of the netting.

But this form of protection has allowed the blueberry shrubs to put on lots of growth & put out lots of berries. Last year the deer ate all the unripe fruit (odd as that seems) & then ate the outward-facing branches that I had pruned over the last few years to grow outward & up in a healthy, open manner.

This year, most of the new growth has been inward but there is hope yet for recovery. I really should look into taking cuttings & starting new plants. Having only 2 shrubs just doesn't provide me with enough for the winter & it takes almost 5 years for these things to start producing in quantities other than what you can eat standing by the shrub for 2 minutes.

The blackcurrant shrub has always had me perplexed. But it too is enclosed within my deer fence & this year has loads of berries that are starting to ripen. If we had a bit more heat & sunshine, I'm sure I would be eating a few of them now. I would dearly love to take cuttings off this shrub to start new plants as the blackcurrant is one of my favourites & I would like to start making jelly & jam with them.

I'm looking forward to sitting beneath this large shrub to harvest the fruit, hide from the world & commune with the bugs & birds & snakes - which seem to like to live at the base of my berry shrubs...

The loganberry patch is doing very well this year, despite the fact that I remove all cane supports (other than the fence that it grows on). The canes are so long & heavy that they are now leaning down & laying almost on the ground. I'm sure I'll miss many fruit this way, but this is one cane plant that you really have to watch out when handling it. Thorns are everywhere - on the canes, top & underside of the leaves & I'm sure the fruit have something on them to keep the birds from eating them before they are ripe.

The deer have shown no interest in these - yet. Soon I will begin my daily berry-checks. Even if I'm only getting a handful at a time in the beginning, it's a good way to stave off the marauding birds & potential bear incursion. I would dearly love to make loganberry wine again. They have such an unusual flavour - hard to describe. They are a solid fruit - not hollow like raspberries. There are different flavours too - depending on where it grows, what it grows in & what it's fed (mulch vs no mulch vs fertilizer type). I find them sweet tangy with hits of 'floral' on the tip of the tongue. See - hard to describe. But the jams are divine! Mmmmm - makes me feel better just thinking about harvest time!

The blackberries - wild & everywhere & invasive - are putting out lots of flowers. The roadsides are a-buzz with bees & it's quite nice to see these flowers bringing a different dimension to the green-ness of the coast.

I have high hopes for a good harvest this year. Even if it's a dangerous venture with all the thorns & the potential for a run-in with a bear on the other side.

I find joy in gathering berries - gets me out of the house, off the property & allows me to bump into people who might not know about wild foods they too can also harvest. Teaches your eyes to look at the finer details in plants too - lots of wild berries are hidden amongst the greenery.

Now, let's just pray for some warm weather & sunshine to help things ripen up!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finding Joy during a Summer of Failure

 My moodiness of late is directly linked to the state of my gardens. I mean my veggie efforts to feed myself & my hubby. This summer has shown me that I seriously lack certain adaptable skills in order to deal with variations in Mother Nature's choice of weather. It's cool, mostly cloudy & more damp than previous years. 

But I can't be that moody gardener. No one wants to hang around a moody gardener - someone who moans about the pathetic peas, or the lack of beans or the failure of carrots, beets, kale (& the list goes on) to sprout. 

I've begun a journey to re-locate my sense of Peace & Joy in my gardens. Yesterday it started with the flowers. Specifically my daylilies. 

Did you know that daylilies are edible? I just might have to try that tonight!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just When I Thought it was Safe to Go Outside...

Didn't I just say the deer were leaving me alone?

Now she thinks it's safe enough to have a 'lay-down' in the rain...

Is this Really Summer?

Today is a cool & misty kind of day. Not really great weather for doing much in the gardens other than wandering around to see how things are coming along. I've noticed I've not posted much this summer & it's mainly because I'm slightly depressed about the state of my attempts to grow food. Things aren't doing so well this year - it's cool, cloudy & generally not great weather for veggie crops.

My potatoes & lettuce are loving it though. I should remind myself of that more often, but I'm honestly getting tired of eating so much lettuce!! I know I will miss it dearly in the winter (unless I can figure out how to grow it during those months), but right now, I want to be crunching on beans & peas, roasting tomatoes & adding other veggies to my meals.

This spring I spread out my lettuce starts through-out the veggie beds thinking that I would eat most, if not all, of it by the time things were ready to plant carrots, beets & parsnips. Well, as you can see, the lettuce is still growing well - not bolting, not turning bitter & rather healthy (few slugs).

I've also seen a lot of squash volunteers coming up in random spots. We ate a lot of squash this winter & I actually want to grow my own - bought seeds & started them, but those seem to have disappeared, either from birds or slugs or critters in the soil attacking the roots. It's the volunteers of unknown varieties that are doing well. Go figure...

Now I hope they will start to flower & set fruit so that I can see what variety they are. They actually might just be the ones I wanted anyway...

This is my first year for potatoes. I had no idea that they really should be in a bed of their own & hence, they are crowding out the beans. Lovely plants, pretty flowers & it's so much fun to just stick your hand in the soil & pull out some little spuds.

But who knew they would produce their own fruit?!! I'll probably have to remove these before they develop any further (research needed), but it's amazing the changes that happen after only a few days.

Next year I'll dedicate 1 whole raised bed to potatoes so that I'm not worried about the competition for space.

It's my first year also for peppers. After an early near disaster in dealing with an aphid infestation & burnt/diseased leaves, the pepper plants have made a come-back & put out a 2nd set of flowers. There are small fruit developing & I hope that eventually the sun & heat will come so that I'm eating red peppers instead of green ones.

I really need a 2nd greenhouse to house these as I have learned that peppers require more space than 1 gallon pots. They also like more heat than the tomatoes & since I'm constantly leaving the greenhouse door open on 'nice' days, the peppers really aren't growing to their potential.
Beans...mmm...I love beans & this is where they are at. Pretty sad. They are being crowded out by the potatoes & the volunteer squash. They were also heavily attacked by bugs early on, so I'm very happy that they decided to put out flowers & are now putting out beans.

Again, next year I think I'll dedicate a full raised bed to just beans next year. I did try growing runner beans, but they haven't made an entrance into the world & I don't think they will at this point. Sad - would have been nice to see those lovely red flowers!

Another first for me are lemon cucumbers.

They don't look very happy do they?

I have no idea what's going on & frankly, at this stage I'm not inclined to try to figure out how to 'fix' the problem. They are putting out flowers & I check on them frequently to see if they are developing fruit & since I know that they are supposed to be small when ready for harvest, I won't make the mistake of trying to grow 'big' cucumbers. I miss the taste of fresh cucumbers. I have grown weary of the long English cukes we get from the store. Absolutely no flavour!

Please, cukes - give me a few fruit this year...

So while depressed about the state of my veggie beds, I must take joy in the state of my flower beds. Really, this is the year for wild flowers & they are stunning, even if the tall foxglove are falling over with the rain. I can see that I will have lots of seed to gather this fall to spread around the few remaining bare patches of the yard, transplants of goldenrod to dig up where they are starting to take over, and divisions of daisies & lady's mantle to move around.

While I was pulling my hair out last year due to the deer eating everything, this year they seem to be leaving me pretty much alone. Well, I have noticed a few lily buds are missing & a hosta has been tasted, but the devastation from last year is not noticeable. The shrubs are making a come back (now growing very low to the ground, mind you, instead of tall & stately), I feel that I am working WITH Nature instead of AGAINST Nature this year.

So while it's not a great day (or season) for gardening, I will fill up my hummingbird feeder & watch these funny little birds gathering up on my deck.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Canada Day - Belated...

This past weekend was Canada Day & Independence Day & what a great time of year to celebrate life!

- African Queen fushia -
- white foxglove -
- Basket of Gold in 2nd bloom -
- chamomile going a bit wild -
- feverfew starting to bloom -
- lettuce loving the cool summer -
- I love marigolds -
- forget-me-nots still blooming in random places -
- lavender ready for a small harvest -
- lupin seed pods waiting to ripen -
- peony anxious to bloom late this year -