Saturday, July 22, 2017

Medicinal Weeds: Mullein

 This is a year of exploration for me in the world of weeds - both culinary & medicinal.

I've been watching some videos that are teaching me a lot about what's out in my yard & neighbourhood. Check him out: Yarrow Willard: the Herbal Jedi.

Always properly ID your plants before jumping into anything new. I do a vast amount of research & ask questions & talk with local Plant Geeks whenever I can.

His video on Mullein came at a very opportune time - the mullein in my Apothecary Garden is starting to bloom!!

But what to do with it?

 Well, one of my main goals this winter is to come up with one or at least a couple of really amazing blends of oils to use in salves & lotions & massage oils for use this winter to assist with the aches & pains that we seem to suffer more from at that time of year. So, I am harvesting a few flowers every day to put into avocado oil & in a few weeks, this will be strained & ready for use when I ready to go in a few months.
I've only the one plant - only 4 feet tall! I'm hoping that it will reseed itself (I've missed a few days of flowers, so am hoping they produce enough seed for next year's plants). I'm also going to dry a few leaves to try as a winter tea for colds.

Will have to let you know how this all works later on in the year!

Friday, July 21, 2017

First Harvest of Broccoli

 I've been keeping my eye on the broccoli plants for about 2 weeks now after hearing that a few friends have had theirs bolt suddenly due to the weather. They have grown very quickly over these weeks & I knew that I would be eating them very soon. This morning after the rain event (maybe a half hour of rain after weeks without), I went back out & decided to harvest 2 of the 6 plants as they were starting to look like they wanted to go into flower.

Not a bad size for growing broccoli for the first time & just letting them do what they wanted...

I made sure to leave enough of the stem on the plant to allow for other sprouts to form - which they were already doing. This means future harvests of broccoli - even if they are wee & small.

Have you ever had fresh from the garden broccoli?? WOW!!! We cannot believe how tender the stalks are (& we eat as much of the stalk as possible when we purchase broccoli as it is so healthy for you!!)

Tonight's menu includes a coleslaw with these fresh broccoli heads as the main feature. Add in a bit of red cabbage, green onion, shiso leaves & garden peas & you've got an amazing fresh & crisp salad!! Great with pull pork sandwiches in the late afternoon sun...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Morning of Rain

We finally had a bit of rain this morning!
The air feels refreshed & while it wasn't a whole lot of rain, the plants look revived.

The tomatoes are getting larger & looking pretty healthy considering I'm not babying them like I have in the past.

The nasturtiums are finally starting to bloom. I'm using them as aphid traps in the veggie bed & so far, they are working very well. A couple plants have black aphids on them & in a couple of days, I'll remove them to the compost heap.

The Scarlett runner beans are finally starting to put on a wee effort. Maybe the rain will convince them that they should grow & give us flowers & food...

The bees are loving this section of garden with the yellow Evening Primrose, the orange calendula, blue of the borage & some red nasturtiums.

* I'm still having technical issues with this site & find it frustrating to say the least * Hopefully these issues will resolve themselves & allow me to share in a more regular & joyful manner *

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Little Perserverance Please

 The 'dog days' of summer...

Things are getting a little out of control.
The pak choy is bolting - but the flowers are edible & the leaves still sweet, so I'm letting this happen.

The zesty salad mix (mustards) are also bolting & these flowers are also edible. But the flavour of the leaves is now becoming very strong - over powers a salad & no one wants to eat it.

I keep telling myself that I'm letting the seeds develop so I can save some seed for next year. Not really working so I should really just pull the plants & compost them. Make room for some winter veggie plantings... or late season greens once the weather cools down... or carrots - would be nice to see carrots this year...

And how about that broccoli?! I like to check on them almost daily as I'm concerned that they will suddenly bolt overnight & I won't get to appreciate my first home-grown broccoli. Diligence will pay off...

The peas have decided they will grow & produce after all. This is a grand & glorious thing!

Lesson - peas are not skinny, narrow, vertical growing plants. They expand outwards & take up more horizontal space in your garden than you might think. I was trying to grow beets, celery, cucumbers, onions, leeks & radish in the shadow of the peas. Most of these will not make an appearance til they see some proper sunshine, which might not be til next year at the slow growth rate of the peas.

Peas need to be planted much sooner in the season.

And this is the monster pumpkin - growing smack dab in the middle of the walk-way in the veggie bed. Loving life in sandy soil with no nutrients (that I'm aware of) & a whole lot of heat (those stones can burn the bottoms of your bare feet in the noon-day sun!). This plant will not remain contained to the lower portion of this space - it is already sending out reaching tendrils towards the peas & I'm sure it will blanket more space over the following weeks...

I love this wildness & remain hopeful for a harvest of something from it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Potato Harvest

My experiment with growing potatoes in a pile of wood shavings has come to an end. I decided yesterday that the 4 foot tall plants were probably not producing the amount of potatoes as they should because I was no longer hilling the plants - I ran out of vertical room & wood shavings.

Sounds odd to say I ran out of vertical room, but since I didn't shore up the mound with a frame that I could add onto, the wood shavings were starting to become wild & spread on to other plants growing nearby.

Plus the peas were taking advantage of the height & growing on & up the potato plants.

It was time to see if this worked...

I just gently tugged on each plant & they came right up out of the shavings - still attached to the plant & very clean!!

No bugs, no issues. Amazingly, the original potato that was planted was still whole & sound & I'm sure it would have kept on producing if I had hilled the plants properly.

But, for this year, I have enough fresh potatoes for a meal & the satisfaction knowing that my experiment worked! A few tweaks for next year & we'll produce more spuds more efficiently.

I spread 2 large buckets of used wood shavings around the flower bed as a mulch & called it a day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Week of Gardens - part 2

Well, the first week was jumbled.
Let's see what this 2nd week of July will look like.

I harvested a good quantity of greens from the garden this week. The lettuce is amazing!! Cannot eat it quick enough, but it holds very well in the fridge & tastes so smooth & lovely that I am going to be seeding more when the weather cools down a bit.

The kale is now in the freezer for comfort food meals in the cooler weather & I'm drying the rose petals, lemon balm & calendula for teas or to make salves & oils later on.

These roses are so fragrant - have the with me at the table while I work.

I somehow missed the flowers on the pea plants & I'm pretty sure that over the course of only 4 days, these suddenly appeared! Super sweet & super crunchy - the pea patch is the first place I head to when I come home from work.

I took a peak under the leaves of the pumpkin & yes, it is flowering.

The poppies that were growing here have now been removed - thought it best to give this plant some space & to also allow me access to the garden! I've 'composted' the monster poppy plants in an area that I wouldn't mind having them grow on their own, so we shall see if they make an appearance there next year.
The tomatoes are finally making an appearance too & the plants look none the worse for being watered from the top down. I've put some slate stones underneath the plants to assist with heat & water & this seems to be working just fine.

There are 2 other tomato plants that are of the cherry variety - they seem to have gone a bit wild & I should take a closer look to see if I should prune them some & tie them up to the supports.

Lazy gardening...

Love hiding in the middle of the wildness of the flower beds. Viewing the gardens from different perspectives (inside out or back to front) gives ideas of creativity a chance to flourish.

Can't wait to propagate more of these wonder plants & watch more insects & hummingbirds come into the yard.

And finally these two - my shadows.
When I come home from work, they immediately seek me out for attention, for petting, playing & treats out in the garden. Well, the dog likes the treats from the garden & the cat just likes to play hide & seek in the flowers... 

This was another fabulous week in the garden. Let's see what happens this weekend & if I can share in a timely fashion the next growth explosion.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Week of Gardens

Where is the summer going?!

I'm so busy just relaxing & enjoying the garden space (ha) that I forget to show & share. I'm also having issues with the blog program - it just seems to be difficult to work with right now, so apologies for the scattered look it has today. (maybe that's technology's way of saying 'get out in the garden & away from the computer'!!!)

Things seem to have exploded in growth over the last couple of weeks too & it's about time!

The marigolds are recovering after being attacked by slugs & the calendula are flowering brightly. I have hopes that the wee nasturtiums will eventually grow & flower too.

This year I will be saving seeds again - finally - after many years of not having that option & these 3 veggie bed companions are high on my list.

The pumpkin growing in the flagstones in the walkway of the garden is making it difficult to wander in without brushing up against the fuzzy leaves & stepping on them.

I will be checking to see if there are female flowers showing up yet as the first to bloom are male. Would be nice to have at least 1 pumpkin come out of this monster plant that I've let grow where it wants.

Growing as a companion to the pumpkin is a huge mass of California poppies. They are great insect attractors & thrive in the sandy soil between the flag stones (which makes me wonder how the pumpkin is growing in the same poor soil...)

I'm contemplating saving seeds from these as well & would like to see more out in the front where the conditions are a little more harsh than out in the back...

The Apothecary Garden is also taking off & I'm going to let the plants I've been gifted to grow & produce seed this year. Next year I'll start harvesting & using their goodness in salves & oils & teas.

This beauty is the Evening Primrose. It has scent in the evening hours, so I've got it close to the edge of the garden bed so we can enjoy it.

Have you ever noticed the different fragrances of your garden space at different moments of the day?

This is a crazy corner of the garden - love it!! The 6 foot tall red bee balm in the back, with the clary sage in shining silver with the yellow rose & a red frilly poppy just finishing it's bloom. There is a cherry tree off to the right & tall lilies in the front.  Other random seeds are sprouting & some plants are waiting for the fall to be moved to the front gardens & other plants are growing happily in the partial shade (like the 3 different clematis growing along the back & side fence).

This area smells heavenly & is one of my favourite spots to sit in the late afternoon when I'm home from work.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada Day Harvests

 Happy Canada Day!
I headed out to the gardens to harvest some full heads of lettuce now that the summer heat has finally arrived. I did not want the greens to become bitter as they got larger & larger.

The lettuce will keep very well in the fridge, wrapped in paper towel in an open bag. Looks like another week of salads for lunch & dinner!

Time to get creative....

Harvested some Swiss chard and the last of the spinach as well. The spinach I put in the freezer for our next lasagna bake so the Swiss chard will take the place of wilted spinach with our eggs.

Lovely colours with rainbow chard & they seem to be doing very well in the full sunny corner of the veggie bed.

I'm also harvesting kale too. I usually throw in a few leaves of kale with my salads, but thought that I would take a larger harvest today of kale to put into the freezer for eating later on in the year.

One of our most favourite comfort foods is boerenkool (check out a recipe here). I have a few packages frozen in the freezer from earlier this spring from the over-wintered kale & am thinking I might use those ones for along with spinach in our next lasagna bake. Or maybe in a hearty soup....

Basically, I rip the leaves off the ribs of the plants & then stuff the leaves into a ziplock bag (use a vacuum seal bag if you want it longer than a few months) & squeeze all the air out. I toss it into the freezer & when I want to use the kale, I will either wack it with a rolling pin to break up the leaves or if I want only half the bag, I'll chop-chop what I want off into small frozen pieces. The leaves are tough, so don't expect them to break down easily when you cook them (like spinach would do).

Grabbed a small handful of radish while I was out there & checked on the progress of the peas growing in behind.

The pea trellis idea needs some tweaking as the peas are not really growing up so much as out & then up - totally shading out the red onions, leeks, radish & beets further along.

The cilantro has been cut right back a few times but still keeps on coming back. It might be because it is growing where there is a bit of afternoon shade, so I'm quite happy with that.

I cut completely back a few of the plants & the rest I think I will leave to go to seed to see if they will start to self-seed themselves. If not - I will collect some seeds to sow in either the fall or next spring for fresh plants.

Well - all in all, a great harvest day - putting food away for later in the year, taking a look at where things are at & gathering food to eat right now.

Am a bit behind in some updates, but will get some photos posted this coming week. I've finally been enjoying some lazy times in the garden - actually just sitting there watching the birds & the bees, listening to things grow & wondering how to improve or change or alter things for next year already.

Happy Weekend!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What A Little Rain Can Do

 We had a few cool days with some rain & then the temperatures warmed up again, which means that the gardens are fairly exploding right now!

I'm trying my hand at broccoli & we'll see if they grow heads that we can harvest. I would like to try sprouting broccoli next year & I'm tempted to start nibbling on the leaves right now to add different flavours to our meals.

The kale mix are also producing nicely too. I still prefer winter kale over the summer grown plants - slightly sweeter & far fewer insects. With the summer season upon us, I am already starting to think of what I can have in the gardens to help us through the autumn & winter. I'm going to be seeding more kale for sure!

 The potatoes are growing daily & I'm rather impressed that they are doing so buried under the wood shavings. I've run out of shavings & I'm not sure I can pile much more up on top the of the plants - I should look for some extra wood to place in front so that I can fill in that space.

I've planted dill seeds in that space in front, so will wait to see if they sprout before expanding the potatoes too much more.

The lettuce plants are growing almost faster than we can harvest & eat them! I make wonderful huge leafy salads for lunches & dinners & underneath these plants I have some zesty salad seeds starting to grow, which I hope will feed us later into the summer. But I'm forgetting that the summers on this side of the island are hotter & sunnier than the ones I had back on the west side of the island. I might not be able to grow salads for too much longer unless they are under other plants in slightly shadier & cooler conditions.

We are still enjoying the spinach & it is growing in a good spot in the veggie bed where it is sheltered by the peas on one side & the tall potatoes on the other. I will be sowing more spinach when the cooler weather returns as I am so amazed at the incredible flavour of fresh-from-the-garden spinach over what you can get at the grocery store.

The veggie bed is constantly changing with harvests & fresh seeding or plantings. It is a growing, living thing that I am enjoying so much once again.

I also rather appreciate the California poppies growing in between the flagstones in the middle.

And a random squash has sprouted there too. I'm not sure if it is pumpkin or another variety, but now that I'm remembering what used to be in the spot last year, I do recall that I had composted 2 pumpkins here last winter before we cleared the area in preparation of building the bed.

Will be interesting to see if I get a pumpkin!

Wonder what else will get growing...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I can Almost Taste the Sweetness

 I've never grown strawberries on purpose before.

They were always accidental finds tucked away from the main growing space.

This year, I dug them up & planted them specifically to see if I could indeed grow them mindfully.

They are slightly behind in the growing season - pretty much like everything in my yard - but I enjoy watching the process.

 I put down a thin layer of wood shavings to assist in keeping the weeds down & the moisture in.

So far, the dog has ignored the plants & I have no intention of sharing our crop with her. If I'm able to encourage more plants to grow in the wild corners of the yard, I might be more inclined to let her have one or two.

We have some hot weather coming this week, so hopefully the berries will pop & we'll be able to enjoy them soon!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thinning the Apples

 Yesterday I came across several articles about thinning out apples on backyard apple trees & I knew this was something I had to do this year in a more serious manner than what I did last year.

I think I had to do an emergency thinning last year in mid-July as the tree was almost uprooting itself due to such a heavy load of fruit!

But learning how to let go of a potential fruit is a tough thing to do! Making that decision of which one to remove & which one to keep...

~ sigh ~

 So I carefully removed the smallest fruits, the ones with blemishes or insect damage & I checked the whole tree for general health & removed some of the new growth in order to keep it compact for the space in which it is growing.

I do think this year we might have to find some support system for the tree as it just doesn't seem to be rooted very strong & the winds really do blow it around. Will do yet more research on this & hopefully a couple of lines attached to the fence will assist in keeping the tree from tipping over later in the year.

As you can see, there are some sizeable apples I removed & it looks like a lot. *it is a lot!!!*

I'm looking forward to eating some fresh crunchy apples later on this year & hopefully, we'll come up with a better idea of what variety they are!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eating Green Things

 Am finally eating green things from the garden again!

How I missed it over the last 2 years!

Since I don't yet have the room to start my own seeds earlier in the season indoors, I purchased quite a few veggie starts to get things going until the seeds I planted directly in the gardens could grow & start providing food for us.

The lettuce leaves are so tender & delicious that it is hard to not eat them before bringing them inside to share in a meal!

I tried growing Swiss chard last fall as a winter veggie, but the winter was rather harsh and we didn't have much of an opportunity to eat it before it all died.
Right now, they are doing very well & I'm making more of an effort to eat it in different ways in order to enjoy it fresh. I'd rather not harvest it to put in the freezer right now, unless it starts to grow crazy fast & we are unable to keep up with it.

Fresh is best!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Growing Peas on a Bamboo Trellis

 The veggie garden is starting to fill out & I'm always learning new things about how to grow things.

Last year we grew sweet peas in front of the lattice panels we installed but I had to tie them up. I guess the little tendrils of the peas didn't like the larger size of the lattice slats.

This year, I'm growing sugar peas, shelling peas & the sweet peas again, but have decided to try using a bamboo trellis to get the peas to twine up & around something a little smaller.

I pushed the bamboo stakes (which around about 7 or 8 feet long) into the garden soil at an angle & made a weave fence that supports itself & should be strong enough to hold all the peas (& now pickling cucumbers I just seeded).

I'm curious to see which of the vertical growing supports the peas will choose this year.

Things are still slow to take off with the peas and I'm sure once they do, we'll be eating peas almost non-stop for a few weeks.

The dog will be so happy to have peas again!

I can't wait to see what this area will look like in a month.