Monday, July 31, 2017

Garden Companions

I have two small furry companions that enjoy hanging with me in the garden - on most days...

Spook likes to hide under the tall leafy plants in the heat of the day or when the birds see her & start chirping loud warnings that annoy her (& us).

She loves to be with me when I'm planting things too. Fresh dug dirt & a nice hole are a couple of her favorite play areas & if I try to shoo her away, I get attacked for my efforts.

So far this year, she has kept the vole population down & only yesterday, she finally (that I'm aware of) ate one of her kills - a wee sparrow. As much as I don't want her catching & eating birds, I would prefer her to show me her catches & I can either give them back to her or remove them for proper disposal.

Bugs this year have managed to avoid being part of her diet. Although the summer heat is still gearing up & we are just now starting to see grasshoppers... I guess I'm lucky that she is a carnivore & doesn't eat my veggies... unlike the dog...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Broccoli Harvest Again

It is starting to feel like a jungle in the garden & sometimes you walk by a plant a couple of times before realizing what it is doing. Or how it is growing.

Or how it really wants to be harvested!

The broccoli are wanting to flower, so I harvested another 3 heads.

They are not very large, which is fine considering I had to harvest all 3 at once. We are enjoying the crunchy stalks & how sweet they are. Almost better eating than the crowns!

I can see some of the side shoots are starting to grow & will be perfect for stir fry dishes or on a raw veggie platter (which is how we are preferring our veggies right now).

Looking forward to seeing how many more cuts we can get before the plants go completely wild & flower.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eating Flowers

 When you have a monster squash plant blooming constantly in the garden you can take advantage of those blossoms & EAT them!

Well, it was an experiment & something fun to try.

I harvested a handful of male blooms & cut out the pollen bud.

Then put in a bit of goat cheese with some fresh herbs & quickly fry it up in a dab of butter.
Flavour was good but I think I used a bit too much butter & it was a bit soggy. I didn't use any panko or bread crumbs - which would have helped. Might try that next time, especially as the squash is still producing a lot of blooms. Fun times for kitchen feasts!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Squash or Pumpkin

 The squash plant the suddenly appeared in my veggie bed pathway is starting to take over.

On July 20 there was at least one small fruit that was pollinated & has decided to enjoy the grow where it is.

The plant has continued to produce a vast amount of male flowers & leaves. Very prickly leaves.

Leaves & vines growing up & into the veggie bed on either side...

The plant looks incredibly healthy & I very rarely do much for it - as in water it on purpose.

Let's see what's going on down under there...

 Here is the fruit on the 23rd - massive growth happening with the heat and one day of light rain.

And here is our mystery veggie yesterday - is it a pumpkin or some other squash variety? Who knows! It will be fun to watch it continue to grow & mature over the next month or 2. Wonder how many others are down under the leaves? (I did cut back some of the vines yesterday just so I could actually get into the veggie bed... next year, grow them elsewhere!)

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!