Spring 2017: freaking cold

So winter wasn’t too bad this year and, while I know I’ve said we somehow seem to skip spring and go straight to summer here in Halifax, this year I do believe we have spring! I don’t know how to explain it really, maybe I’m just getting used to it. That said, it’s below normal cold. But hey, the garden grows!

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Peas coming up under protection of prayer flags (they keep the birds out).

Beets under the Wire

Beets, slowly but surely, pushing through. Chicken wire keeps the cats out.

Lettuce Seedlings

Lettuce. Chicken wire will stay on until the plants are big enough to take up their space.

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Garlic, planted last fall, off to a good start.

Meanwhile, pain in the ass that it is because they take over the house, tender veggies have been started indoors. I should be able to plant them out in a couple of weeks. Click the pics for captions.

Other than the veggies, I’ve been keeping busy with post-winter cleanup and welcoming the perennials…

So snow shovels are away for another year and gardening tools have been resurrected. Now I’m going to go plant the onions.

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Winter’s over, spring has sprung…the gardener and her extraordinary assistant.

Spring Came for a Minute and Handed Us Summer

Before moving here, a friend warned me that Halifax really only had 3 seasons. I waited for the punchline but there wasn’t one. She explained that spring basically skipped this part of the country and that one day Haligonians just wake up and it’s all summer humidity and hurricane winds. There is not one part of me that could grasp this at the time. How could you not have spring? How could you just wake up one day and the trees are full of green leaves? How could you miss the budding part? She was just making some point, right? About long winters? Well, yes and no. We do have spring but it’s only about a minute long and you have to work quickly to get your food planted. And it’s all about timing. This year I was late.

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Starting to sow this year’s garden beds and last year’s kale is already going to seed.

I took advantage of the lateness to just go easy and try some new things…

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This is an espalier apple tree that I’m training along our neighbour’s fence. Not just any kind of apple tree… there are 6 different varieties of apple grafted onto the one tree.

The haskap bushes are now 3 years old so I decided it's time to harvest the fruit. First step was to protect them from the birds while the berries were ripening.

The haskap bushes are now 3 years old so I decided it’s time to harvest the fruit. First step was to protect them from the birds while the berries were ripening. I left the male bush (to the left) because the berries were fewer and smaller. One day I looked out and every branch was filled with squawking fluttering starlings swallowing up the little pieces of fruit that I’d left them. 

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Just a handful of the haskap berries harvested. They’re the first of the various berries to ripen and we had them fresh, as vinaigrette, and as jam. We’re also growing currants, raspberries, and blueberries. More on them later.

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The peach tree that I started from a pit 3 years ago is now bearing fruit. This was the first fuzzy little peach bud that showed up.

 

This is that same peach about a month later. There are about 4 or 5 others as well. A neighbour commented that next year the tree would be so laden with fruit, I would have to prop up the branches. He said it like this was a problem.

 

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The not so good new thing this year is that there appears to be way more aphids, earwigs, and ants. Between the ladybugs and insecticidal soap, I may have them sort of under control. Note the scepticism.

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I have never been very good with roses. But this year, for the first time, my lovely partner and I decided to proactively buy and plant a rose bush. And not just any rose. This is an Oscar Peterson Floribunda Rose, part of a Canadian artist series.

 

Catching up with myself

When the posts slow down here (or stop altogether), that usually means one of two things: I’m either busy planting or it’s winter and I’m hibernating. In this case, it’s the former. I’ve been too busy planting to document what the heck I’m doing. This is my attempt to try and catch up.

Click to enlarge.

The last time I was here I wrote about the pulmonaria, how I was digging it out from under winter’s mulchy mess and the first few blossoms were slowly showing their shy little selves. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick refresher:

And now to show how Mother Nature ignores the follies of humans and continues creating her magic, here is that same plant today:

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Pulmonaria (lungwort) does best in cool weather and partial shade.

The daffodils have pretty much come and gone, same with the tulips. Still, there are a few hangers-on…

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And now it’s the irises turn…

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Our neighbours gave us these bulbs a couple of years ago telling us, conspiratorially, that they were a rare black variety that they had never seen before.

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The same iris, now open. Obviously not black though there is that wonderful line from the Christopher Smart poem Jubilate Agno, “For black blooms and it is purple”.

And speaking of neighbours, be very careful about what it is you’re accepting to plant in your garden. Last spring a friend gave me a Himalayan Balsam seedling which I eagerly and gratefully planted since I was told bees liked it. And while they do, indeed, seem to like it (though not as much as the bee balm), it is an invasive little bugger. I had one plant last spring and this year there were seedlings everywhere. It is said that the seed head of this plant can eject seeds up to 7 metres away!!

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This is one patch of the balsam where the single seedling stood last year but there is more of this all over the property that we are slowly eliminating.

Back in a bit with the veggies.

Flowers and Ground Cover

There are 10 vegetable beds installed now, 9 of which are active. The 10th is new and waiting for soil. The truth is that once veggies are planted every spring, I have a responsibility to be vigilant and maintain (weed as needed, hunt slugs and other pests, harvest, etc.) but they pretty much take care of themselves. There’s only so much I can do … which has freed me to focus on flowers and ground cover. To that end, we’ve been working very hard, slowly but surely (emphasis on slowly), to remove lawn and replace it with flowers and ground cover.

Front yard, lawn is slowly being replaced with various types of ground cover.

Front yard, lawn is slowly being replaced with various types of ground cover.

To each their own tool. I'm more of a shovel and pick kind of person.

To each their own tool. I’m more of a shovel and pick kind of person. But hey, a trowel will get the job done too and it’s a much more meditative process!

Flowers are a whole new area for me and other gardeners have been wonderful, gifting me both with plants and their knowledge.

This was planted last summer as a tiny little one flower plant. It's now fulfilling its job as a rapidly spreading ground cover whose name I am embarrassed to have forgotten. Anybody?

This was planted last summer as a tiny little one flower plant. It’s now fulfilling its job as a rapidly spreading ground cover whose name I am embarrassed to have forgotten. Anybody?

Here’s how the front is progressing. Would be a lot faster if we could hire a landscaper but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun!

The hostas from Ed that I planted last year.

The hostas from Ed that I planted last year.

Beautiful fragile little flowers starting.

Beautiful fragile little flowers starting, also courtesy Ed.

Also from Ed last fall. First blooms of Thrift. At least first in our yard.

First blooms of Thrift. At least first in our yard. They likely bloomed in Ed’s before.

 

Japanese Maple.

Japanese Maple. Oh, and that’s a little guardian fairy on the left that a mysterious stranger left in our yard one dark and stormy night.

We’re also taking up lawn and planting flowers in the back alongside all the veggies.

This phlox was given to us by a gardener friend. The rocks on the right are what I had to dig up before I could plant it!

This phlox was given to us by a gardener friend. The rocks on the right are what I had to dig up before I could plant it!

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The blueberries I planted this spring. Ideally I would be removing the flowers so the plant could focus on settling in but I just couldn't bear it. What can I say? It's been a long hard winter.

The blueberries I planted this spring. Ideally I would be removing the flowers so the plant could focus on settling in but I just couldn’t bear it. What can I say? It’s been a long hard winter.

 

2014 Vegetable Garden Is In

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted anything here and, at this time of year, that can only mean one thing: spring finally arrived and I’ve been busy in the garden! It was a long time coming this year. In my impatience and frustration, I lost a few plants to late frosts. I learned, though, that tomatoes and tomatillos are hardier than I think. I put them out too early and they struggled with that same late frost that killed all but one of the zucchinis. But the tomatoes survived and are now flowering. Hardy as they may sometimes appear, I do not intend to push my luck. Next year I will plant them later, after all signs of frost have gone. Why make them suffer?

Tomatillo plant finally on the other side of late spring frosts.

Tomatillo plant finally on the other side of late spring frosts.

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By the time the 2nd frost warning came around, I decided to cover the zukes but it was really too late. They were never able to fully recover.

We are definitely over the hump and quick approaching the first days of summer. The vegetables are coming into their own with beans, peas, tomatoes, kale and all kinds of other greens looking all pleased with themselves. Carrots, onions, parsnips all good. My big fat fail continues to be the squash family. I couldn’t stop them from growing on the west coast and for the 2 years I’ve been here (Nova Scotia), I’ve been completely unsuccessful. This years it’s the slugs … ate the leaves right of the baby cucumber seedlings as they appeared. I’m waiting to see if they recover. Meanwhile, I go slug hunting at dusk. I’ve been clearing out all the straw mulch where they like to hang out. And I keep drinking lots of coffee so I can use the grounds as slug deterrent (see previous post).

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Chives just starting to flower in this photo. They are now in full bloom. I’ve watched baby crows try to pull the flowers right out of the ground! I have no idea what the attraction is but they were not successful.

Last yea's kale sprouting up new delicious leaves.

Last year’s kale sprouting up new delicious leaves.

Last year's kale already attracting pollinators.

Last year’s kale already attracting pollinators.

And for those veggies that can’t over-winter, that I start indoors from seed, that need to be hardened off before being planted in the ground, there’s this:

Plastic portable greenhouse worked beautifully for hardening off plants...I didn't have to bring them in every night! Gift from a neighbour.

Plastic portable greenhouse worked beautifully for hardening off plants…I didn’t have to bring them in every night, I just zipped them up and unzipped them in the morning! Gift from a neighbour.

Note: To harden something off is to inure a plant to cold by gradually increasing its exposure to it.

Today was a  perfect day for playing in the garden…a mixture of sun and cloud, temperature neither hot nor cold, I had a couple of hours to spare, PLUS there were pansies volunteering themselves into the mostly weed lawn!

Volunteered pansies.

Volunteered pansies.

Another plant that’s very happy this time of year is the , AKA red lungwort. And I’m very happy to see it because once we hit the heat of summer, the lungwort acts like it would rather hide out in a cave. It’s a shade loving plant and it doesn’t like heat but look how lovely it looks now…

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Pulmonaria rubra ‘Redstart’

After admiring the newly arrived plants, I sowed some beet seeds in a bed with some extra space between what I’m calling the “surprise” brassica because I don’t know exactly what the seeds are (got them from a Seedy Saturday event) and the sorrel that will not give up no matter how many slugs survive the winter by nibbling on it.

And speaking of slugs, if you don’t know the coffee grounds trick and are having trouble with slugs (and snails too, I believe), it’s worth a try. Just sprinkle coffee grounds around plants that you notice slugs find tasty. It seems to work. It’s a line drawn they just won’t cross. It’ll look something like this…

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The coffee grounds are the darker brown colour. Just sprinkle them so they’re like a moat around the plants you’re trying to protect.

I found these as I was cleaning up some of the veggie beds:

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It’s always good to remember where you planted the carrots in the fall. They are at their sweetest when you dig them up come spring.

 

Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, the weather has cooperated and given us spring! We’ve been out in the garden most of the morning generally cleaning up, “removing” any slugs we come across, adding compost and manure, and dreaming of summer. It seems we’ve suddenly fallen behind in prepping the beds for planting… yes, we’ve turned that corner where it’s warm enough to start sowing certain crops. So some purple bunching onions went in today and we’re madly cleaning up beds to plant peas and beans and some of the more hardy greens.

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In the bed on the left, underneath the straw and behind the chives, are 3 rows of Deep Purple bunching onions. I left a bit of plot behind to plant something else later, saving some of the onion seeds for a summer planting. And in the bed to the right, slowly but surely, the garlic inches upward. If you look at the picture in the last post, it’s barely visible.

And what is early spring (especially in Halifax where people say we go from winter to summer but that’s a story for another time) without the brilliant yellow of daffodils. Happy Earth Day, everybody!

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