Our Arctic June

So I know I’ve only lived here a few years but everyone says this has been the weirdest, coldest June they’ve EVER seen. Given the warmth at the end of May leading up to it — we’d had a week of lovely warm spring weather hovering from mid to high 20s — I got crazy and planted my tomatoes and squash and excitedly went off to Montréal for a week. I’d only been there 2 days when I heard Nova Scotia, including Halifax, got hit with a surprise freak frost that killed all our tomatoes and most of the cucumbers that had just started to push up from the soil.

But what can you do? I’ve now replanted tomatoes and cucumbers and thrown in some collard greens and zucchini to boot. And even more exciting … I found some sea kale to add to my perennial beds! To read about this amazing plant, click on the plant name. I’ve also added 2 dwarf cherry trees from the ‘Romance series’ out of the University of Saskatchewan: ‘Juliet’ and ‘Valentine’. Click here for information about them.

Mouse over pictures below for caption; click for larger photo.

Despite the arctic June, flowers are budding, insects are pollinating, and we’ve been harvesting lots of delicious greens: lettuce, a few different types of mustard, kale, arugula (my fave). And alerted to the ripeness of certain berries by the noisy, thieving starlings, we’ve been eating lots of haskaps, always the first berries in the spring.

And our side garden, that little strip between our house and our neighbours’ driveway, that I pay hardly any attention to since installing it, seems oblivious to the weather and is looking gorgeous! This used to be nothing but lawn and most plants were gifts from gardening friends and strangers alike. So despite the wind and the cold and this crazy June, I am nothing but blessed. I am now hoping for a beautiful hot summer (well maybe not TOO hot). Mouse over pictures below for caption; click for larger photo.

Advertisements

Annuals & Perennials: working together

Today would have been my mom’s birthday so it seemed like a good time to plant some veggies in her honour. Not that she was the gardener in our family, that was my dad’s specialty, but she could always find a way to feed us with whatever he grew. My cousins, to this day, talk about how my mom taught them to eat cucumbers instead of bananas in their peanut butter sandwiches. So what could be more appropriate than planting cucumbers on her birthday?

IMG_7943

I’m trying a new thing this year in my attempt to keep out unwanted creatures. In the bed above, there are 2 hills at each end into which I sowed probably 10 cucumber seeds each. The rest of the bed contains 4 rows of yellow wax beans. The straw is good on the beans until they start showing themselves and that usually discourages any cavorting but I wanted the cuke hills uncovered. I have no idea why. Just seemed right. So the prayer flags keep the birds off and the stakes surrounding keep the cats out. Or that’s the idea at least. As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever have to buy stakes again as I have so many of all sizes from the stems of the tall flowers/grasses I can use for biomass…echinacea, sunflowers, filipendula, miscanthus, and so on and on. It’s exciting to see all aspects of the garden come to fruition.

And speaking of fruition…

This is the first year I’ve grown saskatoon berries and those bushes are now in bloom. Ahead of them were the haskaps giving the newly awakening bees something to live for. The currants and blueberries have just begun to show buds and even the kiwi are coming alive.

IMG_7948

One of two Saskatoon Berry bushes in bloom. That’s mugwort in the lower right corner and strawberries upper right. The strawberries actually surround the berry bush.

IMG_7953

One of two Black Currant bushes with 3 Good King Henry spinach plants to the right. These are all part of the perennial beds so, believe it or not, that spinach survives the winter, popping up early with the first greens of the season. Bit of Lemon Balm showing on the left.

It’s still early here for the annual plants and even for the perennials to be showing any kind of good growth…that’s why there’s still so much straw mulch down. Some of that will come up as the plants take over. In other words, better pics next time! But I can’t resist a few more…

IMG_7961

Hazel nut tree. This was basically a stick when we put it in the ground last fall and I had no idea it had such beautiful leaves.

IMG_7962

Hazel nut tree. A different variety and not as pretty as the one with red leaves but I’m hoping it will make up for that with plenty of nuts! Walking Onions (perennial) in the upper left corner.

IMG_7946

Peas starting their race to the top. Yes I know, the trellis not pretty.

IMG_7947

About 2 week old onions (annuals). The flags are to protect the carrot seeds planted between the rows of onions from the birds. Supposedly.

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!

IMG_6084

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.

IMG_6081

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.

IMG_5884

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

Introducing…baby veggies

What can I say? We
started late but here they come.
Let’s appreciate.

(It not only rhymes, sort of, but hey, it’s also a haiku.)

babyBROC

Baby broccoli.

babyPEPP

Baby peppers.

babyTOM

Baby tomatoes.

babyBLUE2

Baby blueberry that seems to be calling for some food of its own.

babySQUASH

Baby squash.

babyKIWI

Baby kiwis.

1stGARLIC

Test harvest of the garlic. They’re ready.

So that’s the next big task… harvest the 2 beds of garlic, dry it briefly in the sun, hang it in bunches in the basement until it’s ready to be stored. Meanwhile we continue to harvest all the various greens and herbs as we wait for the babies to grow up.

September Still My Favourite Month

September is my favourite month for a lot of reasons … the weather is gorgeous, tourists have gone home (nothing against tourists, it’s just quiet again, enough to hear the crickets day and night alike), the garden continues to do its own thing while us gardeners continue to help it along and happily harvest the food it offers up.

IMG_3124

First step of garlic harvest. One bed dug up and laid out for initial drying before move into our basement/barn to hang and dry.

IMG_3192

One bunch of garlic dried and stored. We grew 88 heads this year which should be enough to plant next year’s crop with plenty left to last us through next harvest.

IMG_3092

We planted a bed of corn this year…popcorn! That’s a row of Limnanthes douglasii (poached eggplant) in the middle.

IMG_3260

A barrel of Tom Thumb Popcorn grown from Heritage Harvest Seed out of Manitoba. 2’ plants produce multiple small cobs that average 2-3″ long.

IMG_3166

We’ve had a bumper year of acorn squash, also from fabulous Heritage Harvest Seed. Lost track of how many are growing out there.

IMG_3169

I found it fascinating that every single time the bees entered the squash flowers, they seemed to just lie down and wrap themselves around the pistil.

IMG_3208

This beautiful little guy seemed to like the leaves of the Black Turtle Dry Beans.

IMG_3156

I have no idea what happened here. Part of the life and death cycle all around us.

IMG_3242

More life and death.

IMG_3141

I decided to cut and move all the strawberry plants so they would have their own bed instead of scattered throughout the flower garden as I’ve had them. This way I can cover them, protect the fruit from the birds so we actually have something to harvest.

IMG_3202

Blue Solaise Leek, squash behind them, black-eyed susans to the right.

IMG_3176

And last but not least, COMFREY! A couple of seedlings were given to us by an herbalist friend early this summer and they have grown like crazy. In fact, I’m going out right now to cut some leaves to make a tincture.

Picture Perfect

In the middle of the worst winter in a bazillion years, my partner and I decided we had to partake in an introductory insanely cheap flight to Scotland. Problem is we could only get tickets for July, prime gardening time. But winter will do crazy things to you and we bought the tickets. Now having just returned, the garden overflows and I have done nothing but weed for the past week. Oh, and harvest.

IMG_3067

Broccoli, lettuce, kale, and garlic scapes harvested the first afternoon we were home from our trip.

IMG_3088

Lettuce, beans, and kale, oh my!

IMG_3086

Carrots, parsnips, beets in the front bed; lettuce and beans in the next. There’s a bed of broccoli down there, corn, garlic, sunchokes; onions, leeks, and more garlic over in the top right corner. Click the pic to see better.

IMG_3110

One of the heads of broccoli.

IMG_3113

One of 2 beds of garlic. Scapes have all been harvested, garlic soon to be.

IMG_3087

Never having grown currants before, I’m not sure when I should pick them. At least one robin has been checking them out but hasn’t touched them yet.

IMG_3085

The oregano has gone crazy. Lots of different pollinators appear to love crazy when it comes to the herbs but I think I’ll be cutting it back severely come fall.

And speaking of pollinators, what would a garden be without flowers…

IMG_3117

Rudbeckia. This is always swarming with bees.

IMG_3114

Beebalm. Beloved by both hummingbirds and bees.

IMG_3068 'Jackmanii Superba'

I just planted this Clematis maybe 6 weeks ago, nothing more than a few little twigs. I wasn’t even sure it would bloom this year.

IMG_3116 Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’

The majestic Filipendula.

IMG_3072

Astilbe, given to me by my friend, Ed. I have another one out front under which wasps built a nest last year. Here’s to them staying away this year.

IMG_3079

Teasel. I’m not crazy about it because it’s so hard to deal with but the bees love it and I’m all about keeping the bees happy.

IMG_3098

And speaking of bees, I’ll let this one, sucking on the comfrey, have the last word.

New Seedlings in the Rain

So we’ve had some nice weather and we’ve had some unseasonably cool weather this spring. With the growing season already being 3 weeks behind because of the late arrival of a cold and snowy winter, plant life seems just a little tentative in the ‘trust the weather’ department. But lots have sprouted anyway: broccoli, kale, comfrey, chard, mustard, lettuce, garlic, beans, sorrel, chives, ETC. And I’ve sown carrots, parsnips, beets, popcorn (a first for me). Everything just showing except for the corn.

IMG_2379

And now it’s been raining all weekend! I can pretty safely say this: the young plants are happy that it’s raining and I’m happy for them.

IMG_2363

Mustard greens. We’ve been adding them for a couple of weeks now to our salads. Delicious!

IMG_2376

A bumblebee using newly sprouted lettuce as an umbrella. (Actually, I woke her up from somewhere in the layers of straw and she buzzed away, settled in here.)

IMG_2361

Beans to the left, kale to the right. I’m not sure why I planted kale again as we’ve got kale sprouts coming up everywhere from last year. Like the baby mustard, delicious added to salads.

IMG_2314

Hard to see but these are rows of leeks. First time I ever planted leeks from seed. Fingers crossed they make it.

IMG_2311

A bit of a closeup on a couple of the leeks. Hard to imagine them as big leeks.

IMG_2317

Front to back: currant yearling, garlic, rhubarb, leeks and onions, comfrey way in the back. Prayer flags to keep out the birds and give an overall good vibe.

IMG_2315

These are very scraggly looking squash that I just (at the time of this pic) transplanted into a new bed I made last year. Made it sometime in the summer out of compost, soil, sticks, and stones and left it. Seems pretty good so I’m hoping the squash will settle in.