Winter, I Cry Uncle

So my brother asked me today why I hadn’t been posting anything in my blog. I guess somehow he forgot that winter started late here and is damned if it’s not going to hang around late too. This post is for him. I don’t think I have to say anything else except see you in the spring. Click on the pics to see better.

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I think this might be a blueberry bush. I guess it could also be the top of the lilac. The rest of it is snow but I’m guessing you knew that.

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This is for sure one of the blueberry bushes. Poor thing. Just a baby too.

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Garden beds. Under a bit of snow.

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More garden beds. Under more snow.

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Some perky little bit of something. Oh, and snow.

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The lovely white of winter. More beds under, yep, snow.

Blueberry Buds in Winter

This was earlier in the season before the blueberry bushes got completely buried.

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Also early in the season. Oregano, I think, tossing little oregano snowballs.

Bird Tracks on Snow

But hey, the birds are dancing!

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Hello Fall

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Most of the beds have been mulched, garlic planted.

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Bamboo to the left, mustard greens to the right.

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A variety of mustard.

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Last of the brown-eyed susans.

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Newly sprouting mustard and onions.

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The calendula love the cool weather.

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Calendula, spirea, and various herbs.

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The dahlias finally call it a season. Once we have the first frost, I’ll dig up the tubers and bring them in for the winter.

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One last shout-out from the saxifragia.

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Yucca gets mulched from the overlooking maple.

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More veggie beds.

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Last leaves of a blueberry bush.

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Juvenile peach tree which just a few months ago was a peach pit in a compost pile.

Late Bloomers

In an earlier post, I’d said that the cucumbers were unsuccessful this year, that none had survived the cold spring. But a few weeks ago, while harvesting mustard seeds, I found this cucumber hiding in the shade of what had once been very tall, leafy mustard greens.

Hidden cucumber now revealed.

Hidden cucumber now revealed.

We’ve since eaten this very delicious fat little cuke. We’ve also since harvested all of the tomatoes and, while we’ve canned some of them, stacks of them await our attention. In fact most of the gardening these days has turned to harvesting and clean-up. So it’s a delight to see the Jerusalem Artichokes just coming into their glory and the zucchini, which took so long to come to fruit, keep on giving into the fall.

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First year Jerusalem Artichoke (AKA ‘sunchoke’) in bloom.

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Zucchini plant still producing and looks like it will be for awhile.

And the tomatillos are still producing…food for us and flowers for the bees.

Tomatillos getting ready to burst.

Tomatillos getting ready to burst open.

Symbiosis

symbiosis |ˌsimbēˈōsis, -bī-|noun (pl. symbioses |-ˌsēz| ) Biology
interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

There may not be a more perfect example of symbiosis than gardening’s Three Sisters: squash, corn and beans. Various Native American groups grew the 3 crops together in order to get the most yield for their work and many follow the practice today. Click here for the full story: http://www.almanac.com/content/companion-planting-three-sisters

Two of the three sisters: beans growing up the corn stalk

Two of the three sisters: beans growing up the corn stalk.

Bee on Scarlet Runner

Bees are getting fat on the scarlet runner flowers which are happily entwining themselves around the corn. Is that an ant on the flower to the right?

In a completely different kind of symbiosis, let’s talk humans… our back yard neighbours have 2 beautiful plum trees whose branches hang into our yard. We have harvested the most delicious plums from those few branches which in turn keeps the neighbours happy because they don’t feel guilty about wasting food!

Plum trees and their harvest.

Plum trees and their harvest.

Everything Grows

Well, almost everything grows. Unless it doesn’t. The cucumber has refused to grow this year. First it was too cold, then it was too wet. That was immediately followed by it being too hot. And when it did start to show its beautiful viney self, the slugs ate it. So till next year, no cukes from the garden.

That all said, if I make it to August I’m cruising. This might be my favourite gardening time because it’s a little bit of everything going on: planting, harvesting, clean-up all happening at the same time. And if you have flowers, that’s just a bonus.

Perennial bed back of the house.

Perennial bed back of the house.

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Yucca plant, 1 of 3 given to us by neighbours, in bloom.

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Evening Primrose.

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A Comma butterfly slurping up the echinacea pollen.

We’ve been harvesting for awhile. All kinds of greens, peas, beans, carrots, onions and on the last day of July we harvested the garlic. We’ve now turned the living room into a drying shed or, as we like to call it, our barn.

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Garlic drying in the living room.

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Thinning the carrots. This year I planted carrots every few weeks so we’d have a steady stream of them.

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This is the first time I planted tomatillos and, to be honest, I’m not even sure how to tell when they’re ripe.

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Peach tree (!) from a friend who pulled it out of the compost.

 

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.

 

May Day

It’s been a tough April. May has not been so friendly herself so far. Still too cold to plant most things. But I’m getting a lot of work done in the garden at a pace that’s actually kind of fun and reasonable. Today I spent a few hours cleaning up some of the veggie beds. Kale left over from last year is sending out new leaves so I cleaned out the old mulch, killed me some slugs, and spread coffee grounds to deter them from coming back. (Unlike me, slugs don’t like coffee.) And I planted a couple of blueberry bushes: Duke and Blue Gold. I’ve got haskap and kiwi but I’ve never grown blueberries before. More on all of this later. As well as pictures. Meanwhile, there’s this…

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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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Spring is Peeking

Yes, it has been a really long and harsh-for-Halifax kind of winter but just as the bravest of the plants are starting to peek out from under their protective mulch, so go I. Twice now I have been out in the garden in a tank top and steel-toed boots cleaning up the detritus (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence). While the perennials may be far behind where they were this time last year, the important thing is that they’re here.

After a little cleanup of dead stalks and mulch, voila...chives! Always the first green I see in the veggie garden. And we've already sampled them...scrambled eggs and chives!

After a little cleanup of dead stalks and mulch, voila…chives! Always the first green I see in the veggie garden. And we’ve already sampled them…scrambled eggs and chives!

Garlic finally peeking out through the mulch.

Look for the green… garlic finally peeking out through the mulch. Last year’s were 5 times the height by now.

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Tulips and daffodils never let me down. They’re later this year too, of course, but later is better than never.

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I’ve never been a big fan of crocuses (crocii?) and this is the first year I planted them. I’m still not a fan but seeing their blooms is beyond delightful when there’s still snow on the ground.

 

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Meanwhile, inside I’ve got the tomatoes going as well as some squash and goji berries. Goji berries are a first for me and, while apparently almost indestructible once planted out, the suggestion is that they stay indoors for the first year.

Japanese Lady Beetles

On October 27th, I posted this picture of a ladybug. I had no idea that some of these fabulously beneficial insects are actually not our native ladybugs that we’ve come to love and cherish. The one in the above mentioned picture, for example, is the ‘dreaded’ Japanese Lady Beetle brought in by greenhouses and others to kill the aphid population. Unfortunately, as often happens with invasive species, it’s adapted outdoors very well and is killing off our native ladybug population. Yikes! This was all brought to my attention by the fabulous Sherry Chaisson who also directed me to this site (American but applies to Canada as well):  http://www.ladybuglady.com/asianladybeetle.htm

Adding insult to injury, or as is the case here, adding injury to insult, the Japanese Lady Beetles also bite (!) usually while they’re trying to get in and nest in your house in the fall.

So what to do about the impostor? I still have to do more research on that, but given how beneficial ladybugs are, part of the plan has to be to encourage the native population. So perhaps the first step is to bring in lots of them. And by the way, the Japanese beetle has many spots while the native have only a few. More to come on this topic.

No, Really

OK, now the garden is really put to bed. And unlike the previous post, the beans are gone, I haven’t seen a bee or a ladybug in weeks (well, ok, in days and days at least), and the flowers…well, I wish there were still flowers but alas (or alak?), they’ve said so long till next year. After all, we’ve already had snow flurries and frost. Who would want to stick around for that? Carrots maybe? Parsnips?

What there are lots of are leaves. Beautiful, differently coloured leaves. I see their beauty and I also see… mulch. So along with all my neighbours, I’m out there raking. But instead of putting the leaves in bags, I put them in the wheel barrow and dump them where they’re most needed… as a protective cover on the veggies that I’m leaving in over the winter: carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips.

Leaf mulch protecting rutabaga, kale, and broccoli.

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Mulch covering parsnips and carrots.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to go out this winter and dig up root vegetables from underneath the snow and mulch. Nothing would make me happier!

Call It A Season

I noticed the other day that the scarlet runners, beans that I thought had finished their growth for the year and had given me all the beans I was going to get, had started growing again. Is this normal? I have no idea. But they’re starting from the ground up and look quite healthy. I know they won’t bear fruit but it’s nice to see them anyway.

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Scarlet Runners get a new lease on life.

I have the feeling most things that can will give it one last blast before the cold sets in. The broccoli is winding down slowly, still lots to eat, and the bees, sluggish though they be, are still buzzing around the flowers. Ladybugs too. You can see they want to hibernate… they’re moving so slowly but I do still love seeing them.

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Bees are sluggish but still active in the broccoli.

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I must have been a ladybug in a past life.

Echinacea (l) and fenugreek also getting ready to call it a day. Or a season, I guess. Note the pods on the fenugreek. Echinacea flowers still brilliant but having a hard time holding themselves up.

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You Do What You Can

It’s been a busy couple of days but I love when I get a chance to spend at least some of that busyness in the garden. There are still root veggies in (parsnips, carrots, rutabagas and  a few beets) and they’ll probably stay in most of the winter, kale of course, broccoli, arugula and baby lettuces. I decided to test out a small plastic greenhouse tunnel that my neighbour gave me last spring.

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It’s really too small for anything I’m doing but since it’s getting colder at night now, I thought I’d try it on the baby arugula and see if it’s something I might want to pursue on a larger scale for the larger beds. And speaking of neighbours, which we were, ever so briefly, Wally’s maple tree has lost all its leaves already while ours has just barely started to change colours. So he gave me 5 bags of leaves that I’m using as mulch in the flower beds.bedmulch

If I was doing it right, I would have chopped up all the leaves first and dug them into the soil a little bit but what the heck. You do what you can. They’ll protect the soil and the bulbs and other plant roots and in the spring I’ll rake up whatever has not decomposed. Five bags doesn’t go that far either but I’m laying them on thick.

Meanwhile, in another part of the garden that I’ve been doing nothing with, some strawberries have volunteered themselves. I noticed one all by itself a couple of months ago so I encouraged it to branch out, so to speak, and this is what it looks like now…

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So I’m adding some nice compost and in a few days, I’ll cut them back and mulch with straw. I’ve worked with strawberries previously and they’ve gifted me with huge yields so… yep, you do what you can.

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