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.

Flowers

This is a new daylily, the ‘Niki Jabbour’, named after local gardener, Niki Jabbour. It was grown by Harbour Breezes in Jeddore, Nova Scotia. Shown here are 8 different blooms from 8 different days from July 28-August 12. There appears to still be 2-3 buds to go.

Then there’s the ubiquitous Echinacea purpurea, also known as Purple Coneflower. The bees go crazy for these, sometimes just sleeping in them (or so it seems to me). Butterflies and hummingbirds also love them and they’re a good herb for humans as well.

And speaking of hummingbirds, their favourite actually seems to be the scarlet Bee Balm. At this point, they’re nearly finished but both the bees and the hummers are still visiting.

A bit of a wilder view below… that tall white flower in the back (L) is Yucca and the tall pink flower in the back (R) is filipendula. Monarda, aka bee balm, and some kind of daisy in front.

I’m all about the food growing but what I love about the flowers is not only their beauty but the fact that they’re food for the pollinators. Whatever feeds the pollinators ultimately feeds us.

Top left to right: Iris, ‘Oscar Peterson’ Rose, pink tubular flower (?), a bee hugs a bean, lupins, dahlia, hops.

Bees Go Balmy

I’ve been doing a lot of clean-up in the garden these days … all of the usual harvesting and weeding and thinking about what beds to mulch for the winter and whether or not I can get one more crop of something or other and, if so, where I should plant it. I spend as much time as I can out there at this time of the year and have noticed lots of bee action. Crazy eccentric bee action.

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I came across these bees on the ground between a bed of leeks and the herb garden. Initially I thought they were just a couple of bees drunk on pollen but no…on closer inspection, they were doing the humpty-dump. The male was injecting sperm into the queen. Right there, rolling around in the garden. But wait, it gets better… As the male flew off and the queen was pulling herself together, I noticed there was another bee on the back of the flying male! I kid you not. It was a 3-way. I’m only sorry I was too stunned to take a picture.

I’ve since done some research and, if my sources are to be believed (which I’m sure they are), these are ground nesting bees. Each female builds her own nest though many will build their nests close to each other. I believe the male dies after fertilizing the female’s eggs.

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A calmer moment than that depicted in the picture above. The bee seemed to be sleeping on the petal of the echinacea flower. If you look closely you can see pollen on its feet and mouth.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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More life and death.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Lettuce, beans, and kale, oh my!

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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.

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One of the heads of broccoli.

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

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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.

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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…

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Rudbeckia. This is always swarming with bees.

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Beebalm. Beloved by both hummingbirds and bees.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.)

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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.