When the afternoon sun shines on the plants at the front of the house which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I pay very little attention to, it is as though they’re saying they’ve had enough of my neglect. They’re tired of playing second fiddle to the gardens in the back. And they put on a show that stops me in my tracks. It is their last hurrah before winter. I stop and thank them. You are beautiful, I whisper, and the kids on the street playing hockey pay me no mind as they know now I’m just that crazy neighbour who talks to her plants and lets them “steal” snow in the winter for their forts.
I come from the arts side of the corporate world but the corporate world nonetheless. So I understand when some of my friends from those days can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that not only did I walk away from a “successful” career but that I appear to now spend most of my time in the garden. And while not exactly true (I still do a bit of freelance work, I volunteer on Boards, etc.), it’s a fact that in the growing season I spend most of my time in the garden. And the reason I do that is because, selfishly, it keeps me sane. Literally. It is my meditation. My medicine. It feeds my other creative endeavors. It gives me food and beauty. It makes me happy. Even in black & white.
But I don’t only do it for me. I grow food for my family and give excess to friends and neighbours near and far. I do it for the earth and for the generations who follow us who will be left with this mess that too many of us just sit around crying about. I’ve encouraged neighbours to grow their own food and taught them tricks to make the process more rewarding.
I also have an herb garden where I grow oregano, thyme, valerian, and feverfew year round. I plant rosemary and basil annually and throw in poppies and bee balm to round out the bed. We just dried herbs that will take us through the coming year and sent some more to family who, sadly, don’t live nearby.
New for me are flowers. The flowers obviously aren’t food for us but they are for the bees, other insects, and the birds. Plus they’re beautiful. So just as other gardeners have given me plants, I try to pass on as many seedlings as possible. I don’t really know what’s become of them all but I imagine some of them have grown into beautiful plants.
And somehow it’s the end of October already. The garlic is planted and everything else is mulched. And gardening time has slowed down. Until the spring.
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.
Flowers are a whole new area for me and other gardeners have been wonderful, gifting me both with plants and their knowledge.
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!
We’re also taking up lawn and planting flowers in the back alongside all the veggies.
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?
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).
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:
Note: To harden something off is to inure a plant to cold by gradually increasing its exposure to it.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
This is Thanksgiving weekend, it’s getting cooler but the sun is brilliant, some of the maples are changing colour and we planted the garlic this morning. I think we planted about 60 cloves, all from our harvest this summer. I gave them a bit of water since we haven’t had much rain and then we buried them in a bed of straw mulch.
I also found a few perennials on sale when I was at Halifax Seed yesterday so I planted a couple of them out front. Introducing Veronica:
It will grow up to look like this: