Autumn Light

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.

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Purple Fountain Grass in leaf mulch.

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Nearly transparent autumn leaves of the Hosta. Probably my favourite season for this plant in particular. It seems rather plain and common in comparison during the other seasons.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), hostas in the back.

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) I’ve had 2 of these bushes for a few years now and, for some reason, only noticed this year that they have berries.


Yes I do!

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.

self 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.

IMG_0930I 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.


Some of the greens that we’re still eating out of the garden. Except for the parsnips and beets up front. For them, see next photo.


Underneath this very thick layer of straw mulch are the parsnips and beets we’re hoping to eat all winter.


Leeks thickly mulched. Hoping to eat at least through December.


Mustard greens keep on volunteering.


Hello Fall


Most of the beds have been mulched, garlic planted.


Bamboo to the left, mustard greens to the right.


A variety of mustard.


Last of the brown-eyed susans.


Newly sprouting mustard and onions.


The calendula love the cool weather.


Calendula, spirea, and various herbs.


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.


One last shout-out from the saxifragia.


Yucca gets mulched from the overlooking maple.


More veggie beds.


Last leaves of a blueberry bush.


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

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!

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem

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.


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).


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.

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.



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!



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!

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.


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…


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.


Garlic Is In!

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.

ImageThe rocks on the edges are holding the chicken wire down which we use to discourage marauding cats and birds. And, I suppose, those hurricane winds we sometimes get.

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:


Veronica Spicata ‘Red Fox’

It will grow up to look like this:

red fox