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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

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!