Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gardening in the winter

With the summer garden wrapped up, I've put the finishing touches on my winter gardening--Christmas lights. Jess and I strung up the lights in the trees as well as the easy lights on the house and garage on the weekend.

Earlier, I had done the higher lights that required ladder work.

We also then put up the rabbit fences around the fruit trees. This has become necessary over the past few years to save the bark. The fence is fairly ugly but is lower maintenance (and quieter) than penning a coyote in the yard all winter.

We'll test the lights tonight (I connected everything today at lunch--I think!) and then give them a show for Hallowe'en. I presume there will be some swearing and ladder work required tomorrow. I'll post pictures when I get a good one.

We've had some lovely late-season leaves on the columnar swedish aspens.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cold Frame

One of my autumn tasks was to knock together a cold frame. This is one of those things I think about in the spring but, by the time autumn rolls around, forget or lack the enthusiasm for. Today we put together a rudimentary one to see how it works next spring.

While a proper cold frame might well be more elaborate (with a slope and hinged panes), I wanted to experiment for as little cost as possible. I picked up some old windows from a house being renovate up the way. These (more or less) were the right dimensions to fit over a 4x4' raised bed I have on the south side of the house.

So today we picked up some extra wood to add some height and put together a frame to sit on top of the existing box. I will put the glass on in early spring andm when summer comes around, I can remove the glass and extra frame and store them under the deck. Not bad for $12 and about two hours of work.

There is a slight overhang here which is aesthetically offensive but of no practical concern. I think a bit of felt on the top of the wooden frame will adequately seal the glass to the frame. The two panes will just sit loosely. If this works out next spring, I'll consider building something more elaborate next year.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

First Frost

We woke up to our first good frost this morning, which has brought most of the gardening season to an end. There are still a few carrots in the ground and there is a lot of clean-up work, but I'm basically done for the year.

We spent most of the weekend inside cooking--tomato sauce, bread, pumpkin pie, etc. I also did some work prepping for next year. We have a large bed along the north side of our backyard which was originally a vegetable bed. Then, with the house construction, because a refuge for the perennials.

I've spent the summer relocating the perennials. With the cucumbers packing it in (I picked the last four Friday night), I've started to dig it and mix in leaves and other stuff to loosen the soil some. Next year this will be the potato patch so I'm placing stepping stones with that in mind.

I've managed to dig about half of the 120 square feet and will spade up some more this afternoon. I also transplanted 10 strawberry plants from the side to beneath the aspen on the back right to free up some beds on the south for vegetables.

Jess' enthusiasm for gardening has dried up as the weather has cooled. I was out poking around and see that a couple of onions we planted for next spring are up early. These were bulbs that grew and died off this summer without making much of a size gain. So we moved them around the front to some better soil and more sun. I wonder how many will come up in the spring!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Growing Food in the City

The City is hosting "Growing Food in the City" on Sunday, October 16, 2011 (noon to 5) at the Muttart Conservatory to celebrate United Nations’ World Food Day.

City staff will be on hand to share information regarding food and urban agriculture and how to be involved. There are door prizes and a food bank donation entitles you to discount passes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn gardening

We spent as much of this weekend out of doors as possible, both cleaning up the garden and walking and cycling in the river valley. The autumn colour is fading but still quite spectacular.

We dug up (for the first time in three years) the 12x4" raised bed below our deck and dug in a large amount of leaves. The soil here gets quite compacted by the weight of the snow.

We also moved a small group of green onion bulbs (which Jess is pushing in here) for an early spring harvest. We also discovered a small green pepper growing on of the plants.

The valley had some lovely autumn colour, including a patch of these flowers in one of the gullies. I've never seen these and wondered if they were something foreign that had taken root in the boggy soil.

We're almost finished with autumn gardening tasks--only a few more beds to dig up and fill with leaves.

Up next: A bit more baking and freezing is planned as Thanksgiving cranberries are now deeply discounted and available in large quantities. I hope there is room in the freezer!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cooking up the harvest

With autumn stretching out seemingly forever, we've been enjoying harvesting and cooking. We caught the last of the outdoor markets this weekend. In addition to some lovely apples, we say these hilariously large zucchinis (each is about 7 inches in diameter).

We also picked up a couple of pumpkins. I've cooked and frozen enough pumpkin for four or five pies over the winter as well as cooked up a nice batch of seeds. These fellows will make a pie this week and probably add two more pies to the freezer. We also made a sweet potato pie this week, which was an interesting experiment--a slightly different texture.

A friend gave us the remainder of her apples. I was going to sauce these but we ended up making a couple of apple crisps; the rest of the apples had started to get pretty soft so I dug them into one of the beds.

Jenn has been keen to stay on top of the tomatoes on the window sill. Having tried tomatoes every which way and given away a fair number, she decided to sauce some last night for pasta. This was quite tasty and yielded some extra for the freezer.

While I was out putting up Christmas lights I noticed the strawberry patch has put on a last burst of fruit. These were very nice and sweet.

We have a fair bit of end-of-the-season yard work under way which will take up some of tomorrow. I also would like to get a cold frame built for the spring.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall clean up

With Jennifer away visiting a friend this weekend, Jess and I started the autumn clean up. This includes policing up the many, many leaves that the lovely old elm trees drop on our lawn.

In the past I've used these as mulch but this year I have been digging up the garden beds and alternating shallow layers of leaves and soil. This should give the worms something to chew on and is hopefully a step towards keeping the soil fertile and breaking up the clay. We turned in some manure earlier this fall and I will lime the beds in the spring.

The leaves added about four inches of depth to the two alley beds that Jess intends to "farm" next spring, although snow and rot will likely pack things down again. But she should have 10 inches of loose soil for carrots.

All of our alley beds have been quite productive. We have four 6x3' beds and one 6x6. The three beds Jess hasn't call dibs on will host beans and beets and maybe broccoli. I then started digging the both the front and backyard veggie beds but called it when my back started complaining. The weather looks good so there is still plenty of time to get this work done.

Retreating back inside, Jess and I made a salad for dinner (found a few more cucumbers on the garden while I was digging) and an apple pie. And then I hauled down the fruitcake and put Jess to work added more rum. They smell very good and have a nice moist texture.

Up next: LIkely Christmas lights and more bed amendments. I haven't the energy to put in any bulbs this year (we put in about 200 last year) but I may move the strawberries. I would also like to put together a cold frame for the spring now that I have secured some glass.