Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flowers, lettuce and berries

The peonies continue to bloom this week, with those slightly further away from the house starting to flower. This red one was a gift (I think) from my friend Alan. It is tucked in between a hedge and a bunch of day lilies so goes unnoticed until suddenly it blooms.

The mock orange is also blooming. This one is along the south side of the house and was scavenged from a patch in the back where the mock orange has run wild.

The spirea has also just started to flower.

Around the back, our lettuce crop has finally begin coming in (this row is in the shade of the onions). I had no luck with spinach this spring and the first round of seeds did not germinate (maybe in too early).

And while deadheading irises in the back, I ran across these alpine strawberries which continue to soldier on year after year. These fellows are the size of a small marble.

Up next: The strawberry season opens at South Windemere Gardens on Sunday so we'll be making preserves if the weather holds.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rain Barrel

Over the weekend, I finally got around to installing the rain barrel I bought at Apache Seeds a few weeks back.

Having had a few drainage issues around the house over the years, I decided to put it on the garage downspout. The few light rains we've had the past few evenings have already filled it.

Using the barrel to fill a watering jug is child's play. Although the spigot is stiff enough to require an adult's strength. It might require a tiny bit of lubrication or something.

You can see in the background the carefully constructed platform (cough, cough) used to prop up the barrel. A bit of digging is required to make it easier to get the watering jug in place.

The zucchini is flowering in the backyard and hopefully using the wet weather to make some vegetables for freezing. And up on the back deck the tumbler tomatoes are growing quickly.

Up next: Peonies and strawberries, I think. The corn is also growing great guns, although we're a ways from harvesting from it!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Apples, Saskatoons and Strawberries

The moist weather has made the garden really lush. Some exploration between showers yesterday showed the vegetables are coming right along, with the potatoes starting flower in the front yard.

The apple tree (as far as I can tell) has a total of two fruit. Fortunately the neighbours are generous with their harvest every fall as we wait for this tree to mature and start to produce. The other apple tree again has not set fruit despite (I think) better positioning.

The small saskatoon bushes are showing a nice crop given their size. Another few weeks and these will be ready to harvest. I'm hopeful we can hit a u-pick in early July to sock some away as they made delicious pies last winter.

Most exciting for Jess is that the strawberry patch is starting to produce. I believe these are ever bearing so we should have a small amount all summer long. Again, a u-pick is likely going to provide the bulk of our jam and frozen berries.

And the tomatoes are starting to set fruit, which is really encouraging. I think this is an early girl on the south side of the house. Sunny but a bit dry and the soil is so-so. Other plants are a bit further along.

Up next: The zucchini is flowering in back and I installed a rain barrel on one of the garage downspouts as the clouds rolled in last night so we'll have to see whether it worked.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More flowers!

With the cool and moist June weather, the irises are slightly behind their usual blooming. But the front bed beneath the mountain ash has finally burst into bloom. This made for a lovely sight when we arrived back from cycling to the farmer's market this morning.

Around the back, the peonys are starting to flower as well. This one was a donation from Jennifer's mother (one of several) and has a very pretty bloom. I'm partial to darker peonies but this light fringe on the petals makes this one very attractive.

The day lilies are also starting to bloom. This is the sole bloomer in the back, but the orange day lilies on the side have thrown up many stalks which will soon bloom.

The painted daisies are coming up by the garage. I quite like these darker ones although they often look slightly deformed.

And a long-time resident of the garden is this viola (I think it is a viola) we planted the first year we were here (summer of 2001?) and keeps self seeding and popping up in different spots. This one showed up at the edge of the old vegetable garden and narrowly missed getting yanked with a bunch of weeds.

Up next: The vegetables and fruits are making progress in the warmer weather.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peppers, Potatoes and Berries

With the gardening drying out, the vegetables have put on quite a bit of growth. The bell peppers are actually looking like peppers and I'm excited we might get a harvest before late autumn this year.

The potatoes are also about to flower. For some scale, the board comprising the box (below) is a 2x10 so these plants are huge. A bit too tightly spaced in retrospect but nothing to be done about that now.

These fellows are about two weeks ahead of the potatoes planted directly in the ground out front. jess is excited for baby potatoes but I think we're still a ways away from rooting about beneath the plants for early spuds.

The black berries out front have come up nicely this year after being late and frosted off before the fruit ripened last year. These are a thornless variety which gives a tasty fruit.

And the cauliflower and broccoli are doing reasonably well out back. It is interesting to see how a minor difference in sunshine affects growth. The eastern most plants are ever so slightly shaded by the edge of the raised box in the morning, while the trees precluded an evening up of sun at the end of the day. And they are less than half the size of the plants on the sunnier west side of the box.

Up next: Having pulled most of the perennials plants from the original vegetable garden early in the spring, I will now move the remainder given their blooming has finished. This should open up a large new potato bed for next year and allow most of the weeds to sprout this summer. If the weather holds, we'll also bike down to the 104th Street market this weekend for some fresh food.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Drying out the flower beds

So we've had a bit of rain this past week. A downpour Monday morning at about 4 am overwhelmed the gutters but no major damage was done.

That said, the ground is pretty saturated. Above is a shot of my neighbour's lawn about 10 am on Monday. Another neighbour had excavated for a new sidewalk and ended up with a moat.

The flowers are quite liking it. The bloom on the irises goes on and I'm blown away by the colours.

And the density of blooms is also astonishing. This is a spot out back where the focus was supported to be the flowers in the half oak cask. But the irises I planted around it as an afterthought have quite overwhelmed the rest of the show.

The Persian cone flower is starting to bloom by the garage which will add some summer colour when the irises finally give up the ghost. This plant has become quite massive over the past eight years or so and might need to be pruned back. Or I could just let nature decide what grows where (which would be a lot less work!).

And the pink on the side of the house is in full bloom as well. This is being a bit overshadowed by the maturing irises and day-lilies but it continues to grown gamely, giving a surprise shot of colour on the path.

Up next: The vegetables seem to be going great guns as well, especially the peppers and cauliflower.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


After almost a week of rain, the garden looks very lush now that the sun has come out. The potatoes have shot up almost a foot in some places and most of the other plants have put a lot of height.

The strawberries are really setting a lot of fruit this year. This is quite encouraging as I thought our patch was done in after last year's small and ugly harvest.

The cooler weather seems to have prolonged the irises which are putting on an amazing show this year. A much lighter iris has come out in the back yard which is quite interesting. I think these were a donation from our friend Sharon a few years ago and were jammed into the ground right before it froze solid.

The irises are also about to be overtaken by various daisies by the garage. The daisies took quite a pounding in the rain but may yet bouncy back.

In the meantime, we've been inside baking bread. As we're just learning the ropes of making it in a pan we've had several false starts: The Brick, The Burnt Brick, and Not as Bad as the Last One have given way to tasty raisin bread that Jess is kneading here.

Up next: I have a rain barrel to install this week out by the garage. And, when things dry out some, the lawn needs some attention. And the potatoes need hilling again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Cool and wet weather has kept me out of the garden but a quick tour last night revealed some new developments.

Most encouraging was that some of the tomato plants are setting fruit. Both the tumbler and these yellows tomatoes (don't recall the variety) have tiny little fruits.

The peonies have also started blossoming on the south side of the house and are quite the shot of colour!

In the kitchen garden, the green peppers continue to set fruit and are growing. It will be nice to have small crop of these for salsa later in the summer.

Out behind the garage the pole beans planted around the corn have come up. I think Jess took my instructions to plant them close to the corn to heart!

And the onions are growing very well. These fellows have two-foot stocks. We've been harvesting a few early onions to thin out the rows and they have been tasty.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Berries and flowers

The perennials continue to put on a lovely show in the garden this week. The irises in the back have all come into bloom and look quite pretty.

In the front the pansies (an annual) are flowering in the cooler spring weather.

The columbine has started to flower, replacing the dying irises.

Around the side, the tulips have passed, the irises are just coming and the daylilies are up. In the meantime, these pink have some up and look quite fetching.

The raspberries are also flowering and it looks like we'll have a fairly good crop this year. The raspberries against the front of the house also appear to be spreading.

Up next: I've given up on a couple rows of seeds that have failed to germinate and replaced them with some fast growing lettuce. The beans and squash are also coming up nicely.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Berries, apples and corn

We had a lovely rain storm last night that has left the garden moist and spares me from watering for a day or so. This shasta daisy has self-seeded in the back bed, between the irises and the persian cornflower (or coneflower, I can never recall).

The Saskatoon berries appear to have pollinated just fine in the front yard. This plant is about three years old and this will be the first year we get any appreciate number of berries off of it.

The strawberries are growing quite nicely and have set their first fruits.

After my grousing about the lack of apples, I started snooping a bit closer and I think we have at least one blossom that will fruit this year. Currently the per-apple cost of this tree is about $40 so every apple helps!

And around the back the corn is growing nicely. I love the look of water on the leaves.

After a quick trip to the farmer's market this morning, we're planning on spending the day enjoying a very summery weekend. Perhaps a bit of bike riding and a trip to the library is in order.

Friday, June 10, 2011


In a fit of enthusiasm a few years ago, I accepted several donations of irises from friends splitting their plants. It is hard to dislike an iris: pretty foliage, a nice flower, and needs no attention except periodic splitting of the root (to make even more plants).

I've now had a couple of rounds of splitting and find myself with a garden full of irises. This week they are putting on a spectacular show. There are several variations in the garden, including these purple with pale purple.

Then there is the purple with white that was here when we bought the house. These fellows have moved many times and there is a bed out front with solely this colour (I have a lot of irises!).

But then there are some mysteries. My friend Alan donated some yellow with brown that occasionally appear down low. And there is this deep purple which I may have scavenged from the neighbors when they demolished their house?

The late lilacs are also putting on their last blooms. And the peonies (below) are about to bloom on the warm SE corner of the house. The ants are loitering atop the blooms so we must be close. These blooms are about the size of a plum.

Up next: We're starting to see some progress with the vegetables. The strawberries have set fruit and it looks like a good crop so far. Alas, the apples don't appear to have pollinated. I can count the number of bees I have seen this year on one hand. Friends in Calgary have two hives in their backyard--I doubt I could sell that to the missus! The corn is growing nicely out back (some of the transplants are over a foot tall). And the beans and squash I interplanted are germinating.