Sunday, July 31, 2011

The harvest begins!

Well, after months of coaxing the garden along, we're starting to see (and eat) some success.

Last night we ate almost entirely from the garden, steaming carrots, beets and potatoes as well as having three-lettuce salad with tomatoes. Jess was chuffed to eat food she'd grown.

The corn plants continue to amaze with good sized cobs. The fence to the left of the corn is six-feet tall for some scale. The beans and squash I interplanted are also going well but I have not yet seen any beans or squash.

We've started harvesting broccoli (this head was about 8 inches across). All four of the plants we grew have been successful and I expect we'll get a fair number of cuttings from eat.

Not everything has been a resounding success. We also planted four cauliflower plants of which only one is growing well. The only head to form so far is about the size of a marble. I'm not sure what went wrong here (it was a good year for cauliflower say the market gardeners) but based upon the long string of botanical victims I've hidden in the compost pile over the years, I'd say it was likely something I did.

The farmer's markets are also yielding a lot of produce that I didn't grow. We bought, blanched and froze three pounds of green and yellow beans. And some amazing BC peaches were in so I canned two litres of peach jam last night. I'm more of a berry jam guy but the peach tastes amazing.

Up next: I'll continue to ready next year's potato bed--there are bulks to life and chives to pull out. Our onions are about ready to harvest and cure so that will leave room for a fall crop of spinach. And I'd like to pick some saskatoon berries on Monday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Berries and cucumbers

With a bit of sun, the garden is starting to produce some food.

We picked out first bowl of berries from the raspberry canes last night. These plants are three years old and, while we got a bit of fruit last year, tonight we had enough for a big dessert. The darker and lighter berries have subtly different flavours, with the darker being fruitier.

The lilies continue to bloom. These were accidentally transplanted this spring with some irises and still bloomed. We also moved some catmint from the back to the front.

The cucumber plants have started to vine (finally!) and set fruit. Next year I will try to train these up a trellis. The zucchini plant is now producing with abundance and we're starting to freeze shredded zucchini for winter baking.

We're beginning to pull bigger onions to eat and the tops have started to fall over. Once they brown I will pull them to cure, dry some and plant a fall crop of spinach in their place. I see the carrots in the bed closest to the house are also big enough to beginning eating.

And, visible only from below the deck, are a huge number of tomatoes. I think this year we'll try some oven-roasted tomatoes. We had the first few red ones (pictured in Monday's post) and they were delicious.

Up next: With my vacation starting, I will be moving some more perennials out of the old (now new) vegetable bed so we can plant there next year. We'll also be doing some berry picking and I'm thinking about building a cold frame if I can lay my hands on some old windows.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Jess and I spent much of the weekend cycling (two crashes, seven band aides...) and making jam from the raspberries we picked on Saturday. But we also had a bit of time in the yard.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, beginning with these tumbler tomatoes by the back door. We've also been eating a lot of lettuce and zucchini from the garden. At some point I'm going to need to do some major pruning to focus the tomatoes on the fruit they have set.

Most of the potatoes are finished blooming and (I hope) are hard at work making spuds. But a late planting (filling in a hole) behind the garage has just bloomed..

The lilies (Asiatic? Hard to recall all of these years later) are blooming and adding a nice shock of colour. I will be moving these around to the front bed when the flowering is done to give it some summer interest besides annuals like pansies (below)

Up next: This week we need to finish moving the irises to the front and start on the catmint. I'm also starting to blanch and freeze green and yellow beans.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

More raspberries

Our plan today was a quick trip to the farmer's market and then we'd go off and pick Saskatoon berries. While the berries were ready, they were only accessible by zodiac due to the rain last night so we went to Roy's Raspberries west of town.

Today was the first day of picking and the berries were huge and very tasty. We managed to get 48 cups (12 litres) for $55 in about an hour. We'll can about 16 litres and the rest is destined for the freezer (or our bellies).

We also saw all manner of critters including hoppers and a large number of spiders. Wind kept the mosquitoes down and there was no mutiny, unlike that terrible August day in 2007... .

We came home to baby's breath blooming among the blueberry plants.

And then Jenn used some of the mint she bought at the market to make mojitoes.

With the lawn finally mowed, tomorrow I'll haul out the fruit drier and see whether I can get the apricots we bought today leathery enough to keep. We'll also need to make some raspberry preserves and perhaps make war on the dandelions on the south lawn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


In a pleasant surprise, the raspberry bush growing at the front of the house has produced some early fruit. The rest of the plants (a darker type of raspberry) are weeks away from edible fruit. Although there were only four berries, they made a nice addition to some fruit salad last night.

I understand the saskatoon season is about to begin and am hopeful we can snag some fruit this weekend and beginning jamming and freezing it. It makes such delightful pies in the middle of winter.

The daylilies continue to put on a good show in the backyard. This year they are joined by some old lily bulbs (below) that have come back through the construction disruption and are flowering again. I will be moving these bulbs once the blooming is done to clear way for the vegetable bed.

The corn continue to grow out back. This is a picture of the root of the corn stalk--something I've never taken the time to look closely at before. I'm not sure if the rain has caused the soil to compact (thus exposing the root structure) or if this is normal.

Finally, the cucumber (which I had largely written off) is suddenly growing a nice set of vines and flowering. With some warm weather, we may get a small number of cucmbers to add to the abundant lettuce crop.

Up next: We're moving irises this week and then I will tackle the catmint (which is sprawling and full of bees--fun, fun!). Then there is a nasty section of crab grass and other invasives that has overtaken my weeding efforts.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flowers and beets

Yesterday, we spent some time pulling up perennials from next year's potato bed, but ran out of steam in the heat. While we were doing that, we saw some lovely flowers enjoying the sun.

This aster has sheltered behind a rock and provides some welcomed colour in the middle of summer.

And a hosta that Jessica's grandmother gave us has started to flower in the shade of a hedge. We also harvested the first of the baby beets. These were about the size of ping-pong balls and were delicious roasted.

Up next: We have a wheelbarrow full of irises to trim and replant in a shady spot around front. And then some catmint needs to be uprooted and relocated as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interplanting corn, beans and squash

Our small (6x6') plot of corn is coming along nicely out back, with some of the stalks now taller than I am. We decided to try the corn-beans-squash combination that almost every gardening book recommends, so Jess planted pole beans around the south and east edges and stuck some small squash in among the rows after the corn had become established.

The beans came up but then it was hard to see any progress. But I went out last night and voila, they have climbed the corn stalks right to the top! You can see one looping around the corn in the picture above. No beans yet, but so far, so good.

The corn itself is also showing signs of producing corn. Several of the taller plants have silky tassles and proto-cobs formed. Barring disaster, I'm quite looking forward to eating some! The squash plants are also doing well, but I didn't get a good picture of them.

There was a fair bit of snickering among the neighbors when I was out in early May with spindly little corn plants that we'd grown from seed, so success is rather vindicating.

The broccoli is also doing well, I'm not sure at what stage to harvest it--I imagine one waits some until the head gets larger. Alas, the cauliflower has not done so well. Two plants grew great guns and then keeled over, either in the wind or from too much rain. A third never really started and a fourth soldiers on.

Also around the back of the garage, the two beds are doing well. We've been eating the lettuce, the carrots are getting to be a good size but need to turn a bit more orange, and the onions are starting to mature. We've harvested a few early onions but I'm trying to leave the rest alone to become a bit bigger for storage.

I snuck under the deck to have a look at the tomatoes from behind and tie them up to the stakes some more. After weeding out more of the accursed creeping bell flower (die, die, die!), I was pleased to see we have a nice crop of tomatoes starting to form. Still green but a good size.

These plants have about another four feet to grow before they run out of stake and deck railing, but I'm not sure they'll make it before I have to top them to get them to ripen. On the side of the house, I already topped one plant as it ran out of room to go upwards.

Up next: Some summer flowers are out and looking nice. There is an aster in the back and a very pretty hosta. I also need to get out and start weeding and spading up some perennials so I can shift the potatoes to a different bed next year.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries

I've managed to knock the lawn back into shape and we're now amazed by the growth that has occurred during the last two weeks of rain. Carrots are much larger, we'll likely harvest some early beets this weekend and the broccoli looks like it will be a success.

These tumbler tomatoes, while still green, are heavily loaded with fruit. Each day we inspect, hoping to see signs of ripening.

The zucchini plant has also begun producing and we'll harvest this one this weekend. This fellow (or so I assume...) is about eight inches long.

And the strawberry patch has begun to provide enough berries for dessert every couple of days. In the meantime, we've turned the remainder of the berries we picked this week into jam, which was much better tasting than the preserves we did earlier this week. Boiling the mixture down (instead adding pectin) really concentrates the flavour.

Up next: We're off to the market today and perhaps for a longer bike ride this afternoon. And then I'll be out restoring order among the veggies and looking at what perennials need to be displaced out of the old vegetable garden to get it ready to plant for next year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

After the rain... not just a pretty bad song by Ricky Nelson's kids, but is also a lovely time to see what has bloomed outside. With almost two weeks of inattention, much has changed.

A surprise on the south side are these gladiolas. A friend gave us some seeds a few years ago and I could never get them to come up. So I finally tossed the end of the tub into the garden and forgot about it. Two years later we have these flowers volunteering behind the daylilies. That are very pretty.

The yarrow has also come on strongly. I think this colour was from a small plant we purchased about 8 years ago at Nature's Garden Centre, now sadly defunct.

The thyme has started blooming, to the delight of the bees.

A very colourful marigold Jessica grew from seed is tucked in by the pepper plants. I ran across this one while struggling with the old clippy-clip mower through the thick back grass.

And the nasturtiums are quite liking the cool weather in a shady part of the yard. Again this year they are out competing everything else we planted here and needed to be sheared back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strawberry preserves

We went out last night to South Windermere Gardens to pick some strawberries. Their early crop had been wiped out by hail but the remaining berries are plentiful and big.

The one challenge is the bugs. The mosquitos were very, very thick (like picking berry's in northern Saskatchewan bush). I'm pretty hardy when it comes to bugs but I used some spray last night (first time in more than a decade) and it was still pretty bad. Jess was a total trooper and we managed to come away with about three pails of berries before I finally gave up.

I froze some of the berries for a winter treat. We then started making preserves. I decided to use a package of pectin to skip the "make applesauce" step of the more traditional recipe. The result was more than 2 litres of preserves. These are called "strawberries on top" as the berries float up and all appear to have been successful. We tried a bit of the leftovers on some ice cream and it was good. A bit sweeter than I might like.

Up next: The rest of the berries are in the fridge--a few for dessert tonight and the rest of jamming tomorrow at lunch. I'l going to go back to the old fashioned "fruit, sugar and boil the hell out of it" recipe. If the sun shines, we'll have a full weekend of catching up on yardwork. And i think there is a zucchini ready to harvest!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Berries, corn and zucchini

While some sunshine would be a nice change, the garden continues to grow. Out front, the Saskatoon berries are starting to get some colour. I see one of my neighbors has a huge bush in his back yard. Perhaps we could be talked out of some of his harvest.

In the backyard, the rain has helped fatten up the zucchini. Still too small to bother harvesting, but the plants are putting out a huge number of zucchinis which bodes well for baking and freezing. The pumpkin plant nearby is proving to be a bit of a disappointment--likely needs more sun than we're seeing.

Around back, some corn stalks are cresting six feet and it looks like we'll have a good harvest this year. The pole beans are also starting to twine up the stalks and the squash at the base are producing big leaves. This is all very encouraging.

Up next: Hopefully some strawberry picking in the next few days. The small patch we have are ripening and tasty but it has been too wet to brave the u-pick.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day lilies, verbena and spirea

The clouds have (momentarily) parted and that allowed me to take stock of the garden after a week of inattention. A number of plants have started to bloom.

First up was this spreading verbena. Jess chose this at the gardening centre because she likes purple. It performed pretty poorly all spring and now suddenly it is spreading and flower, giving the back a nice show of colour as the perennials start to poop out.

The spirea has also come into bloom which a nice way to distract the eye from the composter!

And the day lilies we rescued from the neighbor's house before it was demolished are huge--stems almost five feet all and throwing off lovely orange flower.

Jess was thrilled to see the Front Yards in Bloom sign appear on our lawn last night. But the real action is now in the back as the veggies start to take shape.

Up next: The corn is almost six feet all and is starting to flower (or whatever you call it with corn) and the zucchini is really enjoying the wet weather.