Thursday, May 31, 2012

Irises, peas and potatoes

The first of the irises has bloomed out front. This is a lovely and dark bearded iris. While I think these are always pretty en masse and from a distance, a close-up reveals some amazing details--the variegation in the leaf and the fuzzy beard are really fascinating to look at.

Out back, the peas are growing. The bush in the foreground is about 6 inches high and filling out nicely. Behind the onions, you can see the painted lady beans are just now getting to the wire trellis I've put there to grow on.

The potatoes are also coming up, with the russets having enough leaf growth I will start to bury them again. The purple caribe potatoes have not yet poked through (which is always alarming--did they die? are they just slower?).

Over on the side, the apple trees are flowering. I've been hand pollinating the blossoms to see if I can get more than three apples a season. There look to be more blooms this year so I have my fingers crossed. 

There are a a few more beans to plant out back and then I have quite a bit of weeding to do this weekend. If the weather holds, I may try to get over to the new 124th Street market this evening. I also have fruit captain training this weekend with operation fruit rescue.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Frozen asparagus and soup

The 104th Street market had loads of asparagus Saturday so we picked up six bunches. Five of these we blanched, then drained and dropped into freezer bags. We've really enjoyed pesto, feta and asparagus pizza (with an occasional sun-dried tomato) all winter so I wanted to put away enough asparagus to do that again.

We'll eat the last bunch tonight, roasted with some new potatoes. I was thinking that I might also try a small batch of pickled asparagus this week if I can find some asparagus at the Thursday market at Westmount.

I recalled ending up with some lovely green water after blanching asparagus last year, but not having the presence of mind to do anything with it. This year we used it as a starter for soup stock. We threw in whatever we could scrounge from the garden, plus some onions and celery that were in the crisper and the ends of various frozen vegetables that were in the freezer from last summer (begone mediocre broccoli that I babied all summer!). 

The stock turned out quite tasty and we used some to make bean and pasta soup last night. The rest in in the fridge, perhaps for risotto this week (assuming I get my act together). There is enough spinach and green onions on the side of the house to give the risotto some flavour. I may also make some rhubarb pie, but tonight we'll have to bake bread.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


After a quick trip to the farmers market this morning to get some asparagus to blanch and freeze (and maybe eat!), we spent the rest of the morning in the yard. The apple tree is blooming and I think I will hand pollinate it this afternoon to ensure we get some apples this year!

Out back, the Ireland creek annie beans have germinated after a couple of days of rain. I've never grown beans before (other than green beans) so these are something new and exciting.

The bean you can see pushed up out of the soil is about 1.5cm long (to give you a sense of scale. We also have some painted lady beans up under a trellis at the back. More exciting is that there are signs of potatoes pushing up through the soil.

We just about have the entire garden in (a few more tomatoes are needed to replace some losses) and (assuming Jess is up for it), we'll seed the rest of the garden this afternoon

We've also had a few volunteer's emerge, including this pansies (with a special guest appearance by my foot--imagine the contortion necessary for the picture without blocking the sun!).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cold frame finished for season

The garden continues to show some lovely colour, especially on the hotter southern side of the house. Some tulips there have just started opening and have a nice variegated colour.

The south side also has the cold frame I built last fall (built being a rather generous term). This was my first stab at a cold frame. We seeded directly into the soil around April 6th and I've been fiddling with the glass (on and off each day) for the better part of a month. With the last of the cold weather past, I decided we'd put the glass away and then pull off the frame.

This is aesthetically more pleasing and also shows how much growth there has been. I would expect we're about a month ahead. I think we'd be further along if I had seeded in March, instead of farting around with transplants.

This shot shows the growth a bit more, The green handle on the trowel is about 5" long. To the left of the trowel is garlic, to the right kale and beets. In behind are some carrots. I hope to have some root veggies in mid-June and to start harvesting kale in the next week or so.

We also put up a clothes line in the backyard. This has been on my list for awhile. I had a complicated rigging system worked out in my head but eventually just said screw it and tied some rope to two trees. I will double the rope back towards the deck (you can see the railing on the bottom left) to get an extra bit of line so we can dry a whole load at a time.

I've got some beans soaking in some shallow water on the window sill to see if they will germinate. If not, we'll need to head back to Apache for another packet of seeds this week. That said, we're just about fully planted for the summer.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring blossoms

With the long weekend upon us, we spent much of the morning in the yard, putting in most of the rest of the garden. While we were out there, I snapped a few pictures of the spring blossom, including this lovely tulip that is about to open.

We planted quite a few more greens beans in the newly recovered back beds this morning. Also in are four celery plants (we bought bedding plants after my efforts to grow them from seed failed). We also put in a few cucumber plants and some zucchini seeds. I'm going to try some of the cucumbers up a lattice this year to see how that goes.

The strawberries are starting to blossom all over the yard. Jess also put in some bedding plants (some impatience) along with a few tomatoes in her garden beds. I snagged a basil plant at the store this morning. I have a bunch started from seed (slow growing!) and I dropped a bunch more seeds in an empty planter--but the smell of fresh basil was too hard to resist.

Our apple tree at the side is putting out lots of flower buds. I hope this will translate into more than two apples. The Saskatoon bush in the front yard is also in bloom. The lovely, but seemingly cursed crab-apple tree in the front yard looks like it didn't survive the winter so I will but cutting it out and trying some more Saskatoons.

There are still a few more beds to fill so we'll likely head back to the store tomorrow for some more beans and beets. We planted both painted lady and Ireland creek annie beans (pole and bush, respectively) this year so I may look for another type of bean we can dry. I see the lettuce we seeded last weekend is already germinated, as have some of the carrot beds.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More garden space!

We had a beautiful weekend in the garden, with the temperatures topping +25. The weather forecast looks good for the next two week so we decided to plant. The tomatoes came out of the basement, hardened in the deck and then went in. I think all but one has survived the transplant. 

The bulbs are starting to really show and expect many will flower this week. Above is an extreme top down on one of the early reds that comes up every year. I've also started to notice some missing plants--my favourite peony (a deep purple) has apparently bitten it. We also had a lot of losses among the irises. A dry winter and lack of snow cover maybe?

The early seeds are now coming up, with the peas really making major strides this weekend. The ones in the raised beds behind the garage are the furthest along (lots of heat and sun) but even those planted in the ground have poked up. Ditto the onions.

I've been eyeing the utility corridor to the south for planting. I mow and rake it and, each time I do, I think "giant potato patch". It looks like the city bylaws would allow for a garden here, but I have yet to rent the roto-tiller. This weekend we concentrated on reclaiming a 25x3' section of the iris bed. I've largely let this go in the three years since the construction and I wanted to clean it up and make some more room for vegetables (beans, beets and maybe green beans).

With Jess' help, I moved the perennials, dug it down, rediscovered a long-lost rock garden (which ponied up enough rocks to put a border between the vegetables and the perennials in the back), tilled it, and hoed it. I think we'll plant next weekend, assuming I can ever bend again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wild asparagus

With the temperature well over 20 and no soccer game tonight, we went out to forage some asparagus we'd noticed last fall. We spotted the first stalk right beside the trail we were walking on!

We then went up the hill side for some more adventurous foraging, encountering sliding banks, some squatters, thorny bushes and what my dad would call local colour (i.e., crazy people). It was quite a night, with good weather bring everyone to the river valley!

It looked like someone else hit the patch before us as a fair number of plants already had stalks snapped (we let those be). All told, we managed 15 or 16 good sized-stalks and I hope to put them on pizza tomorrow night. And Jess enjoyed herself and the walk, which was the point.

I planted a couple more types of carrots in the garden earlier this week: some Yellowstone carrots (very yellow, the package promises) and a Jeanette F1 hybrid (early maturing Nantes). I think that is four different types, so we'll see which grow (and taste) the best. Tomorrow I may sow some beets out front (assuming I can bend over after hoisting Jess up the embankment tonight).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lots of planting

With a day of lovely weather, we spent today in the backyard gardening. Jess and I started by digging holes for potatoes--we are hoping for about 25 plants this year. We chose a mix of russet and a purple-skinned variety (edit: caribe).

We also decided to chance a late frost and put in some carrot seeds. Jess planted the remainder of the imperator seeds in her boxes and I put a package of chantenay red cored into the large raised bed in the back (these look like half-long carrots with a bit of extra girth). As we always run short of carrots over the winter, I left room for more carrots once I pick up a different type of seed. We also dropped in a few early lettuce seeds.

Around the side, the spinach is starting to make some progress. The kale (in the cold frame) is leaps and bounds ahead and I've started removing one of the two panels during the day to keep the heat manageable for the beets (which looked pretty rung out when I final got there with the watering can this afternoon. So far we've been able to use water from the rain barrel to keep things moist and I'm thinking of getting a second one for beside the house.

We've also got lots of birds. This robin was kind enough to sit still while I wrestled the camera out of my pocket, fiddled the settings, steadied the shot and then took half a dozen pictures (one even turned out!). S/he was looking pretty impatient by the time I snapped this picture ("come on idiot, push the button already"). If I get some time this week, we'll drop some beets and zucchini seeds in the front bed and do some work reclaiming a perennial bed that is out of control by the garage.

Friday, May 4, 2012

More bulbs

With more consistent sunshine, the garden is starting to really take off. The daffodils are close to flowering on the south side. I recall wandering through a park in Victoria where daffodils had colonized a meadow and shot through the grass. 

In the back, more these lovely yellow flowers have opened in the afternoon sunshine.

Tonight we're having the last of 2011's asparagus on some pizza. I hope to forage some fresh stalks on Sunday to tide us through until the garden starts producing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring colour

The spring bulbs are finally starting to flower. There are lots of signs of tulips and daffodils but none have yet opened. This little fellow at the back was a surprise after I moved the dirt in the perennial bed around last year to create room for potatoes.

I've always called this a crocus but I don't think it is (or it is a different variety than the wild ones I've seen around here). The rest of the yard seems to be waking up nicely with the warm weather.