Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wild asparagus

Last fall, we spent several afternoons wandering the river valley. One of the things we noticed was an abundance of asparagus growing wild . I made a mental note of two spots to check out in the spring and, after blistering my hands in the yard this morning, Jess and I went back to see if, indeed, there was asparagus.

Turns out we were right when we identified the plant last year (based on the girth of the shoots, my guess is escaped garden plants, maybe with seeds dropped by birds). Getting at the young plants was a bit of a challenge, though. The recent rains turns several of the trails into clay-based luge runs.

That said, in one of the spots, there is enough asparagus there to warrant a small harvest next week. Needs a bit more time to grow and the slopes need to be a tad less slick.

The rest of the yard is coming back to life and I'm slowly getting an upper hand on the spring clean up. If we could have two nice days in a row, I might even be able to get some of the more onerous chores done. The tomatoes in the basement are about the size of the bedding plants we usually buy and, if the weather warms up a tad, I will start to harden them off next weekend.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More signs of spring

Although this week has been a bit dreary, the sunshine on the weekend pushed many plants to bud out and otherwise grow.

Along the side of the house, the alpine currant hedge has started to leaf out, which is a nice shot of colour. And, at the back, the rhubarb plants have started to develop full leaves. These are slightly larger than a dessert plate.

In the front, the Saskatoon bushes are starting to bud. No life from the raspberry canes yet and it looks like I need to cut out last year's fruiting canes.

The peonies around the side of the house have also poked through the soil (this one is about an inch high).

If I get some time this weekend, we'll be cleaning up the big perennial bed in the back yard. I plan to knock back the Persian cornflower this year (it has sprawled terribly) and also move some of the irises around front to make more room for potatoes next year.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wild onions and early seeding

The other day, Kevin Kossowan made an interesting post about some wild onions he'd found in the river valley. Today being so lovely, we went for a long bike ride and had a picnic in the valley. Afterward, I poked around and found a similar patch of onions by looking for the seed heads.

I gave a leaf a try and it was subtler than most onions I've eaten. Mild but very flavorful. I snagged a dozen seeds from one of the heads and this afternoon we planted them in one of the more inhospitable spots in the garden (hot with poor soil, just like the bank we took the seeds from).

Afterwards, we dug five of the raised bed (not a big chore--the soil is fairly loose to begin with), then added some lime and mixed it in. In one of Jess' beds, we then plants some beets and spinach. Jess is firmly in the "broadcast the seed camp" and had a lot of fun doing it. That kind of chaos in the garden makes me crazy but we had a much better result with broadcasting last year than with using rows, so what do I know?

The cold frames were cooking away (I may need to start to watch these during the day and crack the top open a bit) and the kale was starting to put out real leaves. The carrots have also germinated. I'd largely given up, thinking I'd planted them too deeply--so this was a nice surprise.

We then turned a few more beds, transplanted a few errant strawberries I missed last fall, and sussed out where to put some onion bulbs in. With a nod to aching knees (30km is a long ride so early in the season), we then packed it in long before the sun went down.

Apache Seeds is open tomorrow so we'll ride over and get some bulbs. We're going to try to go without a car this month so I'm quite pleased to live so close to Apache! Assuming I move tomorrow, we'll also loosen some beds and get them ready for seeding in early May.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cold frame vs exposed beds

The garlic I planted in an exposed bed on the south side of the house on March the 18th has finally peaked through the soil. It is up about one inch in a month--likely pretty good given the stop-and-start nature of the spring we've had.

By contrast, the garlic in the cold frame is up about 6 inches. You can also see some kale and (in the very back) beet seeds that have germinated. I'm looking forward to an early harvest of kale and beets.

I finished raking the rest of the lawn last night and almost have all of the Christmas lights down. If the weather cooperates some, I hope to finish edging the garden beds and plant some basil (indoors under lights) this weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Perennials are stirring

We spent some time poking around the yard last night as I wanted to get the back lawn raked before today's predicted rain (and snow, the radio says). While we were out, we saw a number of perennials poking up.

Back in the new potato bed that I double-dug last fall, I found a bunch of crocus bulbs had survived the digging and were coming up between the pavers I laid to access the bed. I see a couple are also out in the middle of the bed and I'll relocate those once they flower.

The strawberries are also putting out new growth. These are one the sunny south side of the house. I moved most of these last year but I see I must have missed a few runners.

Nearby, the daylilies are also starting to peak through the leaf litter and, excitingly, new shoots are coming up to colonize some of the space I left for them to fill in.

Around the front, the yellow flowers I moved rather rudely last year are coming back. This is good as I moved them in the middle of the bloom and they suffered all summer from inadequate roots (needed a lot of water).

And, at the back near the stone planter, the rhubarb has emerged, seemingly unaffected by the introduction of strawberry plants to the bed. This plant is in its tenth year. I split is about five years ago but I don't think I have the heart to do that again this year. Coincidentally, we had a strawberry-rhubarb pie last night, using up some of last summer's frozen stalks.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Garden thrives despite (another) snowstorm

As we melt out from under another spring snowstorm (nearly 20cm in some places!), the garden continues to come to life.

The pots in the basement are progressing, with the tomatoes starting to establish real leaves. The rest of the seedlings were a bit of a bust but the tomatoes seem to be doing just fine.

In the cold frame, the kale has germinated, along with some (unpictured) beets. This is encouraging and about two months ahead of where we might be if I'd waited to seed in late May in an unprotected bed.

The garlic in the cold frame has shot up about three inches over the past week and a half. Still no signs of it in the unprotected bed that I also planted. Obviously the +25C temps in the cold frame are relaly helping the plants get a jump on the year.

And elsewhere, we're starting to see the tulips emerge from the leaf litter. It will be awhile before I see any flowers but (as the snow flies), the bulbs are heartening!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

With the snow melting, Jess and I were back out in the yard last night, watering cans and trowels in hand. The lilac bush by the garage is just starting to bud out.

After adding some water to the cold frame, we noticed that the garlic has started to come up. We planted some here and some in a sunny bed about 12 feet away. It will be interesting to see how much of jump the stuff in the cold frame gets.

We also chatted about making slightly more sophisticated cold frames this coming autumn, to give us slightly more square footage and more accessible beds. That will mean moving some strawberries but they could likely stand a change of location anyhow.

The spinach Jess noticed Saturday has been joined by many more friends. It is exciting to see plants come to life. Hopefully the bunnies leave at least some of this for us--although the number I have seen around the neighborhood in the past two weeks is way down--perhaps they have dropped into the valley to mate.

We also found a few new onion shoots. This was a bulb we planted last autumn which is coming up through the leaf litter on the south side of the house.

Around back, we've put up some chicken wire for the beans to climb on. This is a very sunny spot in the morning. On the far right we've just stapled the wire to the fence. I'm keen to try pinot beans that we can dry and save.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Re-cutting the garden bed

With a lovely day predicted, Jess and I went out early Saturday to rake the lawn and tidy the yard. Here she is cutting some long grass with hand shears!

We also ran across the first tulips of the year up along the south side of the house while I was re-edging the gardens.

Our big job of the day was to re-cut the garden bed out front. Originally, the curve was much sharper and left a small peninsula of grass trapped between the bed and the hedge (basically behind the trunk in the photo below). This was a hassle to mow with the reel mower. You can see the old garden edge in the leaf litter.

Over the winter, I decided to cut the edge more generously in order reduce the fiddly mowing. This bed is mostly irises and, by making it larger, I've now got some space for the irises I wanted to move from the back garden to make room for more potatoes.

We also pulled the chicken wire down from around the fruit trees (now that the rabbits have other sources of food) and redeployed it in the back so the beans could climb on it.

After a day of +13 and a great bike ride, imagine my disappointment to wake up to this! Should be +8 tomorrow so I'm trying to think of this as free water!