Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fruit and veggies starting to come in

It has been a wet few weeks (rained 21 of 26 days so far this month). I'm happy for the rain but a day of sunshine is welcomed to get some gardening tasks done. I was snooping about battle weeds and noticed the apples trees were bearing at least 14 apples this year (more than the last 5 summers combined!).

The pepper plants were also coming along nicely. These are a hot pepper that I plan to dry once they ripen and turn a nice brown shade. The peppers in the foreground are between four and five inches long.

The shell peas are still climbing the trellis (about 2.5 feet). There are a lot of blossoms as well as a few pods forming (dead centre in photo, hidden a bit).

The pumpkin plant has also started to flower. I always find squash slow to start as they develop roots and then suddenly they come on rapidly in August.

The strawberry patch yielded its first strawberry of the season. A bit late (not enough sun) but delicious!

Turning around, I caught the sunlight on the asparagus crowns I planted this spring, These are purple asparagus and we'd let them go to seed to help the crowns get established. I think we put in 8 or 10 crowns and there were a bunch of these fellows waving in the wind. This bodes well for 2015.

The "death bed" where nothing edible will grow is putting on a nice flower show. Some daisies have volunteered in the front and the irises are just finishing up behind them. The daylilies in the middle have just put up flower stalks and should bloom in the next week to carry the bed through summer. In behind, you can see some Grand Rapids lettuce peaking over the top of one of the raised beds. The other bed has been a write off this year--the weeds grow but no luck with turnips or chard.

Behind the garage, the sugar beets jumped up in the rain and have tops almost a foot high. I will clip a few of these and freeze them for risotto in the winter. The beets themselves are small (about an inch in diameter) but that they are growing in encouraging. I am going to try and overwinter some of these to see if I can get them to seed.

Finally, out back, the mock orange is blooming. It smells wonderful and gives a dark corner a pretty spring show. The bees love it.

Now time to get off the computer and mow the lawn (which I remind myself is free fertilizer and thus worth doing).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flowers and weeding

The peonies are starting to bloom in the renewed sunshine. There are four or five types in the garden. No idea where this one came from but it has a nice mid-tone pink to it in the morning sun.

Most of today's efforts went to subduing the elm seedling hatch that is overtaking many of the garden beds. It was a bumper crop of seeds this year. I've cleaned pounds and pounds of them out of the gutters but those in the gardens are germinating and are best gotten to before the drive down a tap root and pliers are required for removal.

While weeding and trimming the north hedge, I ran across another volunteers (some kind of viola) that had appeared near the vegetable bed. The lettuce plants are also really producing so we'll have to see what we can make with that this week. Tonight I finished off last year's saskatoons in the freezer, leaving us with rhubarb, green beans and zucchini.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The sun comes out!

A few weeks of damp weather has put some welcomed moisture into the ground but also means a backlog of weeding and mowing and trimming.

The peas and the beets has sprung up, with the peas topping two feet on the trellis. They are starting to flower but I'm hoping for another foot for growth from them. This steel trellis has worked very well this year and I will make a few more for next year.

The potato patch is also going great guns. And I had time to trim the hedge in the background.

There is a fair bit of nascent fruit in the garden. The strawberries are forming fruit, but I think we're a week or two behind last year. The apples are also starting to develop.

And the saskatoons are beginning of plump up and get some colour.

The final blush of spring perennial colour is happening, with these pinks providing a bit of ground cover. After these plants are finished we'll be relying on daylilies and delphiniums mostly.

I have a number of chores on the list today, including some bracing for the raspberry hedge, some more transplanting of raspberries and a general wedding. And maybe I'll put in a last late seeding.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Replacing the hedge with raspberries

A friend kindly donated a bunch of raspberry plants. Yesterday we started removing the hedge on the north side of the house to make room for raspberries. The picture below shows about half of the hedge cleared.

We eventually plunked in all of the plants. I've spotted a few daughter plants in the front yard that I will add to the hedge on the weekend. We're a long ways from replacing all 150 feet of hedge with raspberries, but give it time. I will also be knocking in some poles to stop the raspberries from sprawling.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Irises and overwintered potatoes

The weekend has, so far, had rather unsettled weather. All of the rain has been good for the perennials, which are hitting their stride. Along the south side of the house, the irises make for a pretty path towards the bird feeder. The apple tree on the right has a few apples starting to grow. Tucked in, out of sight, is some purple phlox and rose-coloured pinks.

Around the front, the iris bed is really blooming. This bed will get a major renovation thus fall when the fire-blighted mountain ash comes out, the irises get relocated to the front (left side) of the bed, some fruit trees go in along the hedge and the rest is tilled for potatoes next spring. In the meantime, some tomato plants struggle in the foreground and the bush beans are coming along on the left.

I have noticed lots of places where potatoes have volunteered themselves. I presume these are ones I missed when we dug the beds last fall. It makes sense that the tubers can overwinter in the ground. I wonder how effective an autumn planting strategy would be (versus keeping seed in the basement overwinter)? These guys are a bit behind the potatoes we planted this spring, but not by much.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More preserves in the rain

The rain continued last night. During one of the breaks in the rain, I liberated some rhubarb from the abandoned house across the street. I do love the free rhubarb and the sense of "Detroit" that an empty, moldering house adds to the neighborhood.

I wanted to try some rhubarb chutney and brewed up two litres. There were a number of complaints about the smell and the recipe used a bit too much cider vinegar. But it was not bad with some bread and a cheese. Not as good as mango chutney, but mango don't grow here! This is not as good as Monday's rhubarb-orange butter.

With sunnier weather today, I cleaned the elm seeds from the gutters (which overflowed yesterday). Nothing like scraping out 120 feet of oatmeal that smells like low tide while balancing on a ladder. Assuming the weather holds, I'll be weeding tonight and preparing to receive some rhubarb and raspberry plants.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Preserving in the rain

The garden is thriving in the rain we've been having, with lots of plants flowering. Alas, it has been too wet to do much other than some occasional weeding.

On my list of things to do is prepare some beds for some plants I will be holding for a friend who is moving houses shortly. While I watch wistfully out the window, I have been doing some prep for cider making this fall (having picked up a generous donation of bottles and whatnot) and reading some new books on preserves.

Last night I tried my hand at rhubarb-orange butter. I have been looking for recipes to do something interesting with rhubarb and this one was about the right size and duration. It has an interesting tart-tropical taste that is somewhere between marmalade and mango jam.

When the rhubarb patch recovers, I plan to give rhubarb chutney a go. In the meantime, a few dry days to ride a bike and thin the weeds would be much appreciated!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Irises, apples, potatoes and kale

I returned home from a short trip to the beginnings of the iris blossom. These are on the south side of the house and have come out first. The front yard should be along in a week or so.

I stood up from weeding around the dwarf apple tree and lo, to my surprise, I spotted the beginning of an apple. I don't know if we have ever had apples on this tree in five years. Maybe the pruning I did this spring kicked it into gear. It had a lot more blossoms this year than normal.

I spent some time hoeing up the potatoes and admiring the chives. I was reading a book on root cellaring and the authors suggested just digging up part of the plant in the autumn and bringing it inside for free chives all winter long. I may give this a whirl.

The kale is also up and large. Here it is with some sun-dappling and some water beads. I may blanch and freeze some of this this week. A second planting in starting to leaf out.

If I can get myself motivated, I may also make a small batch of rhubarb chutney this weekend. We'll see how I feel and what the weather is up to tomorrow. In the meantime, I need to go tie-up the tomatoes and pick some lettuce for dinner.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flowers and fruit

The perennials continue to flower. Jennifer's mom gave us some lily of the valley (and the lawn and the hedge...) a few years back and it has the prettiest flowers with a lovely scent.

More exciting is seeing the Saskatoon bushes set a bunch of fruit. This one branch has more berries that we've seen on the entire bush over the past several summers and all of the branches are equally loaded.

The blueberry bush is also flowering. I'm not sure we'll see any berries, but I'm hopeful. The rabbits are finally leaving the bushes alone enough that they can grow a bit.

If the weather cooperates, Iw ill be spending the lunch hour weeding today. Lots of stuff has crept up in the wet weather, including my old foe purple hell... errr... bellflower.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lilac sugar and syrup

The lilacs are in bloom, which is always one of my favourite times of the spring. I read a post about making lilac sugar and that sounded like a wonderful way to preserve some of the scents of May.

Jess and I went out last night and picked a mix of flowers and then stemmed them (much like grapes), picked out the critters and gave them a wash.

Some we dried to make sugar with--with the coming rain this took a long time! The rest went into a pot to make lilac syrup.

The blossoms for the sugar quickly cooked down. We then strained the flowers out and jarred the syrup.

The recipes I read on line suggested that the syrup could be refrigerated for about a month or frozen. I'd think it is not acidic enough to can and I didn't have the patience to make jelly. So I put two-thirds of the syrup in freezer-jam jars and reserved one in the fridge to make drinks with.

This morning we layered sugar and blossoms to start the lilac sugar. I'm keen to try sugar cookies this autumn.

I've been reading a book of recipes and I think we'll make some rhubarb chutney next weekend. The rain is causing the rhubarb to grow a lot and it needs to be cut back a but anyhow.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some rain yields vegetables

I was out of town for a few days and during that time there was quite a lot of rain. Consequently, the vegetables all shot way up. The zucchini went from two leaves to four and all of the rest of the beans poked through the soil.

The early lettuce I planted also grew enough that we can likely get a salad from the garden tomorrow.

The peppers have also started to grow and set fruit. These are a small, hot pepper I planted for drying and maybe doing some sort of oil infusion.

Finally, the kale has really come on. A few more leaves and I'll crop it to make chips.

Tonight we're going to bag some lilacs to make lilac sugar and syrup. The various fruits are also starting to set up nicely--I'll post some pictures tomorrow.