Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pumpkin experiments

Spring finally appears to have arrived, with robins in the backyard and men in reflective vests planting colourful flags (in anticipation of a summer of new sidewalks, roadways and water mains).

Jess and I have been splitting out time between exploring some more adventurous trails in the valley and the yard. We're currently in a zone where she's old enough and I'm still young enough to climb the ravines and poke about.

In the backyard, we haul rout the glass for the smaller cold frames and gave it a cleaning. I wanted to try some squash and the cold frame gives us a chance to get them started earlier without too much worry about snow and frost.

This year's garden curriculum is seed saving and genetic selection. We saved a bunch of pumpkin seeds from last year and have planted 12 clusters of three. We're going to select the earliest germinating from each cluster and then, slightly later, the four fastest growing plants (since early and fast are important characteristics if you actually want a pumpkin in Edmonton). Then at the end of the year, we'll pick the best fruit to save for next year. 

Jess seemed to get the idea of inheritance and selection (not bad for a 10-year-old). Of course, she also has a better grasp of how inter-generational poverty works than most of our politicians (figuring the dynamics out from one off-hand story) so I guess I shouldn't be surprised the rudiments of genetics is now within her grasp. Anyhow, we'll see how this works and revisit the results next spring.

The cold frames were all nice and toasty today and the radishes are hauling. The garlic is also growing well, although it looks like a hard neck variety we planted last fall all bite it over the winter. We're off to find some Jerusalem artichokes tomorrow so I think we'll pick up a couple of replacements.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Waiting for spring

A wet and cold week has slowed down gardening. The chives are hardy as always and are a welcome shot of green, especially when the sun comes out.

I received a donation of rocks last week and have been slowly adding them to the garden to bank up the sides of a couple of rows--great heat sink. While moving stuff around I saw one of last year's rhubarb transplant had poked its head up.

The radishes are going great guns in the cold frame. I thinned these (eating the sacrifices) and they are still very crowded. It is exciting to see something come up. The spinach in the frame beside it is much slower to get started.

Some of the shrubs are also leafing out. This mock orange gets a lot of heat on the south side of the house and is coming right along.

Last nights rain means the yard is too muddy to do much. Of the sun comes out, we'll maybe add some fresh soil and sheep manure to the two barrels Jess wants to plant with flowers. Otherwise, it might be a quiet day at home.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hawthorn bush and radishes

While we waited for the garden to dry out from yet another spring snow, Jess and I went for a wander in the river. Last week Jess ran across (well, actually into) what I think is a hawthorn bush. I'm not sure what type this might be (I've heard of snowbird, toga and morden hawthorns growing locally).

This week we went looking and found two more spots with hawthorns (smallish ones--the soil is poor) and I noted them for possibly jelly making. Each autumn Jess and I try a new foraged berry (chokecherry, high bush cranberry, rose hip, etc.) so if we can get enough berries I'll give this a whirl.

The radishes in the cold frame have germinated (way outdoing the spinach in the other frame).

In non-garden news, I cut open a sweet potato the other day and got this odd-ball white bit. No idea what that is about. tasted okay and no one died so perhaps just a weird mutation.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ready for planting

Although the weekend weather was chilly, I spent a fair bit of time outside getting the beds ready for planting in early April. The day started by putting the walla-walla onions outside to harden off a bit. We picked up these starts at Apache this week and some water has really perked them up. 

Around back, the much abused tulipa tarda has come up. This long ago gift from our friend Alan has been abused, buried, dug up, tossed aside and keeps coming back. It also has the good sense to grown, bloom and die off before any veggies can be planted.

The cold frames are starting to show some progress, with the first spinach seed germinating. I have dragged out the hose to ensure that I remember to water them.

Most of Sunday was spent out front getting the beds ready. The curved bed in the foreground is mostly raspberries and irises and there is a three-foot band of irises bordering the side walk on the left.

The near furrows contain potatoes--some planted last fall and the rest bought and ready to drop in place. The far furrows will contain corn and (on the edge) squash and beans this year. The far furrows were iris bed until last fall so I spent much of Sunday hoeing up the last of the iris bulbs and trying to move to soil into some semblance of rows. I then dropped a bunch of lawn litter on the pathways. Then we sat on the deck and had a glass of wine.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Onions and Chives

Jess and I planted about 150 onions Thursday night. These are a mix of yellow and white. We also have a bit of garlic and some walla-walla that we'll drop in the ground tomorrow. 

The chives are also up and I'll add some to biscuits tomorrow for dinner. The ground is thawed down about six inches in sunny spots so its not surprising to see perennials stirring.

Jess tried a chive and confirm they still taste oniony. She used to love these as a toddler but was less impressed this year.

In the front a plant that produces a pretty little yellow flower is pushing through the leaf litter.

This afternoon I started moving some soil into rows for corn out front the house. I also raked the mold off the lawn at the back. And I think I saw some spinach germinate in the cold frames!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Some early planting

I've spent my lunch hours this week doing some early work in the yard while I wait for things to dry out and warmup. I put four pea trellises in the garden to try and add some vertical space by the garage (it gets a nice bounce of sun in the afternoon). 

Tonight Jess and I planted an early crop of shell peas at the foot of the trellises--about 20 feet worth. The soil was thawed down about 4 inches and peas are pretty resilient with frosts. And I have a lot of seed from last year (note to self: 1 cup of pea seed does 100 feet of trellis), so I'm going to gamble that these will germinate before they rot!

In front of the trellis is some garlic we planted last fall and some carrots I left to overwinter to see if they'd produce seeds. In the empty 12 feet we put in some golden beets ("plant as soon as the soil is workable").

I've also been working the raised bed on the east side of our lot. These get a lot of sun and a nice bounce off the other side of the garage. We put in 36 feet of red beets here, about two weeks ahead of last year. The rest of these beds I'm reserving for carrots and those are a month or more away from being seeded. We'll plant a second crop of beets at about the same time.

Around the side I added some more spinach seeds to the cold frames as well as some radish seeds (a mixed pack) to see what happens. I'm off to the garden store to look for onions this afternoon. We ran short last year so I've set aside about 60 feet of rows and would like to put in about 200--perhaps this afternoon if it warms up.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Early spring clean-up

A few days of warm weather has winter on the run and I expect we'll be fully melted out by Tuesday.

This is very exciting and we've been out pacing the yard and racing toothpicks in the streams. The front yard is almost bare of snow and this year's potato patch he'd its shape through the winter. About half of this I planted last fall (to see if overwintering intentionally was a viable strategy). I even remember what part I planted!

In the backyard, I've started the process of cutting out the hedge in behind the garden. This is a huge pain in the butt to keep trimmed. My plan is to replace it was raspberry canes and saskatoon bushes over the next few years. I managed to cut out about 24 feet today and then ran out of energy.

The other project for the spring is to try and graft some Evans cherry scions onto the ornamental cherry we have in the back yard.

Now for a bike ride!