Monday, June 30, 2014

Soapberries, gooseberries and corn

Sunday was a day of mixed weather so I spent the morning cleaning up and finishing off some chive vinegar. Then there was the airing of the cupboard and the discovery that we'd also made chive-infused butter. Good thing my wife has a sense of humour.

I went for a wander through the valley today after the rain stopped. I spotted what I think are soapberries (will need to go back and check).

I also found a small swamp behind some trees which might be a source of cattails (hoping to try them fried and use the pollen as flour). This lead to more exploration, a washed out trail, a scramble up the bank and then a furtive escape through someone's (quite lovely) yard.

I see our gooseberry plants are starting to produce berries. Not too many but I might pick what is there when the ripen a bit and then freeze them to combine with strawberries.

The corn seems to have appreciated the recent heat and rain and is up to about 12 inches out front (although some is lagging). The pole beans I planted have also come up. Hopefully the corn can keep ahead of them.

Tomorrow (in amongst work), I need to get Jess to make the Christmas fruitcake.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Strawberries, tomatoes and apples

The garden has really started to respond to this mini-heat wave. The strawberries are starting to ripen and this one (which Jess and I split while playing lawn darts) was delicious.

Right above the berries, the mock orange bushes are starting to blossom. These smell amazing.

We also have a bunch of cherry tomatoes forming. These I planted in the window boxes (in lieu of flowers) along with a bunch of swiss chard.

More potatoes are starting to blossom, which means spuds are forming. I promise to actually let these plants die down this year before harvesting the potatoes.

Along the south side, the peonies are blooming and attracting lots of bees (include an enormous bee the size of the first joint of my thumb).

And the dwarf apple tree has very few apples, but the ones it has set are crab apple sized already.

I hope we'll get some more time in the yard this afternoon. There is nasty corner partly obscured by the deck that has become rather overgrown. And I also have raspberry shoots to try and replant.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Neighbourhood gardens

We were out for a walk on Wednesday and ran across a couple of nice gardens in the neighbourhood. At one of the local schools, an old sandpit was turned into a garden. An interesting mix of veggies and flowers (and weeds!) here. I hope this garden gets more attention than the flower garden they planted about five years ago.

One of my neighbours turned half of his front lawn under. Great southern exposure and some stuff has really come up.

An exciting development is a plan (sponsored by the city) to plant an urban food forest in the river valley. Basically pin cherries, saskatoons and whatnot on a grassy hill with a southern exposure in a ravine near us.

Assuming we're in town, Jess and I plan to go and help on July 19.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kale, irises and apples

The weather yesterday was lovely. After a long bike ride (plus some time to recover from the bike ride...) we set to work in the yard. The kale we planted for a later summer crop has germinated. I'm always surprised to see how coarse our soil is in a close up (the tilth is lovely when I run my hands through it!).

We also added kale to the centre of both of our flower buckets to take over when the pansies have run their course in mid-summer. This stuff is a bit further along--planted slightly earlier and in a sunnier spot.

The peas are starting to flower. We got two nice crops off the peas last year so I'm hopeful we'll see something similar this year.

The apple tree seems to be full of tiny apples this year (after several years of yielding very little). This cluster of apples has five together. I recall reading something about thinning clusters like this but not much beyond that (something about a king apple?). Anyhow, back to the books on that.

The potatoes in the front yard are also going great guns.

We're at the height of the irises. It is a bit hard to show them in all their glory as they span over 75 feet along the south side of our property. Here is a shot looking west. They are striking enough that people slow down sometimes to look.

And my sous-chef out picking lettuce. This is all self-seeded lettuce from last year (and it is frigging everywhere in the garden) so we're trying to pick it down to a manageable amount! We're also trying to leave enough room that the pumpkin seeds we put in these "empty" beds can get a good start.

I see the purple bellflower has snuck back in among the rhubarb so I will out at lunch driving it back.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chive vinegar

Today was a busy day with zone playoffs in soccer and lawn mowing. Other than harvesting some more rhubarb, all I managed of interest in the yard was to finish up the chive vinegar we started about two weeks back.

It looks quite interesting, has a light onion smell and a light onion taste. I will need to work out a recipe for salad dressing. I hope to get some more time in the yard tomorrow as the carrots need to be thinned and the tomatoes tied up.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Potatoes, raspberries and pineapple weed

A week or rain and sun has really pushed the garden ahead. Out front, all of the potatoes are up and the earlier ones are starting to flower.

The corn and squash are also making progress and demand a fair bit of weeding as they compete with the remains of the old iris bed. Man, pieces of iris root are tenacious!

The raspberry canes are starting to blossom. These are a dark raspberry with canes that remind me of blackberries (full of horrible thorns).

The last columbine plant out front has put on a nice show as have some daisies in the back that have volunteered.

The 6x6 potato patch out back (all Russian Blue, I think) are going really well. They have obscured (for the moment) the scarlet runner beans planted against the fence. Some blue jays have a nest (either in the lilac on the right or in the mock orange behind the fence) with young starting to fledge. I watched the parents feed one and then have been harassed every time i have been back there since (fly-bys and whatnot).

The lilacs are putting on a good show by the garage. They are a bit late this year due to the cold May weather but they smell wonderful.

One of my summer projects was to identify some of the common edible weeds in our yard. This is pineapple weed. the small balls have a distinct pineapple smell when you crush them and they taste halfway between pineapple and coconut when you bite in. Apologies for the blurry photo--a hard plant to get into focus.

With soccer winding down, I'm hopeful we'll get a chance to fuss with the onions this weekend. Some of the wall wall onions are starting to form bulbs and I want to try some gentle dirt removal to see if we get bigger bulbs this year.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Turnips, apples and irises

With soccer and flute winding down, I had a bit more time on Saturday to enjoy the nice weather. The turnips we planted have really come come up--much faster than the carrots and the beets.

There are also a lot of proto-apples starting to swell up on the one tree.

This weekend is the start of the iris bloom on my yard. The more established plants on the side are all ready to put on a show while those which were roughly treated last year during the front yard reconstruction are mostly content to build roots this year.

Jess and I took a walk in the evening along the valley and checked out the saskatoons and other edibles. They seem to be doing well. We also listened to a concert from Hawreluk for awhile.

On the way back we passed by this front yard garden. You'd never know it was there from the road (I go by it on 102 Ave all the time) but it is quite the operation. On the right, you can see the huge raspberry patch they have put in.

Our own asparagus patch refused to come up this spring. Maybe the crowns weren't deep enough. This can be a bit shady by the asparagus is usually up before the tree leafs out. Anyhow, I pulled the chives, added some manure and soil and we'll plant a late crop here--I think I have some kale seeds in the cupboard.

Today we need to do some weeding out front (where the corn and the squash have germinated) and maybe plunk in some pole bean seeds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Asparagus and Chive Vinegar

We've had lots of rain this week and the garden is growing by leaps and bounds. This pot on the deck has some tumbler tomatoes, self-seeded lettuce and cilantro.

One summer project I planned was to make some chive vinegar. Vinegar plus chive blossoms, sit then strain and you're good. I think we put these in the jar on Saturday. It is supposed to take two weeks to leach all of the flavour out. A pretty colour and it smells good.

I also bought some asparagus at the market on Saturday to freeze. We managed to get 11 single-serving bags processed and frozen which add a nice taste of spring to winter pizzas and casseroles. There was one bag left from last year so I may do another couple of bunches this year.

The water we used to blanch them is sitting in the fridge awaiting its turn to become soup stock. I'm hopeful a couple of sunny days will let me get back out and on the weeding!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hostas, Chard and Corn

With wife and child out last night, I dig through my list of things to try this year and ran across "eat hosts". So I quickly went out and found a few as-yet unfurled leaves. The plain hosts tasted a lot of peas and I imagine would be tasty steamed or lightly stir-fried. The variegated host was quite a lot spicier. I love adding new plants to the menu!

This is also the season of chives. I'm planning on making chive vinegar (perhaps tomorrow) as soon as enough flower heads bloom.

I filled one of the window boxes with tumbler tomatoes and swiss chard this year instead of flowers. I've never had any luck with chard but it has come up gangbusters. You can really see the neon pink and yellow stems this variety has., even though the plants have barely germinated. I will start thinning these out shortly.

After much trepidation, the corn has emerged from the ground. This is hooker's sweet corn and should grow to a modest five feet or so. I don't think anyone else around here grows corn so we should be able to collect some seeds this fall.

The saskatoon bloom is done and to looks like we'll have a decent crop of berries. Even with the contribution from the neighbour's much larger bush down the way, I expect we'll need to tromp out to a u-pick to get enough this year. I have put in two more bushes and will be adding a few more in back.

I see that there is also quite a lot of suckering going on with the raspberries in front. I plan to transfer some of these around to the side this week (weather permitting).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Flowers and the first harvests

We spent a glorious weekend in the garden. Jess interplanted the corn with some squash seeds (Australian butter squash). I'm not sure the corn is going to come up (no sign yet) but the squash should do alright. We also planted a second sowing of potatoes (banana) and generally  tidied up the front.

We're starting to see the perennial bloom. These yellow flowers are always early and then give way to the irises. Replanting the irises last year has set most of the plants in the front yard way back.

Both apple trees are full of blossoms. I did some hand pollinating in the absence of the bees (have only seen one in the last week or so).

We made a quick harvest of rhubarb that was shading out some basil. I always forget how big the one rhubarb plant gets. I froze this to have some on hand when the strawberries ripen so we can make pie filling. We also thinned the radishes and the lettuce.

A tour of the provincial museum grounds caught the gardening crew doing a Saturday night plant. they put in some lovely flowers and all of the trees and bushes were in bloom.

This week we've finished the late seeding (although there is one stretch that might get some kale seeds for a late crop. I also bought a cucamelon plant to see what that is like. Now we're focused mostly on weeding and watering and eating our way through the rest of last year's preserves!