Monday, March 6, 2017

Out And About

The ice has moved out of the bay for now, hopefully for good. Out on our recent walk, the gravel roads frozen like concrete, hurt your eyes blue sky above, we noticed a neighbouring home having a second floor built above it. We always referred to it as 'the pink house' but likely we will have to give it another name soon. The construction workers have had great weather to do this, with very little snow this winter.

While the temperatures were practically balmy when I wrote my last blog, we recently dipped to well below zero, cold winds making it feel bitter. But, during that warm balmy time, seeds were planted in the raised bed with the Lexan cover. It did not take them long to germinate and hopefully, they will continue to do well.
Knowing the weather was going to 'dip' this past week, they were covered with another layer of insulation I call Fleece or Reemay. This comes in different weights ..ours is a medium weight. But it does the job, keeping little germinated seeds alive under the white blanket and over that, the Lexan cover. Arugula, radish and spinach sprouted but not beets so far. As a wise gardener once told me..."think of that raised bed as an outside refrigerator"..and I do. It will keep the greens chilled to perfection until the days lengthen even longer and they put on more growth. We are going up to seven degrees on Wednesday so will remove the Remay and if needed, will prop open the cover as it does get very warm about one in the afternoon in that raised bed.

Looking back to last year's photos, it was remarkable to see no snow. In fact, on the 20th, we had fluffed up the beds, and had everything ready to plant. I am doubtful we will this year, but you never know.
Our neighbour's Witch Hazel is in bloom (mine is not but that's another story) and I notice the little Daphne that is native to Nova Scotia is wanting to open so signs of spring are appearing daily. I could do without the constant coo coooing of the Mourning Doves at crack of dawn though. No crows looking for nest material so far, but I have seen on the warm days, the chickadees and squirrels pecking and chewing on the maples for the sweet sap. It won't be long now and Nova Scotia gardeners will be in hyper mode!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My First Seedy Saturday

Even though our local South Shore Nova Scotia area celebrated its eleventh year of bringing gardeners and community together, this actually was the first "Seedy Saturday" I have ever attended. Well it was quite an event!

One of the tables set up by the sponsor Helping Nature Heal, offered home gardeners the opportunity to share freely their extra seeds from plants grown themselves, or seeds they might have too much of. So, over the last few days..sorting..measuring.. sifting and shaking.... little baggies got filled, labeled and sealed.
The tiny broccoli seeds were the worst to separate from their dried pods but with a little crunching, smashing and forcing, they finally tumbled through the strainer, and were packaged up.
The vendors were all local! How wonderful is that. Six years ago you would be hard pressed to find folks who were seeds persons growing, packing and selling locally, and now we have quite a few wonderful, exuberant, exciting youthful people with such commitment to community .....grateful is a word that cannot be overused!

A soup lunch was offered..shared in the same family spirit of kindness and goodness ... joy germinated everywhere! And to top it off, the guest speaker was Niki Jabbour, who has done so much to promote Year Round Vegetable Gardening, her first book is a number one seller at Amazon. The presentation today was on seed starting and I noted, there were few questions as the power point gave step by step direction, with huge encouragement on how to begin this 'scary business' of starting your own seeds.
The above means, weeks before last frost.
Note the Cucamelon (sometimes referred to as Mouse Melon) on the list above. This has been getting a lot of interest and there was one vendor selling them today, packages going quite quickly I noticed.

Yes the soup was fantastic, yes the speaker was fantastic, yes, the seeds men and women were wonderful, and yes, the buzz and frizzle in the air was electric but I will tell you what this gardener loved the most. I loved seeing all the many children that attended with family or friends, the future shining in their faces. If today was a cell pack full of spouting seeds, lets just say the growth was phenomenal...that happens you know, with fertilization, handfuls of love and mutual respect measured exactly right.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wintery February

We are finally getting some snow! One nor'easter after another to be exact. Where we live, on the south shore of Nova Scotia, very near the sea, the winters can be cold and long. But, that doesn't always mean we will have lots of snow and we can have 'dry' winters when not enough precipitation has fallen. The last Nor'easter was Thursday, dropping just enough of the white stuff to make me feel hopeful, we won't be struggling with lack of water from the well come summertime. Many people last year had their wells run dry, first time ever. This prompted me to wonder about groundwater levels, and the relationship with weather in the late winter and spring months. I am far too lazy to make the effort to research just so you know. However, I was pleased to read a piece written by the author Katherine Swift. (If you haven't read her books, have a google.... I love her writing). The author had contributed to a British Garden magazine noting a dry February was thought to be a particularly bad sign referring to old rhymes about 'February fill dyke, be it black or be it white'. So even though, it is tough going some days, local roads icy underneath and covered with snow, and more shovelling on the horizon, I am trying to be grateful for these February storms and not grumble.

On a positive note, the snow is happily keeping the garden warm, nestled under its soft pillowy blanket. The mice are probably making 'runs', scurrying at ground level a foot or more down, to and from the sleeping beds, gathering lost seeds, and eating whatever they can find I expect. In the spring, when the snow does melt, the evidence is quite clear, as there are many mouse highways across the lawn where they have run so many times, the grass is flat and poor.

For the first time in many years, I did not extend the garden season inside the picket fence, choosing instead to give it a rest. Also, the two raised beds which are about thigh high, (above photo) have not been planted/extended either. However, one of them, the one with the Lexan cover, can be seeded very early as it acts not just as a raised bed but also as a cold frame. (One of the wisest choices we ever made was building this.) A gift of "Celtuce" seeds arrived just the other day and this is definitely going to be one of my 'something new this year' to try. Not sure I am up to the task but am intrigued by it's growing requirements and the fact that one eats the stem more so than the leaf. I did note one can make a pesto from the leaves but really, this most unusual lettuce grown more for its stalk has me hoping to succeed. Below are the packets that arrived from our local Nova Scotia seed producer Annapolis Seeds. Excited!! If they can grow these plants here in Nova Scotia, gathering the seeds to share with us, then surely there is hope for success.
Meanwhile, the kitchen is fragrant with the smell of what appears to be the largest hyacinth I have ever nurtured in my life. Grocery store bought, when it was only just pushing itself out of the pot, this harbinger of spring entices memories of days soon to come, while the seeds promise a bounty yet to grow.
Onion seeds have sprouted under the lights downstairs...oh how I love fresh grown from seed onions. I can tell the difference, yes I can!
They are as crispy as an apple when you pull them fresh from the soil, and although this variety, White Wing, is also a keeper, mine never make it that far. White and glossy with their green grey stems, Onions are as beautiful as any hyacinth!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A New Year

Do you get that thrill? The clock trips over, a New Year begins and within a day, you are planning your garden. Seed catalogues splayed out on the table, while visions of primroses, daffodils and tulips are dancing in your head. Peas, lettuce greens, broad beans slipped from their pods.... pumpkins, potatoes and tomatoes. Positive thoughts bubble and rise to the surface, when they could just as easily burst thinking of the fence pickets that need 'doin' or the raised bed that's half rotten. The clean up in spring is sure to set your wrists back a month if you aren't careful. No, we won't think of that as I sit with my dear catalogues, stars in my eyes.
Did I tell you about the seed order I put in to Johnny's Seeds in Maine last year? Well, with the sinking Canadian dollar, and Johnny's being in the United States, the exchange rate snuck up on me unexpectedly. I wasn't thinking!! Then Canada customs got in on the act putting a $30.00 duty on the shipment. I could not justify the added expense, and so the order was returned. Johnny's were so good about it...so kind. If I order this year, it will be below the customs penalty duty. Seeds, I always thought, were part of our free trade agreement but, I guess not. Best to buy local! Annapolis Seeds have always been super so maybe this year will put my order there and buy local.

So what are the highlights of your seed orders this year? I read recently that we might keep in mind when we order seeds, three things. Order what has always worked for you and grow that because you know you will succeed with it. Order something new, something that will inspire you and make you excited to watch it grow and perhaps in a while it will turn out to be something you can't possibly go without growing. Thirdly, grow something fun, or do something fun with your seeds. Plant a garden with your children or grandchildren, or maybe a fairy garden by your back door for little visitors.
Looking back through photos, reminds me what worked and what didn't. You forget, you know.....so having a blog or having photos to rely on, jogs the memory. I won't be without a sprouting broccoli this year called Piracicaba Broccoli. Not only did the bees love the blooms, and it grew to an enormous height, but, it kept sending out little florets all summer and fall, always tender, always delicious. That was my 'new' for 2016 , an unexpected gift of transplants from a garden friend. My 'new' this year...well I am not sure yet what that will be. But I will be sure to let you know dear readers. Spring is just..only just, around the corner.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blessed Rain and Garden Update

The last weeks of June and the beginning of July brought some pretty scorching temps here in Nova Scotia. "No outside fires" banned across the province which was a shame (but necessary) as we do enjoy our little back yard firepit. At the end of a day, especially if we've been tidying up in the garden, we burn debris and reward ourselves with a glass of wine or whatever. You can just see the flames off to the left above, the garden lush after the downpours.  Refreshed with mushroom compost, cutting a good 'edge', the beds look smart this time of year.

Finally, the roof on the Summerhouse shed is finished and although a big job removing the old windows we are pleased. You can compare with the last blog post in which the shed looks very broken. Thanks to our neighbour Quentin for helping out!

So what's growing in our Nova Scotia zone 6 garden right now? Had my fill of lettuce and salad greens..enough so that most are pulled out and composting. No guilt, no guilt, no guilt :( But the peas have come on strong and one variety in particular is prolific. Golden Sweet Pea is not only beautiful and glowing, the see-through pods are buttery, and delicious. They are my favourite ever ever ever! Dill and garlic scapes and a few green peas add to the bowl.
The blooms of the Golden Sweet Peas (seeds available at Baker Creek or Johnny's seeds) are a bi-color pink and purple fading to blue when finishing.  Awesome!
If we want a side of salad greens right now, we use the thinnings of baby beets, baby leaves of chard, the inside new leaves of kale, tiny garlic scapes just forming, tiny flowers off the Egyptian Walking Onions, (above mentioned peas) any and all herbs that would enhance the side, served (we like) with a stronger dressing as you would on a Caesar salad.

There is a carrot we tried this year called Nelson, an F1 from Johnny's Seeds in Maine and it too, has been prolific and tasty. Not as sweet as some, I will admit, but a great success, and carrots can be so fussy I find.
No strawberries this year sadly, as the bed was five years old and so not really producing. Next year perhaps, a bed devoted entirely to berries and I will cover them like a grown up gardener would do so the chipmunks and squirrels don't get them first. But, that means finding the plants for sale now.  Red currant bushes are loaded and they will satisfy almost as nicely but it isn't the same, you know. We have four shrubs of red currant, planted way back. Oh gosh, I can't believe it was sixteen years ago. Have we lived here on the south shore of Nova Scotia that long!! Apparently so as I just asked the Captain and he says seventeen years ago.

And that leads me to admit, we took out the lilac bed and yes, we will forever mourn grubbing out 'Beauty of Moscow' the lilac we loved the most. Sadly, the forest grew a lot taller in seventeen years than anticipated and the whole planting had become sad..just sad, tired, leggy and shady. It is surprising how beautiful the burning roots and branches smelled last night. Made me even sadder though.

This spring and summer was especially more difficult regarding weeds unwanted seeds. For the first time in a few years there was very little compost to spread on the beds to freshen them early on when the weather turned warm. So, I bought some, but too late realized that lovely bucket of compost had been left uncovered from the year before and OMG, the unwanted seeds that sprouted. I guess I can be thankful there were no invasives in there, and hopefully only annual unwanted seeds but I guess time will tell. Let that be a hard lesson learned because I tell you there is nothing sneakier than a clump of couch grass hiding in a bed of carrot fronds.

The rain continues thankfully but please don't let the tomatoes get blight, please don't! I can live without lettuce greens, carrots, peas and more, but I can't live without tomatoes.