Friday, 8 June 2012

Things I want to do

As always, my horizons keep on expanding, as I learn more (I've been doing a lot of reading). It is exciting.

I've started a list of things I want to do someday:
  • keeping chickens
  • keeping bees
  • making cheese
  • growing most of my own veggies, and preserving them for the winter
  • growing stuff in a greenhouse for the better part of the year
  • living out in the country
Also, of things that I want to do this year:

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Harvest calculator & Seasonal Food

You could use paper and math and lots of tricky calculations with dates and months, etc.
Or you could just throw your seeds into the ground and figure they're ready when they're reading.
Or you could give this a go: my Harvest Date Calculator.

First save it to your computer, so you have your own copy of it. Click "file" go to "download as" and select "Excell", then save it to where you want it in your computer.
After that, it's pretty straightforward: simply type in your planting date, and the days to harvest (usually found on the seed pack), and there you go!

It's May long weekend - in Ontario, the traditional weekend for putting plants in the ground.
Which means that if you go anywhere in the vicinity of a grocery store, much less a garden centre, you will probably be crushed.
It also means that for a lot of people it's planting time! Woo!

I actually jumped the gun on tradition and had things in the ground last week -

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Serendipitous straw and copious compost

May is here, and with it beautiful, sunny shorts and T-shirt weather, a reduced schoolwork load for me (yay!!) ...... and 6 cubic yards of compost (+ 3 of mulch.) That is a lot of wheelbarrow loads.

There are different glimpses of things around me that have stuck in my memory - things that speak loudly of spring:

the subtle but stunning iridescent colour of a starling's wing -

the pink waterfalls of apple blossoms shrouding an the boughs of a gnarled tree -

the tiny sky-blue flowers coming out on the forget-me-nots -

the buzzing bumblebee hanging upside down from a bleeding heart -

the pervasive calm and stillness of a clear evening.

My mom, my brother, and I have been working all weekend to get the compost spread over our garden beds, and to get the garden cleaned up and ready to grow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Of basement garden adventures and too much kale

Due to the all-consuming monster that is the English exam, I haven't written anything for over a week.
The downside to this is that I now have all sorts of unarticulated & partially formed ideas floating around in my head, jostling each other for space, and making my mind feel about as lucid as a muddy puddle.

So, to get back into things, I'll make this a simple update post: what's going on in my garden?

Yesterday I awoke to see white out my window - fortunately spring flowers are designed to take the cold, and they're still going as strong as ever! My mom noticed the beautiful contrast between the snow and the bright flowers and went out to take pictures.

Over the last few days, I've been busy in the basement:

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Second planting & seedling updates

My seedlings have been up for about a week now and I'm starting to see their first true leaves.

On Tuesday, I replanted my lettuce (since my germination was lousy - 3 our of 9 cells the first go round) and I filled in the kale seedlings that didn't come up (this time I double planted to make sure I got something).

I also planted cosmos, globe amaranth, and poppies. I probably won't obsess so much about these, as I already have my other "babies" to watch.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A brief history of the tomato

Our common summer veggies all have a history behind them, of thousands of years of cultivation, selection, and transportation.

Take tomatoes, for example.

In North America, tomatoes are just such a quintessential garden vegetable (or fruit, technically, but more on that later) - summer just wouldn't be complete without fresh, juicy tomatoes.

I was up at my Nana's place in Kingston for Easter. My mom usually doesn't buy tomatoes out of season - they're so hit and miss, and often mealy. The taste of just-toasted (gluten free) bread, with hummus, and ham, and cheese, and mustard - with a nice thick slice of tomato to complete it.
It just melted in my mouth, all the flavours melding together into perfection. Mouthwatering.
The taste of tomatoes in April sends me back to the hot July days we spend up at our cottage. It's hard to imagine life without tomatoes.

But at one point, they tomatoes weren't so widespread. In fact, they were considered toxic: they is, after all, related to deadly nightshade! In fact, according to one 17th century writer "Tomatoes should never be eaten raw as death will be instantaneous."

Monday, 2 April 2012

Seedlings emerge

I was sitting on the bus on my way back from my English class at the University of Ottawa, wondering rather glumly what I could write about.
Since the weather has decided to be consistently Aprilish, there wasn't anything much to do in the garden - freezing nights aren't wonderful for weeds - or digging.
And of course I wasn't expecting my seeds to germinate until Thursday (a week from when they were planted). Tuesday at the earliest. I was being determinedly patient.

So when I ambled down to the basement to check on my seed trays *again*, I wasn't expecting much of anything - just some more agonizing about whether they were too damp or not and were they warm enough?
And then I saw it.
First I thought - well, that's a strange looking piece of potting mix.
No, it can't be a seedling. I'm certain I didn't plant any that close to the edge.
They're not supposed to be up yet anyhow.
But upon further inspection, there was one kale seedling:

And then another:

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Planting Seeds

I knew before I opened the crisp, pretty white packets that seeds are both nondescript and marvellous.

What I didn't know before was that each type of seed has its own character - each is a little bit different from all the others.

And when you look closely, quite beautiful.

See for yourself:

Tomato seeds are dried versions of the ones what you see in all tomatoes.
They are also tiny. Not quite as bad as carrot seeds, but handling them well requires a certain level of finesse & fine motor skill which I sadly lack.
When my fingers operate on the level of a tomato seed they seem awfully blunt and unwieldy.

Kale seeds are tiny black bouncy balls. They like to hop and bounce about & they just don't want to stay put.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Garden prep - of bleach and dug treasures

With my garden, the things I do aren't usually big and climactic.
Usually they're small. Sometimes rather tough work. But I like it that way.

Over the weekend - on Sunday when I was going through the birth-pangs of finishing my essay, I decided to tackle the rock border to my new front-yard garden.
Because I just could not stand one more minute of editing without self-combusting.

Soon in my digging my shovel hit something hard where there should have been soil.
I stuck it down a few inches over, thinking I'd hit a little rock.

But this one wasn't little.

No this - and the others I found (perhaps 7?) - were quite respectably sized. Hefty, even. Rocks that would hurt if dropped on your toe. In fact they'd probably break your toe. I'm guessing at least 1 square foot, and 2 inches thick.

They were extremely satisfying to dig up one after another.

There must have been a nice rock-border there before the junipers took over the space. I wonder what it looked like 10, 20 years ago. If the old and prickly-snarled junipers that we shed so much sweat wrestling out were ever nice to look at? If there were other plants growing there?
I doubt I'll ever know. But I'm glad to have my rocks, though they still aren't quiet enough for a border.

Here are the products of my hard work:

The other recent gardening adventure of note involved bleach. And holey gloves.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Seeing our place, saving our world - why I garden

For years now, I've plonked in some veggies in the backyard garden when the weather got warm. A bit of basil. Some straggly tomatoes. Lettuces. Or chives.

But like with a lot of things in my life, I am just starting to realize that there is so so much more to growing a garden than I'd ever thought. I get the feeling that I've just skimmed my toes across the surface of a great big sea.
It might be time to take a swim.

We eat every day. (or at least, that's true for most of here in Canada. Not in some other places... but that's another problem for another day.)
If you're like me, you eat vegetables every day.
And you start to take food for granted. It will be there when you want it - from a grocery store or your kitchen shelf. Put it on your shopping list and you get it.

But that's not everything.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Heirloom Seeds - what I'm growing this year

Sometime back in the fall, by serendipity I suppose, I must have discovered for the first time what heirloom veggies are... and decided to plant them.

So what did I learn? I found out that they're old varieties of our common garden vegetables that have been passed down from posterity. Many of them are disappearing, being out-competed by hybrid seeds from big seed companies. Heirlooms have been selected not for shipping or storage potential, but for delicious taste. There are so many beautiful, strange, or colourful varieties. I can't wait to try them!

I've ordered seed packs online from The Cottage Gardener, a local Ontario farm which sells a wide & tantalizing variety of heirlooms.

Here is what I'm growing:
  • Colourful Carrot Mix (purple, yellow, white, and red - how cool is that?)  
  • Cosmonaut Volkov & Jaune Flammee Tomatoes (both varieties are indeterminate - i.e. vining, and the crazy Maddster is trying to grow them in pots, albeit big ones. I forsee vigilant pruning in my future.)
  • Five-colour Silverbeet Swiss Chard (multicoloured stems, need I say more?)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Garden gets going

It is Friday March 23. We're just on the tail end of an unseasonal burst of summery weather.
My garden plans have been incubating in my mind since sometime last fall, and now they're up and sprouting.

I've been hard at work on an English essay (due Monday), and in between productive work time, I have finished loosening the soil in my new garden space with our gardening fork.
Where there have been ugly old junipers growing for years, there is now destined to be a veggie garden.

As a cure for my springtime fever I have been:
Digging in the earth.
Pulling weeds.
Putting together compost.
Reading seed catalogues & gardening websites.
Planning my garden.

Soon I'll be starting my first vegetables: Tomatoes and Kale get the honours. Only they'll have to wait until my essay gets done. Which is just as well, 'cause it's still a good 7 weeks (I think!) until May 11, purportedly out last spring frost date here in Ottawa.

I'm excited for this year.
Coming next: what I'm planting.