Monday, May 22, 2017

Garlic, If Nothing Else

   What a cool, soggy Spring.  May long weekend is typically when we till the gardens and plant peas and potatoes.  Sometimes, I can even plant my tomatoes outside on May long weekend.  Not this year!  The in-ground garden plots are too wet and heavy to till, so we will have to wait to plant potatoes and peas.  The carrots, beets, and daikon radish I planted a week or two ago are just starting to germinate (cool-weather crops, indeed!).  I transplanted leeks, parsley, and kale outside yesterday and sowed some Thumbelina zinnia, allysum, Swiss Giant Pansy, and Fairyland Dwarf Candytuft seeds in containers. Until it warms up significantly, everything else will have to wait.

   Due to poor weather, my milk jug greenhouse transplants haven't been as successful this year as they were last year.  The chard, cabbage, and even the marigolds are only up an inch or so and look feeble.  The kale is coming along, but it is small.  The best transplants of the bunch I started in jugs this year are the Red Express cabbage and Romanesco cauliflower.  Despite the fact that I started 5 varieties of cabbage seed - all from new seed - I still think I am going to have to go to the greenhouse and buy green cabbage transplants for the garden.  Frustrating!

   The garlic cloves and bulbils I planted last Fall have come up and are looking good.  The bulbils are in the pots, the cloves are in the ground (and are much larger).

   I began hardening off the tomato and pepper transplants a few days ago. No sheet required to shade them today. It is 19 degrees, breezy, and overcast this afternoon.  Two Galeux D'Eysines winter squash plants are beneath the milk jug tops.  My experience starting winter squash plants indoors, hardening them off, and transplanting them outdoors successfully (meaning they don't croak) has been limited.  Direct-sow is the way to go with winter squash, but some varieties require a longer growing season than we have, so...  Sometimes, I gamble! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Coming Along

Tomatoes, peppers, parsley, marigolds, and a few houseplants under a light in the kitchen.

In the plant room, tomatoes and peppers on the cat tree (Bea and Lou are not thrilled about this).

More tomatoes and peppers in the plant room...

...and still more!

In the living room, my beloved leeks, a handful of tomatoes and peppers, parsley, and marigolds.  The last two weeks have been overcast and cool.  The seedlings are showing it.  :-(

Overnight temps lately have dipped as low as -4, and tonight the forecast is -8.  I brought in my milk jug greenhouses for the time being.  Almost everything has germinated, including the Swiss chard...

...and the mixed kale!  :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Robins, Robins, Everywhere

    After a stretch of relatively mild weather, Easter weekend brought a blast of winter.  Heavy, wet snow fell steadily on April 13th and 14th.  It was perfect snowman snow.  On the 15th, the temperature rose and almost everything that had fallen - at least a foot - melted.  Puddles dotted the driveway and formed in the shallow sections of our lawn.  By the next morning (Sunday), it was snowing heavily once again  We received more than another foot by Monday night.

     It was an atypical Easter weekend, spent dealing with a blocked sewer line (we had to have a plumber here on Easter Monday, the second "after hours" service call in 8 days).  The bright spot for me was the very sudden appearance of robins in the middle of the snowfall on Monday.  I glanced up from my laptop and was shocked to see the crab apple tree outside the plant room filled with dozens of robins!  I stopped counting at 35. There were more in the trees along the alley behind the house, too. They were chubby, lively, and loving the snow!  Some were fluttering their wings the same way they do when bathing in puddles.  Others were eagerly feasting on the shriveled up crab apples left on the tree.   These pictures are unfortunately not very clear, but they will give you the idea.  (Click on pictures to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ho-Mi Digger and Dried Mushrooms

Two weeks ago, I finally decided to go ahead and buy the Romanesco cauliflower seeds I have wanted for two years. They aren't cheap, and when shipping fees are factored in - and the currency exchange, depending on which seed company one buys from - they end up costing $9 to $15. Ouch.

Nevertheless, a gardener wants what a gardener wants, so... I found the hybrid variety ("Veronica") of Romanesco cauliflower I was looking for at Veseys.  Fortunately for me, I subscribed to the Veseys e-newsletter before buying them and discovered that a code for free shipping on my first order came with the subscription confirmation.  Woohoo!  In addition to buying these platinum-coated seeds (I jest....but they are $5.25 for "approximately" 25 seeds), I splurged and bought a gardening tool I have wanted for some time.  It is a Korean hand tool called a Ho-Mi Digger (also called an Easy Digger/EZ Digger). 

When my package from Veseys arrived and I took out the Ho-Mi digger, I was impressed.  It looks like it is versatile and easy to use, like a small plough for your hand.  Most remarkably, it looks like a weapon. Right some deadly.  Heaven help the foolhardy soul who tries to raid my garden.

Early in the year, I was looking for a Canadian business that sells freeze-dried or dehydrated mushrooms in bulk.  In the past, I have waited for sales on button mushrooms, then bought them, dry-cleaned them, sliced them, and dehydrated them.  While the flavour is excellent and it is wonderful to have them on hand whenever we want to make a quick soup or stew, prepping them that way is time consuming.  It took some hunting, but I found a place called Misty Mountain Specialties in Vancouver. 

I admit that I spent the first few minutes making sure that Misty Mountain was selling the kind of mushrooms I was looking for and not a more....mind-expanding product. *ahem*  They do, in fact, sell a wide variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms - fresh, dry, medicinal, and truffle products.  Also some specialty products, like black garlic, goji and juniper berries, chilis, and ginseng.  I ended up buying dried button, portabello, and shiitake mushrooms, as well as a canister of powdered porcini mushroom (this is delicious in stews!).  The package that arrived was very large, but very light.  They enclosed a snazzy pen/flashlight combo as a thank-you.  If you order, it might be an idea to do so with friends.  The mimimum order to qualify for free shipping in Western Canada is $100.  In Eastern Canada, it is $180.  Worth it to me.  We're enjoying them, and they should last until the end of the year.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How To Prepare Leeks

There are many videos online that demonstrate different ways of cleaning and cutting up leeks.  I like this one - simple and to the point!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Getting Started

   Spring is here, at least according to the calendar.  I haven't spotted any robins or crocuses yet, but the days are noticeably longer, and that is always a welcome relief. 

   I started some leeks - Giant Musselburgh (February 26) and Bulgarian Giant (March 8) - and they are coming up nicely.  It is so pleasing to start the season growing leeks from seed.  They never disappoint, and they smell so fresh and bright when you trim them! 

   Despite telling myself at the end of last summer not to bother trying to grow peppers this year (*ahem*), I started Jalapeno, Ajvarski (a sweet red roasting pepper from Eastern Macedonia), and Sweet Banana pepper seeds on March 7.  They have begun to germinate. As usual, the jalapenos are going strong and outperforming the others, even at this early stage.

   Tomatoes were started on March 20.  That might have been a bit early, but I was eager to get going.  Here's hoping for a very warm May so I can transplant them mid-month.  The varieties I'm growing are: 


Bonny Best - red, round, heirloom, meaty, canning/slicing, indeterminate

Early Annie  - red, heirloom, 3-inch round, canning/slicing, DETERMINATE

Mazarini - pink, heart-shaped, heirloom, few seeds, meaty flesh, paste, wispy foliage, indeterminate, rare Russian tomato

Emerald Evergreen - green, beefsteak, heirloom, indeterminate, sweet/flavourful, slicer

Black Krim - black/purple, beefsteak, indeterminate, Russian heirloom, juicy, rich flavour 


Pink Berkeley Tie Dye - pink/red/green striped, beefsteak, heirloom, indeterminate, 8-12oz fruit

Bison - red, medium sized fruit, dwarf determinate plant, early, very productive, heirloom, no staking required, good for containers

Chocolate Cherry - black cherry, indeterminate, unsure whether these seeds are heirloom or hybrid

Snow White Cherry - ivory coloured cherry, indeterminate, sweet, heirloom

Cherokee Purple - dark pink/purple, large fruit, indeterminate, heirloom, sweet/flavourful, slicer

   Though I already know I will be overwhelmed with tomato plants, I am still considering adding a variety called, “Russian Rose”.  (Update: started this variety, as well as Ping Tung eggplants, on March 24).

   Rosemary, marigolds, and parsley seeds were started around March 5.  All have sprouted, though the parsley is slow to get going.  I think the parsley seed I have is getting old, so I will have to buy new packets next Spring.  I keep reading that starting rosemary from seed is a tedious endeavour - that it is "not worth it" - but that hasn't been my experience.  They seem to love being on a heat mat.  Nine have germinated so far.  That is more than I will need, but they make nice gifts and I think they might be popular items when doing plant and vegetable trades later in the summer. 

Happy Spring