Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
- My favourite garden author, Barbara Pleasant will join me to chat all about her new book, Starter Vegetable Gardens - 24 No Fail Plans. I've got a copy to give away and we'll be welcoming your questions about veggie (or any other type) of gardening! She's also written books on composting and houseplants, so please tune in!
- Maureen Mcllwain from Kingsbrae Gardens in New Brunswick will tell us what's in bloom in the gardens, as well as fill us in on upcoming events and contests!
- Finally, Barry McPhee of McKenzie Seeds will join me to talk about some of the gorgeous new varieties for 2010 and offer tips on planting seeds outdoors - flower, herb and veggie!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I've just been wandering all around our gardens, snapping photos with the new camera and snuck over to my neighbour's yard to take a few shots of her gorgeous hostas! Please don't ask me to ID them, as I'm not sure which ones she has.. nevertheless, they are beautiful and it's great to compare the leaf textures, colours and sizes. I'm hoping to tuck a hosta garden beside our deck this summer. There is a short slope that is quite shaded and I thought it would be the perfect spot to plant some of these leafy beauties!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Veggies for a Lebanese Kitchen Garden
For truly authentic flavor, try ‘Omar’s Lebanese’, an heirloom beefsteak tomato that matures in about 80 days. Although the history is a bit vague, it is said to originate from a mountain village in Lebanon where local farmers have been growing it for many years. It was brought to America by a Lebanese college student and has since become a favourite in kitchen gardens across North America.
The indeterminate vines of ‘Omar’s Lebanese’ are both high yielding and disease resistant. The pinkish-red fruits typically weigh one to two pounds, but can reach sizes over four pounds with proper care, good weather and a little luck. The meaty tomatoes are also deeply lobed and boast a rich, sweet flavor that has pushed this heirloom to the top of many taste tests.
Lebanese Zucchini (50 days)
Lebanese zucchini, also known as kusah, kusa, koosa or cousa is an essential element in both the Lebanese garden and kitchen. It is used in a variety of dishes from the simple (slices brushed with olive oil and garlic and then grilled) to the more elaborate. Kusah mahshi, a recipe where the marrows are stuffed with a variety of herbs, spices, vegetables and meats and then cooked until tender is a popular element in traditional Lebanese mezza, where dozens of appetizer-sized portions of food are shared with family and friends.
Easy to grow and very prolific, Lebanese zucchini bear light green oblong fruits that are usually harvested when they are between four and six-inches long. Try ‘Lebanese White Bush Marrow’, a flavorful heirloom with a bush habit that is ideal for small gardens or 'Kousa'. Neither takes up too much space, yet they both offer a heavy yield of creamy tender fruits.
Armenian Cucumbers (70 to 75 days)
Although often sold as a cucumber, this Lebanese favourite is botanically a melon. It goes by a variety of names including snake melon, metki and yard-long cucumber and is an ancient plant, said to have been introduced into Italy from Armenia in the 15th century. The fruits are soft green, heavily ribbed and although they will grow up to three-feet long, they are best picked when about 12-inches in length. The skin is very thin and need not be peeled, while the flesh is crisp, juicy and free from any bitterness.
The vining plants will produce long, straight fruits when trained up a trellis, but if left to sprawl on the ground, the fruits will curl and twist into unique snake-like shapes. Either way, select a very sunny part of the garden with well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost or rotted manure. In cold climates, start the seeds indoors about six weeks before transplanting outside. Also try Striped Armenian, commonly called Painted Serpent.
Lebanese-type Cucumber (60 days)
Considered gourmet fare in most supermarkets, Lebanese-type cucumbers are remarkably easy to grow. They differ from regular slicing cucumbers by their thinner skin and often sweeter flesh. They are also harvested before maturity, usually when they are only four to six-inches in length. ‘Beit Alpha’ is an open pollinated Lebanese-type cucumber that is both prolific and delicious. The vines are resistant to cucumber mosaic virus and may be trained up a support or grown along the ground. The crunchy fruits are smooth-skinned, bitter free and do not require peeling. 'Sultan', a hybrid is very similar, but slightly more vigorous in my garden.
Considered by many to be the national dish of Lebanon, tabbouli (or tabbuli or tabbouleh) is a prime example of Lebanese cuisine – simple, delicious and made with garden fresh ingredients. This popular salad is a vibrant combination of finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, burghul, onions, olive oil, lemon and salt.
Flat leaf parsley is the most common type of parsley used in Lebanese cooking and may be planted directly in the garden in early spring or enjoyed throughout the winter when grown on a sunny windowsill. My favourite is the heirloom ‘Italian Flat Leaf’, which boasts deep green glossy leaves and a concentrated parsley flavor.
Aromatic and flavorful, mint is a delight to all the senses. As it has a tendency to be invasive, this hardy perennial is usually given its own special place in the garden where it can happily grow without choking out its neighbors - we tuck ours in a slightly shaded spot to the side of the veggie garden. Mint is an herb that is treasured by the Lebanese people and often shared among families. When children leave to establish their own homes they are given a clump of mint to take with them to plant at their new residence.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Based on the simple idea that growing certain plants near other plants can be beneficial, companion planting has become the cornerstone of organic gardening. Some of the benefits of companion planting include attracting both pollinators and predatory insects, soil enrichment, and discouraging pests from munching on your favourite plants.
The key to companion planting is diversity. By including a large assortment of plants in the garden, especially plants that are attractive to beneficial insects, a healthy ecosystem will be achieved.
Top 5 Companion Plants:
- Marigolds - A workhouse in the world of companion plants, marigolds should be planted throughout the garden to discourage nematodes, whiteflies and aphids, as well as attract various beneficial insects.
- Nasturtiums – Another tried and true companion plant, nasturtiums add color and beauty with their edible flowers and leaves. Although they are a well-accepted trap crop, they are also excellent at attracting predatory insects that will feed on a range of garden pests.
- Sweet Basil – Tomatoes and basil are truly meant to be together in both the kitchen and the garden! Planting basil close to your tomatoes will help repel common pests such as aphids, mites and even mosquitoes, and is said to improve the growth and flavor of the tomatoes themselves. Plus, just inhaling the aroma of fresh basil is a balm to the soul!
- Garlic – A popular companion to roses, garlic is quite effective in deterring aphids. Also plant garlic near cucumbers, lettuce, peas and celery to help discourage root maggots, beetles and other assorted pests.
- Yarrow – This hardy perennial may be planted among pest-prone plants in the mixed border or grown in permanent clumps around the vegetable garden. It attracts a wide array of beneficial insects, including predatory wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies and damselbugs.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Phew! I'm tired already and the weekend is only 1/2 over! Yesterday, the kids helped me dig the new spot for the sunflower house - when I say 'help', I mean watch and offer random pieces of advice. I'll post photos in the next day or two - it's pouring out, so no chance to snap a few right now.. It's funny how my soil seems to grow such nice rocks - big ones too! After prying out about a dozen large rocks from the sunflower house, I'm just glad my shovel didn't break! Happy Mother's Day to me!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or small neighbours, consider planting a little patch of earth with them this spring.
Gardening is a fun and easy way to teach children about the Earth. It's easy to cultivate their curiosity by encouraging them to help you in the garden, but remember to keep it simple - no need to bore them with too much info! Kids love to imitate their parents, so dress them in worn clothes and pick up an inexpensive set of children’s gardening tools and gloves from the dollar store.
Be aware that wandering feet may inadvertently tread on prized tomatoes, and weeds may be watered while vegetables are pulled. Accidents like these are a part of the learning process and it’s important to ignore blunders and continue to encourage your kids to help in the garden.
Young children such as toddlers and preschoolers will love to dig holes, water seedlings and plant seeds. Choose annuals and vegetables with large seeds to make planting easier. Good choices include beans, peas, nasturtiums, cucumbers, pumpkins and sunflowers.
Older kids can tackle such projects as sunflower houses, pole-bean teepees or even making a ‘garden quilt’! For a quilt, mark out a rectangular area that measures about 3 feet by 5 feet and have the kids design their pattern by sprinkling the seed of quick growing annuals such as marigolds, alyssum, calendula and zinnias in stripes, swirls or patches. Choose different colours for each section and keep well watered until the seedlings are growing well. Try to pick plants that all grow to a similar size!
For a sunflower house, mark out a spot in a sunny patch of soil measuring four feet by four feet, or larger if you have the space. I usually excavate a 1-foot wide strip from the lawn for the perimeter of the house, leaving the inside of the house sodded, so the kids will have grass to sit on (keeps the clothes cleaner too!) Plant tall or dwarf varieties of sunflower seed in the 'now-unsodded' perimeter of the square, leaving a 2-foot space for a door on one side. Water the seeds and continue to water and fertilize as the plants grow. Kids will love playing inside and around their very own sunflower house. Add a few climbing nasturtiums or scarlet runner beans to climb the sunflowers - if you add some twigs or string across the 'roof' of the house, the beans will make a nice canopy!
Another favourite project is to construct a pole-bean teepee or tunnel. For a teepee, fasten five eight-foot tall bamboo stakes together at the top, sinking the bottoms into the soil. Plant several scarlet runner or pole bean seeds at the base of each pole and enjoy watching them cover the teepee, creating the perfect play fort for the kids.
A unique twist on the teepee is a tunnel. Make the frame with bamboo poles and cover with a mixture of pole beans, cucumbers, gourds and flowering vines.
Children will also have fun planning a theme garden. Interesting themes include a giant garden filled with huge flowers and vegetables (Mammoth sunflowers, Howard Dill pumpkins), a fairy garden filled with tiny plants (alyssum, baby boo pumpkins), a mono-coloured garden (pick their favourite colour!), a butterfly garden, a tea party garden with peppermint, chamomile and lemon balm, or a pizza garden with aromatic herbs and cherry tomatoes.
For budding veggie gardeners, select easy-to-grow vegetables such as beans, radishes, leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, baby pumpkins (Baby Boo is our favourite!) and peas. Let them scatter a few marigold, nasturtium or calendula seeds among the vegetables for colour.
Always supervise younger children to ensure that they don’t put seeds or plants in their mouths. Avoid poisonous plants, keeping in mind that even edible plants sometimes have poisonous parts. Although I garden organically, I never keep fertilizers, homemade sprays or manure within reach of my children. Even organic products should be stored away from curious hands.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
It was a bit damp this morning, but by the time I arrived at Duff and Donna's for a quick garden tour, the rain had retreated and the clouds were beginning to break up. I know I say it every time I visit, but their gardens are absolutely glorious!