Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I love the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.. My mother, grandmother and I used to make an annual pilgrimage each summer to go and visit these amazing gardens when I was a teenager.. I thought I was in paradise, surrounded by colourful perennial borders, intricate knot gardens, an Acadian kitchen garden and roses - oh, the roses.. heavenly! And the water gardens.. and the grasses.. the heaths and heathers.. well, you get the idea..
This coming Saturday, July 3rd is the annual Annapolis Royal House and Garden Tour that showcases some of the unique gardens and houses in the community. It will include private properties where residents have made use of innovative designs and materials to create wonderful gardens and landscapes. The Historic Gardens themselves, are the centerpiece of the tour - in prime rose season! There will be a horticulturist on hand to provide a guided tour at 4 pm.
The tour will run from 1oam to 4 pm, and you can enjoy the spectacular sights at your own pace. Tickets are $25, which includes access to all gardens and refreshments. For tickets or more info, call (902) 532-7018 or visit www.historicgardens.com.
Don't forget you can also sign up for the 'Bloom Report' by going to the website.. That way, even if you can't get to the gardens, you'll be able to see what's in bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall!
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I've been busy snapping some garden photos today.. I should be hauling out the old lettuce and putting in new seed, but I'm being lazy! Perhaps tonight..
I also wandered over to my neighbour's garden today to take some photos in her veggie patch.. it's been a few weeks since I've checked out the progress of her garden (thanks to bronchitis and family colds!), so it was nice to see how well her crops are coming.. as you can tell, the pollinators are loving her chamomile.. I love the green-apple scent of the flowers and the cheerful blooms that are tucked between her tomatoes and garlic. There is just something so uplifting about the small daisy-like flowers..
She's really hoping for a bumper crops of peppers this year and has placed old panes of glass around the bed to help shelter the tender plants and lock in any heat! Look close, the panes of glass are hard to see. So far, the plants are looking very good! She has a mix of sweet peppers (gypsy, chocolate, sweet banana, and green and red types) and spicy peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, red hot cherry).
She planted her first crops of peas on March 15th and they've been eating this early harvest now for over a week.. Overall, she has 4 types of peas in the garden, and at this point, most are about four-feet tall and currently in flower with the baby peas coming.. is there a better place to be in late June than a pea patch?
In my garden, I have pepperbox poppies planted everywhere. I bought the seed from Renee's Garden a few years ago (www.reneesgarden.com) and now enjoy 'volunteer' seedlings every summer. The flowers are HUGE and in lovely shades of mauve, soft pink and red.. often the edges of the blooms are ruffled! So pretty and so welcome in the garden.. The plants are fat with buds now and I expect a huge show over the next month..
Summer is here!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Just came in from a quick wandering through the garden and was amazed at the hundreds of flies buzzing everywhere.. but then I remembered that I fertilized the tomatoes, cukes, squash and pole beans yesterday with Gardener's Dream, a locally produced fish/seaweed fertilizer.. the 'aromatic' smell must have attracted every fly within a kilometer! No worries though, as I know that the plants will pay me back by growing like crazy!
In fact, I'm pretty sure the tomatoes have already grown and inch or two since yesterday.. sounds a bit nutty, but they certainly seem taller! I don't remember the tomato plants ever being so tall (3 + feet!) or so vigorous this early in the summer. Even the foliage is a deep, deep green. I'm hoping for the earliest tomato harvest ever! Last year we have super-sweet Sungold tomatoes ready in late July.. but with a little luck, we may have an earlier crop this year.. The roma, cherry roma, sungold, costoluto, Omar's Lebanese, ladybug, black cherry and more have already started to flower.. I'll keep you posted!
I still have about 10 mature heads of romaine left to pick and then the baby soybeans (from Annapolis Seeds) will take over the space. They're fighting the leafy romaines for the sun and will welcome the space.. therefore, I think there will be a big romaine salad to go with tonight's lasagna!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I love sage. Not necessarily as a culinary herb, although it certainly has its uses.. but I love the way it creates a huge drift of colour at the entrance to the kitchen gardens.. It blooms for about 4 weeks from late spring into early summer and attracts every beneficial insect, pollinator and butterfly from near and far.
Just yesterday, a large Painted Lady Butterfly (where does that name come from?!?) fluttered by as I was just finishing up in the garden. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, but I did stop for about 5 minutes just to enjoy the sight of the large butterfly hopping from sage flower to sage flower. Of course, there were also plenty of big fuzzy bees - some of the largest I've ever seen - buzzing around and sticking their heads deep into the purple flowers..
Sage is a perennial sub-shrub that hails from the Mediterranean region of the world and therefore prefers a warm and sunny location with well-drained soil. It will grow about 1 to 2-feet tall (taller when in bloom!) and spreads to 3 - 4 feet wide (mine are about 4-feet wide now and are 4 years old).
In the past, my sage plants have died out after about 2 or 3 years, thanks to a combination of cold winters and wet feet. Now that I've found a nice warm spot on a gentle south-facing slope, they are in their glory! A sage plant in full bloom is so striking that it deserves a place in every perennial border, herb garden and veggie patch.
Frequent harvesting and pruning is actually a good thing for sage, as it can get a bit leggy without a regular haircut.. I tend to give it a light trim just after bloom, removing the spent flowers and a few inches of the branches. The leaves are a lovely silvery colour and hold on to the plant throughout the winter..
Still on the fence about sage? Let me offer one more tidbit - it's bothered by few pests - even deer! As long as you give it a sunny, well-drained spot, sage should thrive in your garden, attracting beneficial insects and pollinators to your veggies!
Friday, June 25, 2010
I'm really looking forward to this Sunday's show, as there are some great guests that will be joining me.. Jean Snow from Lake City Farm (www.lakecityfarm.com) in Dartmouth will be in-studio to talk about their unique urban farm and SPIN farming..
Then, John and Lee Dickie from The Briar Patch Nursery (www.briarpatchnursery.com) will share some of their favourite ornamental shrubs, trees and perennials.. as well, we'll be taking your questions throughout the show!
Finally, the founding editor of Canadian Gardening magazine, the host of Canadian Gardening television and the author of numerous books, Liz Primeau will join me for a great gardening gab! Her bestselling book, Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass has been revised and updated and we'll have 2 copies to give away! Plus, she'll give us a preview on her next book (hint - think garlic!)! Liz is so knowledgeable and so much fun, so I'm really looking forward to chatting with her.. I hope you'll tune in!
Sunday 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM in Halifax, News 88.9 FM in Saint John, News 91.9 FM in Moncton or listen live online at www.news957.com.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Ah.. tis the season for garlic scapes.. I love their curly shapes, which resemble pig tails and they offer a mild garlic taste.. ok, sometimes, it's not so mild, but rather potent! Nevertheless, garlic scapes are a gourmet treat that cost a bundle at the farmers market.
I've used them to make garlic scape pesto, which was good, but not nearly as good as homemade basil pesto, I've bbq'd them, roasted them and added them to quiches and omelets.. But, I've yet to find a recipe for garlic scapes that I truly love - and I really want to love them! I hate to waste any bounty from the garden. So, I throw it out to all of you - any suggestions for garlic scapes??
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Wow! It seems like I just started this blog, but we're already at 100 posts! Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments, questions and tips over the past few months.. I appreciate every single one.. and now that I'm feeling better, I thought I'd venture out to the garden and snap some updated photos.. I wasn't too pleased to discover that deer had infiltrated my fencing though! Sigh.. luckily, the damage was minimal, but we need to raise the fence by about another foot to make it completely deer-proof!
The purple podded pole beans in the top photo are growing well.. and the baby lettuces that were planted under the bamboo teepee are now ready for harvest.. they're about 3 to 4-inches tall and very tender.. so good and the 4th succession planting of lettuce..
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos.. The small turnips are a true garden treat! They're a Japanese turnip call Hakurei and I bought the seed from Johnny's Seeds this past spring. I picked the first bunch yesterday when the roots were about 1 1/2-inches in diameter.. a great addition to a summer salad (happy summer!) and even the leaves were fantastic.. The hubby declared that he liked them as much or even better than arugula - gasp! I couldn't believe it, but they were delicious in a salad and would also be nice cooked.. mmmmm... Also, if you have good eyes, you'll notice the planting date from seed was May 12 - so in just 5 weeks, we have tender, sweet baby turnips!
As you can see, the deer munched on the Super Sugar Snap peas - they topped the affected plants by about 8-inches, yet just nibbled on the end of one row, so the pea harvest should still be just fine.. assuming we can keep the deer out for the rest of the year!
How many shades of green can you count in a garden? I love the way the vibrant lime green of the leaf lettuce contrasts against the deep blue-green of the broccoli and cabbages.. Plus, it's just nice to get so much out of your space..
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Hello everyone.. For the first time in four years, I'm home sick and will miss the show tomorrow. Therefore, one of our older episodes will re-air! I'm so sorry about that, but am looking forward to next's week's show! All of the guests that were scheduled to be on tomorrow will be fit into the schedule in the coming weeks..
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Can you believe it? I'm actually posting about fall - and it's not even summer yet! Ah, the life of a gardener.. and a year round veggie gardener needs to think ahead! Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely unorganized, but the thought of fresh, crunchy broccoli in mid-Sept reminds me that it's time to start seeding a fall crop.
I pulled out my seed starting flats and potting soil just a few days ago and sowed some 'Marathon' broccoli seeds. Now, just 3 days later they've germinated and I moved them under the grow lights. Marathon (from Johnny's) is a very cold tolerant type and is ideal for a fall planting (or winter if you're in a milder climate than me!). If you don't have a fall type, it's still worthwhile planting a regular broccoli from your local seedrack. If hard frost threatens early, you can always toss a row cover or a mini-hoop tunnel over the bed.
I also planted two types of Kale - Winterbor and Lacinato - both are hardy and delicious! Kale is a superfood, yet it's just not planted as much as it should be. Not only is it nutritious, but it's also very pretty in the garden, offering architectural interest well into winter (longer if planted in a cold frame, large cloche, mini-hoop tunnel or unheated greenhouse.
Lacinato (my seed pack is from Renee's Garden - love their website!) is also called Dinosaur Kale and it is one of the most elegant veggies you'll ever meet! The long, strap-like leaves are a deep blue-green and have a unique blistered texture. It grows about 2 1/2 to 3-feet tall and can be used in soups (bean and kale soup!), stews and many other dishes. It's also an open-pollinated type, so you can save the seeds for future crops.
I like to put kale in the food processor and turn it into confetti. Stick the bag in the freezer and then add handfuls of kale confetti to soups, stews, gratins, omelets, whatever! It's an easy (and cheap) way to get a nutritional burst.
You can also start some cabbage, cauliflower and other brassicas now for fall crops.. I'll plant my broccoli out in the garden in about 4 to 5 weeks, and the harvest will start around mid-Sept.. a great fall treat!
Monday, June 14, 2010
Yesterday's show was a lot of fun! Not only did I get to talk perennials with Nancy Ondra for an hour, but Owen Bridge dropped into the studios for a 1/2 hour interview with me. Owen is the 18 year old owner of Annapolis Seeds (www.annapolisseeds.com) and a passionate seed saver. He shared quite a few of his favourite varieties with me and now I've got to start my wish list for next season! (Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter tomato, among others!). Thanks so much to Owen for joining me, and I wish both him and the seed company much success!
As I mentioned on the show yesterday, I'm a HUGE fan of Nancy Ondra and she turned out to be simply delightful! I had a lot of fun chatting with her and she has a great sense of humour. Her new book, The Perennial Care Manual is an ideal book for anyone with even a spark of interest in perennials and her book Foliage is one of the most beautiful and comprehensive garden books I've ever read! I never realized the vast assortment of leaf shapes, colours and textures until I picked up a copy. Simply spectacular! Now, I just need to win the lottery and I'll finally be able to have the garden of my dreams..
When I came downstairs this morning, I took the usual peek outside at our 'moth wall'.. the bricks against our house where moths seem to congregate every morning.. yesterday, there were some pink moths (please don't ask me to ID them!) and this morning, there were more small pink moths, but also 2 luna moths! Very exciting.. They're about 5-inches long and so incredibly beautiful..
I also snapped some updated garden shots this weekend.. our veggie gardens are arranged perpendicular to each other, due to the lay of the land, but luckily, both take advantage of a gentle south-facing slope! This allows cool air and frost to drain down the slope, and offers maximum light exposure. One garden has been in high production for months, while the other is only newly planted with cukes, zucchini and pole beans, so it doesn't look as full..
As you can see, I also love to interplant - it allows me to get the most out of my space - greens between the tomatoes and brassicas, broccoli raab between the celery and celeriac, etc. Annual flowers and herbs are scattered everywhere to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Plus, they look fantastic! I stuck an aged driftwood stump that we found a few years ago on a beach in the garden. It's a great place to sit and just take in the surrounding beauty.
I still have some of my hoops in the garden. At this point in the season, I don't expect another frost, so I can remove them, but they do come in very handy from mid-fall to mid spring! I use 1/2 inch wide conduit and mount them on 1-foot long lengths of rebar. It takes me just minutes to erect a mini hoop tunnel!
The kohlrabi is growing great! The stems are starting to swell, and I'm hoping that we'll be enjoying fresh kohlrabi in about 10 days or so..
They're calling for rain today - fingers crossed - and since the garden is so dry, I'm really hoping for a solid soaking.. It's been over a week since we're had a decent rain. Otherwise, I'm going to have to get out my hose and start watering!
Ok, I'll stop now, as I could upload another 50 photos! I'll post more tomorrow.. the arugula, my interplanted tomatoes, the peas and more!
Friday, June 11, 2010
When we opened the front door last Saturday, we were thrilled to find a HUGE moth sitting on our steps - he's lucky he's so big, or we would have accidently squashed him! The wingspan was just under 6-inches and we've ID'd the moth as a Polyphemus moth - or a giant silk moth.. quite a sight, eh? The bottom markings really look like eyes.. such clever creatures..
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Ok.. thanks for your patience.. now that the sun is shining and I've had a bit of time to get out with my camera, I've got some updated garden shots to show you.. keep in mind, that it's still not too late to plant your own veggies - tomatoes, salad greens, peppers, beans and more! We're eating our third crop of arugula and the mesclun mix has been ready for about a month.. there is nothing like daily garden salads!
As you can see, the romaine lettuces are heading up nicely.. I tend to plant them very densely and pick them as baby leaves, but I thought it would be fun this year to grow some complete heads.. To the left of the romaine is a bed of Red Salad Bowl lettuce - gorgeous leaves and extremely tasty..
I've also sprinkled some diatomaceous earth (DE) around the pole bean seedlings.. darn slugs! Last year, I waited too long and my first crop of pole beans was destroyed by the slimy mollusks. So, this spring, when a few holes started to appear in the leaves, I immediately applied the DE to protect the beans. Although it feels and looks like talcum powder, to a slug, it's like crawling over glass shards. Keep in mind that you don't want to be breathing it in - not so good for the lungs!
My interplanting of leaf lettuces between the cabbage and broccoli is also coming well. The salad greens should be ready to eat in about 2 weeks.. not that we need too many more greens - we have so much! But, I don't like to see wasted space (between the brassicas) and any extra that we have can easily be shared with the local food bank. They even welcome zucchini!
Another yummy green is mizuna! This year, we have purple mizuna growing for the first time. We usually plant the green type, but Halifax Seed is now offering purple mizuna - plus it's just so pretty! When my hubby first tasted mizuna a few years ago, his eyes glazed over and he could only mumble 'sushi'.. which, means that he thinks it pairs very well with sushi.. and it does, but it also adds zip to tossed salads and may be used as bed for fish or chicken.. Plus, it's very quick growing and cool weather tolerant. Last fall, we were still eating unprotected mizuna into December - a great crop for northern gardeners!
Ahh.. it feels like summer, but it's still spring.. let's hope for a great gardening season!
Monday, June 7, 2010
Phew! What a crazy few days.. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my book editor, Carleen and book photographer, Joe have been up here in NS with me for the past 4 days.. It's been a whirlwind of posing (veggies and me!), prepping and picking for the endless amount of photographs. I must say though, that from what I've seen, Joe is a miracle worker - he even managed to make a slug look cute! (Not being a slug, I have high hopes that he's managed to get a photo of me without my eyes closed or hair blowing across my face!)
It's also been a wonderful learning experience for me, as this is my first book and Storey has always been my favourite gardening publisher. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product, but it's a slow process.. Once I finish the manuscript in a few months (ack! I better get writing!), they start the magic of turning it into a handy, photo-filled reference for veggie gardeners who are hoping to get more out of their season - from a few weeks on either end of the summer or even go into year-round production like we have! Yet, it won't be until late next year that the book finally arrives at stores.
Anyway, I do apologize for the anemic blogging in the past few days, but this first photo shoot is almost over and my posting will get back to normal. I have lot's to say and so many things to share.. but to tide you over for the next day or so, I thought I'd suggest a few other great gardening blogs for you to check out..
http://gardeningbren.blogspot.com - this is a gorgeous new blog by a fellow Nova Scotian and she was kind enough to open up her garden to Carleen, Joe and I today when we dropped in on very short notice to take photos.. What a lovely property - beautiful ornamental shrubs (the scent of the lilacs knocked me out!), perennials, perfect edges (and I mean perfect!) and perhaps the most charming veggie patch I've ever seen.. I didn't want to leave!
http://nctomatoman.weebly.com - Craig, who is also known as The North Carolina Tomato Man is a regular guest on my radio show.. for good reason! What he doesn't know about tomatoes isn't worth knowing! He is so knowledgeable and interesting, yet has a great sense of humour! Check out his blog and start planning next year's garden!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Is it possible to ever have enough fresh snap beans? I have 2 teepees and an 8-foot long A-frame trellis planted with pole beans.. yet, I find that I need to plant 'just a few more'.. I love them so much! We grow a variety of pole beans - green, yellow and purple types - they're so pretty, the kids will eat them straight from the vines as they play in the garden.
Pole beans are also a great way to get more out of your garden. In the same amount of space, you can harvest 2 to 3X more beans on vining pole plants than from bush types. That's a huge advantage! Once our pole bean structures are set up each spring, I then seed some quick growing arugula and baby lettuces beneath the teepees and trellises. These cool season crops normally protest the heat of summer by bolting (going to seed), but tend to do well in the partial shade of the pole bean supports.
In regards to the pole beans themselves, I'd love to grow more - many many more, but we're limited by space. So, our favourites are:
- Emerite - This is a french filet pole type that never goes 'beany' no matter how long it's been hanging around! The round, stringless beans are incredibly tender when picked as a baby filet crop or super crisp and delicious when left to mature to 10-inch long pods! Plus, the vigorous vines are hardy, quick growing and super productive.
- Fortex - This is said by many to be the best green bean in cultivation.. Who am I to disagree? Fortex does rival Emerite as my top bean - both have round, green pods, can be picked as ultra-thin filets or can be left to mature and still be great eating.. Steam briefly and toss with butter and salt.. A garden feast!
- Purple Podded Pole - An heirloom bean with gorgeous jewel-toned pods that turn bright green when cooked - my kids call them 'magic beans' for their ability to change colour. The pods grow up to 8 inches long and are deliciously flat. The foliage is tinged in purple and makes a striking architectural element in a kitchen garden. Oh yes, they also taste great!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Kohlrabi is a pretty little veggie, although many gardeners think it's a bit unusual looking! It's a member of the massive Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), yet is one of the faster growing siblings. It's usually ready in about 50 to 60 days, depending on the variety and is picked when the stem swells to 2 to 3 inches. This photo on the left is 'White Vienna' (60 days) and was planted about 5 weeks ago. The seedlings are about 8 inches tall and soon the bottom portion of the stem will swell.
Mature kohlrabi is often described as looking like a UFO! Why? Well, it is a bit unique with its swollen stem and large leaves coming off in all directions! Personally, I think they are delightful and make a delicious addition to a veggie tray or a stir-fry.. I also have some purple seedlings planted (Purple Vienna), but they're a few weeks behind these big boys..
As they grow, I'll post more photos.. They are a great veggie for the garden though and thrive in the cool weather of spring and fall.. good for fall cold frames too!
Mustard is another great option for a year-round veggie garden.. It's quick to grow, cold-tolerant and an ideal winter cold frame crop! These are my 3 1/2 week old 'Giant Red' mustard seedlings. They were directly sown into the garden and are now about 4 to 5 inches tall - perfect for adding a mild kick to salads. Once they get a bit bigger and the weather heats up, the leaves will also heat up and offer a serious mustard flavour! That may be too much for me though, so to temper the heat I'll toss them in stir-fries..
Another garden beauty, 'Red Sails' lettuce is almost too pretty to eat! I did say almost.. after all, the crinkly red-tinged leaves are also incredibly tender and delicious. This is an award winning lettuce (1985 All America Selections Winner) and is a great choice for spring, summer or fall planting. It's extremely slow to bolt in the summer and 'holds' a long time in the garden without going bitter. Did I mention that it's pretty?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
This is my absolute favourite small tree (I think - it's so hard to commit!) . We bought one for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day a few years ago and it is doing so well.. What's not to love? It's hardy, long-blooming, grows about 15-feet tall and bears hundreds of rosy pink bracts on eye-catching horizontal branches.
After the flowers are finished, the show continues with the bright red fruits, followed by the stunning autumn colour of the foliage. Sigh..
Why haven't I planted one of these in our yard? Hmmm.. maybe I need to pop out to the garden centre for a few minutes..
My avid gardening neighbour, Raylene has erected a simple, but effective row cover to protect her precious peppers from the still-cool night temperatures.. She just inserts a 2-foot piece of wrought iron garden edging into each end of her bed and stretches a light-weight row cover between the pieces of edging. Then, she secures the fabric with clothes pins - simple, but smart!
You can see her garlic in the second photo and it's interplanted with a pretty mix of red and green lettuces - another good use of space.. Happy Gardening!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
It's going to be a busy weekend for me.. not only do I have the show on Sunday (from 11 to 1 pm), but my editor (Carleen) and the photographer (Joe) for my book are coming up from the US for 5 days for the first photo shoot for my book - so exciting!
This Sunday on The Weekend Gardener will be a blast, as so many great guests will be sharing their expertise with us..
Craig LeHouillier, who is also known as The North Carolina Tomato Man will join me to talk all about tomatoes - what to grow, how to do it and how to get the biggest, best-tasting tomatoes ever! Check out his website and blog at - http://nctomatoman.weebly.com/
Also, Cathy Oulton from Springvale Nurseries will drop by to share some of her favourite ornamental trees and shrubs! We'll cover an array of trees and shrubs for all growing conditions.. we also welcome your calls about what types of ornamentals will do well on your own property! (1-877-801-8255 is the toll free number for the show)
Danielle Ernest from Proven Winners will tell us all about the hot new container plants for 2010, as well some of the unique hydrangeas that Proven Winners has been developing over the past several years (re-blooming and hardy!).
Finally, Jane Rostek will offer a preview on the upcoming YWCA Over the Garden Gate garden tour in Halifax. It takes place on June 13th from noon to 5 pm and tickets are available at Halifax Seed and Farmer Clem's for just $15! There are 5 outstanding gardens on the tour this year (trust me, I've seen several of them!), so grab your garden buddy and get your tickets for this good cause!
All the fun takes place this Sunday from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM and News 88.9 FM! You can also listen live online at www.news957.com.