Saturday, July 28, 2012

Purple sprouting broccoli


I wrote a post for Root Cellars Rock last week, about how the strange summer weather has confused my garden. This purple sprouting broccoli is supposed to send up florets next spring, not this summer! I checked the package, and it's not an extra-early variety. The only other reason I can think for this odd behaviour is that the hot weather in May, followed by a stretch of frosty-cold weather in June, convinced my broccoli that it had already lived through the winter and now was the time to go for the gold.

I cut out the central florets in order to encourage lots of side shoots, which are already starting to develop. This guy in the photo was eaten moments after the picture was snapped. And he was delicious.

While I'm thrilled to have such tasty veggies popping up in the garden, I was really hoping the purple sprouting broccoli would overwinter so I could harvest it in early spring, when there's not much else growing. Depending on how things go with this crop, I'll either cut them down almost to the ground in the fall and see if they come back, or tear them  up and put some more out in the spring, to see how they do in more typical Avalon weather.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Leaning Tower of Peas

So, when my husband and I get home from my father-in-law's birthday dinner tonight, I'm going to have to enlist him to help me out with a little structural issue I seem to be having:


Yup, my snow peas are trying to head across the street. They're doing just amazingly, but, yeah, they're getting a little heavy. And they've just begun to flower - that's not even fruit weighing them down. Watch out!

They're badly-behaved, sure, but how can I be angry with them. Look at these flowers:


I just adore them, and I look forward to them every summer. Such wonderful colours, and the way they fade from burgundy and mauve to periwinkle and navy amazes me each time. And look at this lovely, perfect, almost-ready-to-be-eaten snow pea:


As I've said before, fresh peas are one of the things all my kids will eat until they can take no more, so I'm glad that this year we'll be overrun with them. I bought this variety ("Schweizer Riesen") from Hope Seeds two summers ago, but I don't see them in the catalogue now, so I'm going to try my hand at saving some of these peas for next year. I figure peas are a pretty fool-proof place to start on the seed-saving journey. I'm just too much in love to let them go.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Poppy "Falling in Love"


It's been hot for days, and my poor little brain is cooked, so I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. But here's a pretty picture of a flower. Good night!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little green bugs

Yesterday evening, I noticed three little green insects on my broad beans. I wasn't sure what they were, and they didn't seem to be causing any trouble, so I left them alone. This morning I went back out to check up on them and they were still there, pretty much in the same spots as before.

This is "Bug 1," who has an identical look-alike on another leaf.

This is Bug 2, who is shorter rounder than Bug 1, but with the same colouring. 

This is Bug 1 from another angle.

I think they are some variety of damsel bugs.They move fairly quickly when startled, which suggests to me that they are probably predatory. They're hanging out on the broad beans, and broad beans are often plagued by aphids, which damsel bugs apparently love. I haven't seen much evidence of aphid damage on my plants, but perhaps that's because these guys and their friends are scarfing them down before they can ruin my lovely beans.

I didn't take biology in high school, so everything I know about living organisms has come from gardening. Once upon a time, I wouldn't have paid much attention to three little green bugs, but now that I have plants to protect, I want to know all about every crawly and/or winged thing that passes through the yard. Friend, or foe? Predator, or prey? Fan of succulent green vegetables? Keep moving. Fan of slimy slugs or of tiny sap-sucking aphids? Pull up a chair and stay a while!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer is here! So am I!

Sorry for the hiatus there, folks. The weather was great, then it got kind of sucky, and now it's been great again for a few weeks. Summer! Yay! I've been doing a pretty half-assed job in the garden, due mostly to a certain little bean sprout named Eleanor who arrived June 5, after all risk of frost. She's lovely, but she does distract me from my garden-documenting duties.

While she's snoozing, here are a few snippets of the tidier bits of the garden:

This is one of three Hahms Gelbe Topftomate dwarf tomatoes I have in pots on the front steps. They are super productive little guys, and early. I love their dark green foliage.

The few remaining cloves of garlic from last summer's crop had started to sprout, so I stuck them in a pot. I'm going to try snipping and eating the greens, kind of like I would do with chives. They won't last long in such a small pot, but they're pretty.

A bit of curly cress (peppergrass) starting out.

This variegated nasturtium (Alaska series?) was mislabeled as an "Empress of India" at the garden centre, so obviously I had to buy it.

Some orange violas that have been blooming their socks off through all kinds of weather.

I love the contrast between the ferny, almost chartreuse chervil and the grey-green broad beans.

Baby broad beans ("Crimson Flowered") are beginning to emerge. The flowers were stunning this year.

"Purple Peacock" pole bean, with "Painted Lady" sweet pea.  

Another sweet pea ("Spencer Deep Lilac," I think), soon to blossom, with volunteer raspberries in the background.

"Silvery Fir Tree" tomato. This year looks like it's going to be amazing for tomatoes. For the last two summers, I haven't had fruit on my  tomatoes until Labour Day weekend. This year, I might actually get to taste tomatoes that didn't have to be ripened indoors. 

"Homesteader" shelling peas.

Unnamed viola, winter squash (not sure of the name - it was a gift), and "Flame" lettuce, with "Red Swan" bush beans in the background.

Garlic scapes need to be harvested now!

My walking onions are trying to walk through the fence over to my neighbour's house.

So that's a little peek. It's hard to get down and snap good pictures with a baby strapped to my chest, but I'm trying. More photos to come soon!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to normal


Here's that traditional St. John's spring weather we all know and love. Wet flurries or rain showers and a low of 0C for tonight.

And you know what I did? After being lulled into a false sense of summer? I planted out my cucumbers. Yes, even though our last frost date isn't for another week. I did it.

In my defense, they are planted out in the cold frame, so there is some protection. I have them under plastic bottle cloches, and they are currently wrapped in a flannel blanket because there was supposed to be frost last night. I'm going to go out now and have a peek to make sure they've survived. Poor little cukes.

What a weird year. The lilacs are about to bloom, my lunaria is already starting to form seed pods, my pulmonaria has already burned out, and it's not yet June. And now, chance of snow. There you have it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Garden update

Well, it's as hot out there today as it ever gets in St. John's in the summer - about 26C, and not a cloud in the sky. Apparently it hasn't been this hot in May since 1972; it's actually hot enough that we've been driven into the house, my fair-skinned children and I. My daughter is home today with a headcold, one which miraculously disappeared as soon as the weather warmed up around mid-morning. Funny how that happens, hey?

I finally managed to get the front bed almost completely planted between yesterday and today. It took much longer than I had hoped to coordinate getting more soil to fill up the bed and to haul compost from the back of the back yard to the front of the front yard. In the end, I had to admit defeat and ask my husband to dig and haul the second half of the compost. I guess that the 37th week of pregnancy isn't the best time for digging and hauling. It was a blow to the ego, I'll admit, but I went inside and had a cup of tea, for everyone's own good.

So I'm a little behind my desired schedule, but still way ahead of the typical schedule for growing veggies on the Avalon. Here's the long-awaited main bed.


That's right, I've decided to grow sticks and rocks this year. No, just kidding, I just can't keep the flippin' cat out of the garden, and I've decided to resort to netting this year, rather than attempting any of the more decorative (and completely useless) folk remedies. Once everything fills in it won't be an issue, but until then my seeds and seedlings (and sanity) are in grave danger.

There are three sections - you can't really make them out, but I'm going to put some planks in for walkways between them, then it will be more clear. On the left I have bronze fennel, and I'll be putting kale in when my starts are a little bigger (West Coast kale and Toscano Nero). I put in some cosmos seed at the back, and some Peach Melba nasturtium seed at the front. In the central section I have snow peas with morning glory seed planted among them. I'll be putting in a teepee for them to climb once I pick up some branches from my mom's place. The circle of sticks in the middle is marking where the teepee branches will go so I don't disturb any sprouting peas when I set the thing up. I've also put cilantro seed in the middle of the circle to grow in the shade, and eventually up through the peas when it inevitably goes to seed. Beyond the peas I have some parsnips and radishes. Then in the section on the right I have rat-tail radishes, some Sunset anise hyssop seed that I had forgotten about, shallots, beets (red and golden), chives, and some orange violas that I might move later, but which are perking things up a little for the moment. There's a section left for me to put in some kohlrabi. Oh, and just below the peas there are some tatsoi seedlings that needed to go somewhere.

Phew! That's a lot for one little bed. Should look quite pretty in a month or so.

As for the rest of the garden, things are looking pretty sweet.


A few of the crimson-flowered broad beans are close to flowering. Last year, they were starting to flower in the first week of July. Crazy what a little sunshine and some warm soil can do, hey?


Likewise, I have flowers on some of the Aunt Molly's ground cherry starts I've been hardening off. They still won't go in the ground for another couple weeks, but two of them already have flowers. Last year, I had flowers on my ground cherries around July 20.


Apparently, 26C is warm enough to make my lamb's lettuce want to start bolting. I'll be eating a lot of this for supper tonight, while it's still tasty. I'll plant some more in the fall, and possibly overwinter it. If my time management skills are at all decent by then. No promises there.


I picked up some pretty variegated pineapple mint at Lester's Farm Market yesterday (along with a few other things I had had no intention of buying). I have it in the back yard, in a bottomless pot (victim of winter neglect on my part) sunk part way down into the ground. Did I listen to the advice about not putting mint directly in the ground last time I planted it? No, no I did not. Has it almost completely taken over one of my borders? Yes, yes it has.


I have no recollection of having planted this viola last year, but it popped up in the bed with the lamb's lettuce. I've moved it to an old drawer where I'm growing some dwarf shelling peas. I really love violas - they just flower their socks off, and they keep coming back. Lovely little things.

And that's about it for now. There are a bunch more things I have to do over the next couple days around here, and then it will be time to start moving the tender veggies over to the greenhouse at Mom's place. Oh, and we're thinking of getting a plum tree. It might reduce our sunny vegetable spaces a little, but it will increase our plum production by a whole lot!