Friday, June 16, 2017

Year of the Pest


When it comes to gardening, one thing is inevitable - no matter what size space you have, be it a balcony or an acreage, you will inevitably encounter a pest or critter that makes you go "ARGH!!"

It's only mid-June and I've already had more than my fair share of "ARGH!" moments - in fact, I've had more pest issues in the past two months than in any full year in the past.

So here's a rundown of what's been plaguing my garden, starting with those critters and pests that I've already spoken about in previous posts.


(1)  Rabbits

The bunnies have been finding gaps in my fencing and feasting in my garden...now I know how Mr. McGregor felt.

Bunny #1


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Early June Update - Part 3


Last but not least in my June garden update series is Area #2.  This is the smallest section of the vegetable garden, containing only four beds.

First up is the brassica bed, which is having a peculiar issue that I've not seen before - sowbugs eating the greens (aka pill bugs, aka roly polie’s, aka wood lice – I think these guys corner the market on the number of names they have…over 17 according to Wikipedia!)

Sowbugs enjoying their lunch

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Early June Update - Part 2


Up on the hilltop, most of the spears in the asparagus bed have been left to fern up and feed the developing roots.  This will be the last season of holding back on the harvest - next year it will be full steam ahead!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Early June Update - Part 1


With all the rain we’ve had this spring, things are growing at breakneck speed – not the least of which are the weeds!  Our mild winters in the past couple of years have also been a bit of a curse as I firmly believe that they’ve resulted in weedier and buggier growing seasons.  Even previously well-behaved ornamentals on the north side of our house such as sweet woodruff and lily-of-the-valley have become aggressive in their spread.

As is usually the case each year, I went from being on top of things in the early spring to falling behind - now I'm playing catch up.  There have already been some setbacks in the veg garden but, overall, things are looking good. 

In this post, I'll concentrate on what's happening in Area #1 and first up are the tomatoes.  I’ve reduced the number of tomato plants I'm growing this year from 28 to 24 (which I spoke about HERE) and am spreading them out over 3 beds.  One side of each bed holds tomatoes, while the other is planted up with a different companion (eggplant, basil or beans).

Tomatoes (right) partnered with eggplant

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Fruity Look at 2017


The Berries

High on the priority list over the next couple of weeks is cleaning up the raspberry and blackberry runs.  I mulched last year but the grass & weeds just keep taking over as I’ve never had enough time to edge...you would think I'd know better by now.  The raspberries are doing well regardless, but the blackberries have taken a beating - I'm sure our hot, dry weather last summer didn't help matters.

The blackberry canes are so small that if it weren't for the flags,
we wouldn't know where the runs are.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Fruits of 2016


We had some winners and some losers when it came to fruit last year.  But one of my happiest fruit moments was when we harvested the one and only fig:


Monday, May 8, 2017

Harvest Monday - May 8, 2017


This is my first Harvest Monday post of the year and it's over 2 weeks earlier than usual.  Why?   Because last week we picked our very first spears of asparagus:

First ever spears harvested by my son last week

Friday, May 5, 2017

More Brassicas - Kale and Beira Tronchuda


It's been overcast, cool and rainy for the past week with only one day of sunshine.  I've done plenty of sowing and transplanting but with the cool temperatures, growth in the garden is fairly slow.

Earlier this month, a couple of the brassicas were transplanted into the garden, namely the kohlrabi and rapini (both of which I spoke about in a previous post).  Kale and Beira Tronchuda were also supposed to be transplanted at that time but I forgot to add them to the hardening off tray, so they didn't end up in the ground until a couple of weeks ago.

Baby Beira Tronchuda

Baby Kale

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lettuce...hopefully


Up on the hilltop, the lettuce went in last week.  Hurray!  And then a few days later, a whopper of a storm tracked through our area and they were pummeled by strong winds and heavy rain.  Boo!

I considered placing a cover on the bed ahead of time, but then thought this may do more harm than good, as the winds would likely rip off the cover and cause further damage.

Battered Lettuce

Friday, April 21, 2017

Every Season Has Its Issues...


The weather finally turned a couple of weeks ago, after our April snowstorm, and I have been busy with bed prep, seeding and transplanting.  It’s wonderful to finally be working outside!

Since the weather outlook was promising, with temps staying above freezing for the most part, I spent some time this past weekend hooking up the drip system.  Of course, things didn’t run as smoothly as I would have liked.  A vacuum breaker fitting that my husband left on one of the hoses had corroded and essentially fused with the hose – my bad as I forgot to tell him that any fittings should be taken off the hoses before storing.

The faucet is a strange size (larger than usual) and requires specialty fittings.
The fitting that is fused to the hose is the only one that will fit and it was a PAIN to source.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Peppers, Past and Present


2016 was a banner year for peppers, due in part to the hot, hot weather.  But I won’t give the heat all of the credit – I did a few things differently last year and I’m confident that these changes also played a part in the bumper pepper harvest.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Brassica Starts - Rapini and Kohlrabi


The weather has been wonderfully spring-like over the past week - I've been prepping beds, hardening off seedlings and spent one day ridding an old perennial border of buckthorn.  Then, this morning, I woke up to this:

The pile of buckthorn brush sits beside the large tree on the right

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saving Allium Seed & Transplanting Leeks


In the past couple of years, I've been experimenting with onion seed storage.  Alliums are one of the few vegetable seeds that do not store well so it's usually recommended that you purchase fresh seed each and every year.  The issue I have is that I enjoy growing a variety of different onions and leeks which means that, in most cases, I only sow a small portion of the seed packet.

When I spend over $30 for allium seed,
it irks me that so much of it is going to waste

So my question was this - was it possible to save the leftover seed for an additional year?  This would cut my seed cost almost in half since I usually have leftovers for every variety except Copras.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sweet Potatoes


When it comes to growing a veg that I love, I don't give up that easily if I run into problems.  Case in point - sweet potatoes.  I'm on my third year and have yet to have a good harvest.

This past season, with it's super hot summer, I was convinced that I would get a halfway decent haul.  I grew the potatoes in both black grow bags and large plastic tubs but neither yielded a particularly impressive harvest.

One of the sweet potato tubs,
just before tipping it over to reveal the harvest

Friday, March 24, 2017

Allium progress


2016 was a very disappointing year when it came to onions.  The season started off badly and never seemed to get any better.

Firstly, I tried a different approach when I sowed the seed.  Instead of using a plug sheet as in the previous year, I scattered the seeds in large 2"x4" cells.  I was hoping to (1) gain space under the grow lights and (2) minimize drying out of the soil as it was more difficult to tell when the plug sheet needed watering and I would tend to let them dry out too much.

All was well and good...until I had an issue with damping off and lost a good number of seedlings.  Of course, grouping seedlings into one large cell means that the disease easily spread and I likely lost more than I would have had I used a plug sheet.

Conservor shallots in 2016, succumbing to damping off


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring is here...hopefully


Yesterday was the first day of spring and it was surprisingly spring-like.  With the roller coaster weather all winter, I was half expecting a blizzard.  For the last couple of days, I've been able to comfortably walk around outside wearing only a fleece jacket.  Now, I'm not crazy enough to put my winter coat and boots away just yet - call me superstitious, but whenever I jump the gun, Mother Nature inevitably shows me who's boss.

Inside the house, however, I'm the boss - within reason, of course :)  As there has been little consistency in our weather, I decided to maintain my seeding schedule as is.  There's always the temptation to move things up a bit when the weather is unseasonably warm, but it's a gamble - sometimes it pays off while other times, it doesn't.  This year I have a lot on my gardening plate (more on that in a future post), so I'm sticking to the original game plan.

The onions, leeks & shallots were seeded back in February and are well on their way.  So far, no issues with damping off like last year.  Now excuse me for a sec while I look for a piece of wood to knock on ;)

Onion, leek and shallot seedlings, well on their way

Friday, March 10, 2017

2016 Year In Review - The Numbers


In my last post, I gave a general overview of the 2016 season.  Now it's time for the nitty gritty - the numbers.  If you're not into the numbers, skip down to the paragraph after the "Pounds" table where I give the low-down on which veg did well and which did poorly.


Grams/Kg


Sunday, March 5, 2017

2016 Year in Review - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot


If I were to describe the summer of 2016, one word comes to mind – HOT.  Actually make that two words – VERY HOT.  All...the...time.  Think I'm exaggerating?  This is what a senior climatologist at Environment Canada had to say:  "May, June, July, August and September, five months in a row, it was the warmest such period in Toronto's history, in 78 years of records...we also had 38 days when the temperature reached above 30 degrees, more than the three previous summers all together".  See - I'm being completely objective here :)

So what did the hot weather mean for the vegetable garden?  Well, crops that love heat were in heaven – it was a great pepper year and the number of butternut squash that I harvested from the same number of plants more than doubled from 5 to 12!  Crops that are partial to more moderate temps, however, didn’t do nearly as well – turnips and kohlrabi come to mind.  Even though I harvested a bumper crop, in terms of yield, both of these developed a stronger, less sweet taste than in the previous year.  In other words, we harvested more of them, but they weren't nearly as delectable.  I would have rather had it the other way around.

Hot temperatures resulted in kohlrabi that lacked the mild, sweet taste
they had in 2015 and every bulb was a bit fibrous to boot


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Confusion


Is it spring?  Is it winter?  I’m so confused!  I have a feeling that’s what my poor perennials and trees are saying as well – I can practically see them scratching their heads as they ponder whether it’s time to leaf out or not.

This has been the warmest February that I can remember – one day last week, it was actually shorts weather with temperatures reaching a record breaking high of 16C/61F.  And yesterday - a high of 14C/57F.  Today?  It's -7C/19F with a windchill of -15C/5F.  Crazy.

Of course I, being human and all, enjoy a bout of spring-like weather just as much as anyone else, but this feeling is always tempered by worry.  Top of mind are the fruit trees.  If they come out of dormancy during one of these warm spells, thinking that spring has officially arrived, it may be another fruitless year if all those buds are killed off once winter returns.

My apple trees are in their 3rd year and I was actually hoping to get a few fruits from them this year.  I’ve had to pick off baby apples from the Granny Smith tree for 2 years in a row now – a necessary evil so that the tree spends its limited energy developing a good root system.

Baby Granny Smith apples in 2015