How Does Your Garden Grow?

Getting the Garden Ready for Winter

Posted by on Nov 16, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 1 comment

We have had an absolutely gorgeous fall here in Atlantic Canada.  Warm temperatures and sunny days  have meant the longest gardening season we have ever had. 

I am still harvesting the odd lettuces and spinach, many of the herbs are still growing, and some of the plants (like the celery) have been tricked into sending up new shoots! 

 

 

Despite this, we know that winter will soon be coming.  So while the weather is still warm, hubby and I spent the day putting the garden to bed for another year. 

We have been cleaning out plants here and there as they have finished their growing season, but when we began working our garden still looked like this:

 

By the time we were done, the garden looked like this:

 

We removed all of the annual plants completely, snipped off the spent perennial stems, and weeded all of the gardens.  We then piled leaves as mulch over some of the perennials, including the strawberries and newly planted Egyptian Onions.  Last year we bought straw to cover our strawberry plants and still lost them over the winter, so we’ll see if they are still around in the spring. 

We usually cover everything with a layer of compost/manure in the fall, but we missed the garden centre sale on these items this year, so will have to wait for spring.  (We make compost of our own, but not enough to cover all of the gardens!)

I have left the lettuces and spinach for now since we are still harvesting (although since we removed all of the deer netting I am not sure what will be left once they discover the ”free buffet”), and we are still enjoying carrots and a new crop of green onions.  This late harvest almost made us want to build some cold frames to see how long we could extend the growing season, but I think that is going to be an experiment for another year.

And so another gardening season has come to a close.  Is anyone else still harvesting?  What do you do to prepare your garden for winter?

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Harvesting Herbs

Posted by on Oct 25, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 2 comments

 

I know I haven’t been writing here as much as usual.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through this busy time and still read my posts.  You mean the world to me!

We have been extremely blessed this year with an abnormally mild fall.  Usually by this time my garden is frost-bitten and gone, except for carrots, but this year we are still harvesting lettuce, spinach, herbs and celery.  Oh the celery we grew this year!  Seriously, if you live anywhere close by and you would like to have your own bunch of fresh-from-the-garden celery, please let me know!  I am happy to share from our bounty.  I’m also considering sending all my friends bouquets of parsley and dill - what do you think?  :)

This extended warm spell has also given me lots of time to harvest most of the herbs I grew this year (other than the basil, which faints at the first sign of cold, but luckily I already had most of that made into pesto weeks ago.)

I am pretty simple when it comes to preserving my herbs.

I pick them.

I brush off any dirt that might be sticking to them.

I freeze them in glass jars.  (We have a plethora of glass jars because they aren’t recyclable here, plastic bags would work too.)

I enjoy them all winter long.

That’s it. 

I make pesto with basil, and this year I tried to make a parsley paste of parsley and oil, which I froze in small clumps as I do with the pesto. 

I decided to try to do this with a mortar and pestle, because I heard that it is better for the colour of the herbs when you do it this way.  Next year I will go back to using my food processor.  The end result was not quite as “pasty” as I would have liked it, more like clumps of parsley suspended in oil.  However, when I’m tasting that fresh parsley flavour in our winter cooking I won’t be worrying about consistency.

Anyone else out there enjoying a mild fall?  How are you preserving your garden harvest?

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Harvesting the Garden

Posted by on Oct 2, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 1 comment

The nights are getting cooler, the leaves are starting to turn, and my garden is starting to look a lot more brown than green.

It is time for the fall harvest.

After another two frosty evenings in a row, some plants in the garden are finished for good.

I went out in the garden and harvested all of our tomatoes.

Red – Northern Delight and a few Beefsteak, destined for salsa, bruschetta, and BLT sandwiches (where the “B” stands for Basil - yum!)  I already canned the bulk of them as salsa and stewed tomatoes. 

Green – not even enough to make green tomato mincemeat!  I might try to half (or quarter!) the recipe and at least make a small batch for winter desserts.

I also harvested all of the Mystery Keeper tomatoes, which will keep us in garden-fresh tomatoes for at least the first few months of winter.

The green and yellow beans are finished, but I did manage to have a snack of fresh green peas while I was poking around the garden.  This is my absolute favourite way to eat peas, in fact, they rarely make it into the house (there’s local eating for you!)

Our soldier beans are not quite dry yet (and with the wet season we have had, many have rotted away), but I did collect a small bag of the first of the season.  These will be made into baked beans (Hubby’s favourite!) throughout the winter, as well as substituted for other varieties of beans in burritos, nachos, soups and stews. 

And what would a garden harvest be without a zucchini or two?  We almost missed out on these with our cucumber beetle attack, but one plant survived and I have been able to harvest enough for fresh eating on pizza, in omelettes, and stuffed, and have frozen some of the bigger specimens, pre-grated, ready to keep us in muffins (and more muffins!) for the next few months.   I also discovered a wonderful recipe for zucchini waffles which I made yesterday and loved!  Kind of like a waffle version of zucchini bread.  I added orange juice along with the milk in mine for extra flavour. 

I pulled out the pepper plants which are no longer producing, and harvested jalapenos for salsa and jalapeno cheese sauce.  I like to cut them in half, seed them, and then freeze them for later.

The carrots, squash, lettuce, spinach, chard, and potatoes are still growing nicely.  The onions are curing on our deck, although I must admit I have already started cooking with some of them, I just couldn’t resist!

Most of the herbs are still flourishing, except for the basil which I pulled out by the roots yesterday and incorporated every leaf  into making pesto, which I also freeze for later, some in ice cube trays and some in small glass jars.  I of course saved a few plants to go with the delicious tomatoes all over my counter, but their season is almost done. 

I must admit I have a certain satisfaction in knowing that our freezer and store room are starting to fill up with the food that will take us through the winter.  Food that started as just a tiny seed in the ground only a few months ago.  Growing your own food is a wonderful thing! 

What are you harvesting from your garden?

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Garden Maintenance

Posted by on Jul 30, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 1 comment

Midsummer is one of the best times of the gardening year.  The big work of putting in the garden is over, the veggies are established, the annuals are blooming, and it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labours.

Although the bulk of the work is done, a little bit of daily maintenance will keep your garden growing well for the rest of the season.

I try to take a walk through the gardens at least once a day.  For one, it’s fun to watch things grow and change as the days go by.  But it is also spreads maintenance tasks out and helps to catch any problems early on.  Here is what I do:

  • check all of the plants for possible disease/pest damage that might need intervention (yesterday I removed a family of green caterpillars from the strawberry plants and continued my attack on the cucumber beetles with the insecticidal soap.)
  • take note of any fruit or veggies that are ready for harvest, or that might be ready for harvest in the next few days (and maybe take some time to munch on a few while you are out there.)
  • trim flower stalks from plants like basil, so the plant puts its energy back into creating wonderful, aromatic, leaves
  • remove spent blooms from annuals
  • pull out weeds (this is an endless task, but if you do a little every day, it seems more manageable.  A hoe is a wonderful tool for weeding in big veggie gardens.)
  • if it has been sunny and dry for a few days, water the vegetable garden and potted plants
  • take time to smell the flowers, rub the herb leaves against your fingers to take in the scent, and just enjoy being in the garden

 

Do you have something else to add to the list?  Please share in the comments!

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July Garden Tour

Posted by on Jul 24, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 6 comments

Yesterday, hubby and I were treated to a garden tour in a nearby town.  Although the heat was stifling, we had a great day visiting some beautiful gardens and chatting with other gardeners.  It was really neat to see what other people had done with their gardens, what types of plants they grow, and how they had landscaped their yards.

Although all the gardens were beautiful, we came away with a much stronger sense in what we love in a garden, and what we don’t. 

I didn’t take pictures in every garden, but there were a few where I just couldn’t help myself.

The first garden we visited was full of beautiful roses (which I love but we don’t personally grow.)

The last garden we visited boasted the only vegetable garden of the day (and hubby especially was excited to see it!)  as well as a hobby gardener who on occasion sells his stock to nurseries.  Check out the rows of flowers!

 

So, in keeping with the garden tour fun, here is a tour of my garden, as it looks today.

We begin in the front, which is a mix of perennials and annuals in a variety of colours.  I am not picky with this garden.  Sedums, Pinks, and Iris make up the bulk of the perennials and the annuals were planted two weeks ago chosen from whatever was left at the garden centre!

This part of the front garden, however, is a favourite.  Delicate Astilbe and a variety of Hosta are thriving this year due to some additional deer protection in our front yard.  I saw some beautiful red and pink Astilbe yesterday that I hope to add in among the white. 

In the back, our large vegetable garden is filling out.

There big plants in front are potatoes, all in bloom.

Our first pepper.

Lettuce, chard, and a second attempt at Kale.

The first of the peas.

The first of the beans.

Red beets and squash.

Thriving Northern Delight tomato plants.

Onions and carrots, oh my!

Our mixed herb, tomato, and flower garden leading the way to the shed.

Coriander grows around this deer deterrent.

 Borage is about to bloom.

And the lilies are on display.

Certainly not a large garden compared to those we visited yesterday, but it keeps us busy! :)  

Want to be a part of the garden tour?  Create your own blog post and link to it in the comments, or add your photos or blog link to our Facebook page.  Can’t wait to see what’s growing in your garden!

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Herbs in My Garden: Lovage, Lavender and Mint

Posted by on Jul 16, 2011 in Gardening, How Does Your Garden Grow? | 2 comments

How are your gardens coming along?  I am away from mine this week, but when I left the vegetable garden was coming along well (despite an attack of cabbage worms along with our cucumber beetles) and I had just finished getting all of the annuals into the flower gardens.  When I return I hope to be greeted by lots of flowers (and hopefully not too many weeds!) 

This will be my last post in the herb garden series.  These final three are the last that I have grown for at least a year, although I have included a list at the end of what we are experimenting with this year.  As always, if you have any herb tips to share, or if you grow an herb I haven’t included in this series, please let us know in the comments!

Lovage

In the garden: I grew lovage for the first time last year in a pot on our sunny deck.   This year I planted it directly into the vegetable garden, in a section that receives partial shade, as it prefers.  Although it is a perennial, it will be grown as an annual in its current location as we like to rotate our veggie crops each year.  I have not attempted to grow lovage indoors, and with its rather tall size, I probably won’t attempt it any time soon!

In the kitchen: lovage is similar to celery in taste and the leaves can be used anywhere you would use celery – salads, sauces, soups, stews, etc. 

Lavender

In the garden:   This perennial has grown extremely well in my partial-shade garden.  I am not sure which variety I grow, although it is a small variety (about 1 ft tall.)  Although I have never brought mine indoors, I have read that these smaller varieties grow very well in pots with a little sun each day.

In the Kitchen:  lavender isn’t often used for eating (although I have had lavender tea before) but the dried leaves and flowers make beautiful potpourri, sachets, or sleep pillows.

Mint

In the Garden: Mint is a vigorous perennial that will easily take over your whole garden!  It grows very well in pots (which is how I grow mine) although I have read that you can also sink a pot down into the earth if you would like to grow it in your garden yet keep it confined.  My plants also do well overwintering indoors, although they do tend to get “leggy” due to lack of light.

In the Kitchen:  Mint makes a wonderful tea, and pairs brilliantly with fruit in a wide variety of dishes.  My grandmother used to make her own mint jelly (most often served with lamb, although eaten with other dishes as well).  I also like mint water, mint ice cream, and want to try my hand at making my own mint extract for baking. 

New Herbs in the Garden

One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is trying out new plants.  This year I have added sorrel, chervil, catnip, and borage to the herb garden. 

What herbs are growing in your garden?  Which ones do you want to try?

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