Category Archives: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Getting the Garden Ready for Winter

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?

Harvesting Herbs

 

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?

Harvesting the Garden

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?

Garden Maintenance

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!

July Garden Tour

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!

Herbs in My Garden: Lovage, Lavender and Mint

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?

Garden Pests: Cucumber Beetles

We have been very lucky with our gardens the past few years that we have not had a lot of trouble with insects on our favourite crops.

Not so this year.

Not too long after they sprouted, the leaves of our squash, cucumber, and zucchini plants started to get holes in their leaves.  I must admit that, at the time, I was too busy trying to get all the gardens cleaned out and planted that I didn’t think much of it at the time. 

But yesterday, while I was weeding, I discovered that our plants were looking pretty poor, and also that they were covered in these little yellow and black striped bugs.

A little Google detective work led me to discover that our garden has been attacked by the aptly named cucumber beetle.  They will eat the leaves, flowers,  and fruit of the plants, mate (and let me tell you, there was a lot of mating going on yesterday!), and each female will lay 1500 eggs in the soil at the bottom of the plant.  When the larvae hatch they will feast on the roots of the plant.  Yep.  Not a gardener’s best friend.

So now, how to get rid of the little beasts?

The “pick and squish” method of bug removal which has worked well for me with slugs and cabbage worms is not effective with these quick-moving and flying bugs (although they are an easy enough target when mating…) 

So yesterday I made a batch of some old-fashioned insecticidal soap (recipe below) and went bug hunting.  I have to admit, I did get a certain joy out of seeing the bugs falter under the spray of the soap, and the ants were happy as they dragged all of the carcasses away to their nests (homicidal clean-up: nature at its best)  But the fight is long from over.  The soap is only effective if the bugs get hit with it, so I missed any that flew away, or that were hiding.  I went hunting twice yesterday and found about the same number of bugs each time, and I am sure I will find more out there today.  But it’s a start in the right direction, and hopefully in time to rescue at least some of our plants. 

Next year, we are going to grow these plants under floating row covers so the beetles can’t get at them (an ounce of prevention….)

For this year, I think the squirt bottle and I are going to be good friends.

Make Your Own insecticidal Soap

To two cups of water add 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s).   Mix and spray.

I also read somewhere yesterday that a little oil makes the soap more effective on hard-shelled bugs like these beetles.  So I added 1 tablespoon of olive oil to mine. 

Have you had difficulty with any garden pests this year?  How have you handled it?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

Happy growing!

Herbs in My Garden: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

These 4 herbs are meant to be together.  “Are you going to Scarborough Fair….”  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can find the song here

These were the first herbs to be planted in our garden, and all but the parsley grace my kitchen in the winter. 

Parsley

In the Garden:  I grow parsley in my garden every year from seed, and have also transplanted garden centre seedlings into pots, which do well outside but tend to wither from lack of light indoors. (at least in my windows.)   The plants have always done well in full sun, and I still seem to have a good crop this year although planted in a partly shady section of the vegetable garden. 

In the Kitchen:  Parsley is an extremely versatile herb that can be put with almost anything.  It is wonderful in soups, salads, sauces, casseroles, omelettes, mixed with vegetables, or used as a garnish.   

Sage

In the Garden:  Sage is a perennial that grows very well in a sunny garden, or in pots.  I have also grown sage indoors and use the leaves all winter long. 

In the Kitchen:  I most often use sage to slip between the skin and meat of roast chicken, and it sometimes finds its way into sauces.  I’ve read that it can be very tasty in cheese sandwiches (!) and can also be brewed as a tea. 

Rosemary

In the Garden:  Rosemary can be a perennial, but it is definitely an annual around here.  It grows well in sun or part-shade in moist, but well-drained, soil.  I grow mine in a pot on our sunny deck, and keep it indoors on a windowsill for winter use.  I find it dries out quickly and requires regular watering. 

In the Kitchen:  I mostly use whole spears of rosemary for stuffing chicken, but also use the leaves in soups and sauces, and like many herbs, can also be made into a tea (although I haven’t tried this myself!)

Thyme

In the Garden:  Thyme is a hardy perennial that grows well in sun, part shade, in the garden, and in containers.  It also does well over the winter on a sunny windowsill.   There are many varieties of thyme, some which make beautiful garden plants, and others which are used for cooking.  Thymus Vulgaris, or culinary thyme, is the type I grow for kitchen use, although I recently picked up some lemon thyme and orange thyme to try as well.  Thyme can be very slow to grow from seed , so you might wish to purchase a mature plant from a garden centre instead.

In the Kitchen:  Thyme is a standard for stuffing, and it also finds its way into vegetable dishes and sauces.   It is often used in herb-infused vinegars and can also be brewed into tea. 

Do you grow or cook with any of these herbs?  As always, please share your tips in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page!   I recently posted photos of my first garden harvest, as well as some updated garden pics.  I’d love to see your photos and links there, too!

More Herbs in My Garden: Dill, Lemon Balm, and Marjoram

How are your gardens coming?  With all the wet weather, we’ve been experiencing a slow start this year, but the potatoes and onions are flourishing and I ate my first radish yesterday! 

Today I will continue my series on herbs with three more you will find growing in my garden.

Dill

In the GardenDill is an annual which I grow from seed in the garden each year.  It also does very well in pots on my sunny deck.  I plant this herb twice, in spring for a summer crop, and again in early summer, so I will have lots of seed heads for pickles in the fall.  I have not tried growing dill indoors, and probably wouldn’t, due to the height of this plant!

In the kitchenThe feathery leaves (often referred to as “dill weed”) are wonderful in many summer salads, especially cucumber salad!  I cut off the big seed heads in the fall to flavour pickles, and know that you can both collect the seeds and dry the leaves for winter cooking, although I have not done so myself. 

Lemon Balm

In the Garden: I added this herb to my garden last summer, when herbs were on sale for 25 cents a pot.  It grew well last year, and this spring was one of the first to appear in the spring garden and has more than doubled its size from last year already.    Mine grows in a sunny spot, but I’ve read that it is tolerant of partial shade, and that it can be aggressive, like mint.  Some recommend that it is actually better grown in pots, and, like mint,  I would imagine that it would also grow well indoors.

In the KitchenI have note yet used any of my Lemon Balm yet, although I love smelling its fragrance in the garden.  This summer I plan to brew some for iced tea, use it to add flavour to cold ice water, and maybe try some in fruit salad.  With its lemony flavour I would imagine it would be a good complement to fish. 

Marjoram

In the Garden:  Sweet Marjoram is an annual that I grow in my garden, and in pots on my deck.  The pots overwinter well indoors in a sunny window, and although its growth slows down, it can still be harvested in small amounts all winter long.   

In the Kitchen:  My primary use of marjoram is in roast chicken.  I slip some between the skin and breast meat (along with some thyme) and also use some to stuff the cavity (usually along with a lemon, and rosemary).  It is also sometimes used in soups and stuffing recipes. 

This post was written with help from Herb Gardening in Five Seasons by Adelma Grenier Simmons (Hawthorn Books, 1964)   Don’t you love discovering great old books?  

Do you have any herb tips or recipes to share?  Please leave them in the comments, and don’t forget about our Facebook page for posting your photos, asking questions, or linking up your gardening blog posts!

The Herbs in my Garden – Basil, Chives, and Cilantro

For the next few weeks, while the garden plants are settling in or sprouting, I thought I would feature the herbs that I grow in my garden.  Next to tomatoes, they are the garden plants I get asked about the most.

I decided to begin with three fairly standard herbs, and the ones that most often find their way into my kitchen.

Basil

In the garden: Basil comes in many different varieties, but for the past several years I have just grown the standard sweet basil, and lots of it!  It’s an annual, so it needs replanting each spring, and it grows well from seed in pots or right in a sunny garden, although you can also find basil plants at most garden centers.  I haven’t had any luck growing basil indoors, as its requirements for sun far outstrip what our sunniest windows can provide.

In the Kitchen  Where there are tomatoes, there can be basil.  Basil is beautiful in tomato sandwiches, in salads, mixed in bruschetta, cooked in pasta sauces, or made into pesto.  I grow many plants so that I can make pesto in the fall and then freeze it to last throughout the winter. 

Chives

In the GardenChives are an easy-to-grow perennial that come up year after year.  They are one of the first plants to appear in my garden in the spring and have pretty purple flowers.  When the plants get too big, you can simply dig some of it out and plant it somewhere else.  From a very small chive plant I had three years ago, I now have chives growing in three different spots in my garden.   Chives grow very well in pots and can be over-wintered indoors in a window and set outside again in the spring. 

In the Kitchen:  Besides the standard sour cream & chive baked potato topping, I think chives are wonderful chopped into salads, mixed into potato dishes of all kinds, or used as a garnish on creamy soups or cheese sauces.

Cilantro/Coriander

 

In the Garden:  This plant is refered to as cilantro when harvesting leaves, and coriander when harvesting the seeds.  It is a self-seeding plant that will come up year after year (if you don’t harvest all of the seeds, of course!)  Mine did well both in pots and in the garden, although you need a good-sized pot to get a decent harvest.  My garden plants grew to a much greater size and had many more leaves to harvest than my potted plants.  If you like the leaves (like I do) you will want to replant this herb all summer long to guarantee a continuous supply of thick leaves, as they tend to thin out as the plant grows taller. 

In the Kitchen:  Cilantro is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy foods, and I include it in salsas, guacamole, burritos, bean salads, quesadillas, nachos, and spicy tomato soup.  I did not collect the coriander seeds last year as I do not often use coriander in my kitchen – perhaps that will be something to try this year! 

What herbs do you grow in your garden?  If you have any tips or recipes to share, please let us know in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page where you can link up your blog posts and share your garden photos!

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