Garden reflections at (almost) year’s end

December 15, 2017 § Leave a comment

What is it about late fall or early winter that finds me sitting down to write about the garden? Whatever the reason, it’s time to deliver on an overdue promise: the update on the effectiveness of a milk solution spray on powdery mildew.  So without further ado, here it is:

It works!

Yes, prevention is best (good soil, watering techniques, plant spacing, etc.), but as a backup, this spray will keep leaves free of mildew longer, allow new growth to come in green and healthy, and slow the mildew’s spread once it arrives.  It helps to spray the leaves before mildew appears to delay the onset, and then as the season progresses, spray at regular intervals (once a week or every 10 days or so) to keep it at bay.  I also remove the most affected leaves.


Healthy, green zucchini leaves alongside ones with mildew.  The unaffected leaves were sprayed earlier in their growth.

With that update complete, on to some random bits and pieces from this latest season of growth.

Admittedly, despite the amazingly warm summer, my garden didn’t fare too well this year.  The main culprit was location.  I think I have eeked out all that I can from the soil where my garden is currently situated.  It is a poor location to have chosen – only suitable for the few plants that don’t mind sharing the space, water, and nutrients with the neighbouring fir and maple trees (which, by the way, are doing marvelously well!).  Other culprits were squirrels and rats who competed wtih me on getting to the ground cherries, zucchinis, and tomatoes first.  Suffice it to say, I lost, though I did manage to harvest a bit of tasty bounty here and there.


These few raspberries, while tasty, came few and far between.


The tomatoes were hit and miss.  The Yellow Pears and Max’s Wild Cherry tomatoes had some of the best success.

What did work? Growing potatoes in bags and containers.  When ready for harvest, I dumped everything into a wheelbarrow and then sifted through the soil for each precious nugget.  A tip for anyone that doesn’t have a bunch of containers: dog food bags work great as grow bags.  Well-washed, of course! The bags are really tough and durable.  I grew potatoes in 6 bags and 6 containers, with good results from all.  Just remember to poke some drainage holes in the bags.


A potful of Warbas!

Also….carrots!! I planted carrots in containers with soil that was more conducive to carrot growth.  I was most excited about the White Satin variety – so delicious.  Every year up until this summer I’ve failed at growing carrots.  It’s clear now that soil makes a big difference!

Red Russian garlic and a variety of herbs did well too.  I love how sustainable garlic is (plant, harvest, save some to re-plant), and how versatile herbs are.


Simple syrups infused with rosemary and fennel.

At summer’s end, I was happy to put the garden to rest and reflect on some valuable lessons I had learned or re-discovered:

Good soil matters.

Rats are gross.

Homegrown carrots are awesome!


One of the summer’s final harvests.  Ground cherries, purple beans, White Satin carrots, Yellow Coyote tomatoes, Max’s Wild Cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, a few beet greens, and some fennel seeds.

And for the final bit….the potted fir tree that sits outside most of the year is now inside and acting as a Christmas tree.  It’s rather sparse and funny, but I can’t help but like it 🙂 I’m enjoying its lighted glow while spending time reflecting and reading.  As I plan for a new season of growth, I’m keeping these books within reach…


May these days be merry, bright, and cozy 🙂



My November Garden

November 15, 2016 § 2 Comments

There is something more richly golden in the sun’s rays at this time of year.  Perhaps it’s because the days are often charcoal and grey and infused with rain.  Or maybe it’s just because the angle of the earth and sun in the autumnal season make it so? Whatever the case, those rays turn my bedraggled and soggy garden into a space that draws me to discover what is still alive and well despite the time of year.  It surprises and delights me all at once.  For instance, who knew that celery, for all its want of heat and long days, can flourish in November?


These seeds were thickly sown so the stocks don’t become too big.  Strangely, it seems to do best in cooler temperatures even though it’s not supposed to, but shhh…don’t tell it so! It’s perfect for those soups and stews that taste best on shorter, darker days.  The flavour of this Tall Utah variety (I know – these stocks aren’t tall!) is full, and a pot of soup requires only a few stems.


Borage, also a lover of warmth, seems to defy its description in my garden.  It can’t stop itself from flowering and flourishing right now.  The purple, blue, and pink flowers thrust their delicate faces into the sun when it shines, or take whatever the forecast throws at them…and then keep thriving.  They’re a bit of cheerful summer colour amongst the darker oranges, browns, and reds of autumn.  An added bonus is the wee hummingbirds that are still enjoying their nectar.  I wonder if they too are surprised and delighted when they discover these flowers are still here.




Clumps of alyssum continue to proudly show off their pure white petals.  I no longer seed alyssum in my garden as it does a good job of re-seeding on its own.  I let it freely grow wherever it finds itself because it attracts beneficial insects, and simply looks pretty.



Another flower of summer are marigolds, but mine are masquerading as fall foliage.  Amongst the leaves, mustard greens are coming up, which is one of the few things I intentionally planted for cool-weather crops.  Cilantro is the other – homemade tortillas with home-grown cilantro garnishing the toppings for a mid-winter meal are so tasty! As for the maple leaves, I collect them all and put them in the garden to decompose over the winter.  Sometimes I chop them up a bit to help the process, but I find the worms and rain do a good job of that on their own.  An added bonus is weed suppression so I do less weeding come springtime – yay!




Surprise potato plants are popping up from left behind potatoes planted two seasons ago.  Will they actually produce something edible? I’m expecting to find clumps of squishy tubers at the ends of the plants when I get around to pulling them…although maybe further surprises await? Note that not having as many leaves in this part of the garden equals more weeds 😉



Speaking of leftovers, when I harvested onions late in the summer some bulbs had done nothing, so I pushed them back in the ground to see if anything would come of them.  Here and there, some are sprouting, including a few amongst the strawberries.  One strawberry plant has bravely put forth a flower though a fruit is most unlikely.  Pepper, my dog, likes this time of year because she’s allowed to join me in the garden and roam about more freely than in the normal growing season.  To her, the garden is full of treasures – pine cones, little sticks, bits of this or that to munch on.  She rarely leaves the garden without something in her mouth 🙂



In true November fashion, colds are making the rounds, so I find myself entering the garden for more than surprise and delight.  Freshly snipped rosemary and sage (both supposed to be good for sore throats and colds), along with fennel fronds (just for the sake of a bit of licorice flavour) have been filling my teapot as of late.  Steeped in boiling water, the combination makes a lovely cup of tea.  In fact, I’m drinking some right now.  Admittedly, I have a cold and so far I don’t notice that it’s speeding my recovery, but it is still soothing and comforting to sip on.



So what does your November garden look like? Anything surprising you with its defiant stance against the inevitable arrival of winter? Or have you purposefully planted seeds for a winter garden?

Raising a steaming cup of tea to rays of golden sunshine while keeping my umbrella close at hand,


P.S.  Some of you may be wondering what the outcome was in the battle between powdery mildew and the water/milk solution that I wrote about in my last post.  Stay tuned….a follow-up post is coming 🙂

A Potpourri of Garden Notes

August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

For the past few seasons I’ve planted garlic of the Red Russian variety – in part because I like the mild taste, and because of its pretty, purple skin.  Normally, I cut the scapes to eat before they flower, but this summer I let some stick around to open into full bloom.  But they never did.  Instead, the tiny clusters of what I thought were flowers stayed wrapped up in an ever-increasing bulbous, purple-y mass.  What?! I finally peeled away the thin, paper-like protective layer to reveal the mystery… garlic bulbs! I’m confused as to what transpired as I would have expected seeds to form instead, but once again I’m fascinated by nature’s surprises.  I plan to plant these little bulbs in the fall and see what happens come next July/August.

Along with the unexpected baby garlic, I’ve been collecting various other seeds.  I never lose my amazement when I hold seeds in my hand and think that from it sprouts something so vitally important.  As an aside, gardening continually cultivates a child-like wonderment and joy in me, and every season I discover new things that amaze me.  Have you ever really noticed how delicate and beautiful the first growth of a bean or pea pod is? If not, take a moment to do so the next time you wander about your garden.

But back to seed collecting…I don’t let everything go to seed, but I’m starting to become more keen on having my own seeds rather than buying them all.  This year I collected sage seeds for the first time, along with lavender.  And of course, chive seeds are always in abundance to collect or self-seed.

From bottom to top: chive seeds, sage seeds, and adorable garlic bulbs!


I’ve also been drying herbs like sage, oregano, parsley and thyme for use in soups, stews and whatever else is made, as well as making forays into tea.  German chamomile, spearmint, and mint grows well in my garden, so a blend of those three was an easy first attempt.  I dried the flowers of the chamomile separately from the mint leaves, crushed them, then blended them together once fully dried.  The result is a soothing and mild taste that I can proudly say I made from garden to teacup 🙂



On the potato front, I recently harvested the last tubers of Red Chieftain (I harvested Sieglinde potatoes earlier on.  Both varieties were planted unchitted…of course :)), which were growing by the oregano.  At one point I pulled my dirt-covered hands from the ground to enjoy the presence of the honey bees buzzing all over the tiny oregano flowers.  They paid no attention to me even though we were side-by-side.  It struck me that the bees and I were fine with each others presence because we each had what we needed without disturbing each other.  When I later went back with camera in one hand to capture them, and scissors in the other to harvest, I made sure to leave a good amount of flowering stems for the bees to continue to enjoy.  I couldn’t help but put in two photos of the bees in action because it really is neat to see how they gather pollen from such delicate, tiny flowers.




While the garden is mostly veggies, I have some flowers that I grow for the purpose of attracting pollinators or other beneficial insects, and some for the additional bonus of eating.  This year I planted a Shungiku chrysanthemum on a whim for that very thing.  I’ve added the greens to soups and stir-fries, and I’m contemplating using the flowers for tea.  Or making a pretty bouquet with the flowers is also an option.

Shungiku, chamomile, and oregano flowers

Shungiku, chamomile, and oregano flowers


A less inspiring facet of gardening that has grabbed my reluctant attention is powdery mildew.  Every season it spreads over the leaves of my squash, cucumber and zucchini leaves.  I’ve read here and there that a 2 part water to 1 part milk solution sprayed on the leaves can help, so this year I decided to give it a try.  Earlier this week I took off the worst affected leaves and then sprayed the remaining with the solution.  Apparently spraying once a week is the program to follow, so I’ll try that.  After a couple of days it does appear that the mildew hasn’t spread or infected new leaves, but I think it might be too early to tell yet if this is a successful method.  Has anyone else tried this? And to what success?

Cucumber, zucchini, pattypan squash, and some beans before powdery mildew set in.

Cucumber, zucchini, patty pan squash, and some beans before powdery mildew set in.


One final note and photo….when it comes down to it, one of the best aspects (if not the best!) of gardening is stepping out the door and harvesting whatever is at hand.  Yesterday was a bit cooler than previous days, so I made a veggie soup that included some fresh picks from the garden.  The strawberries and ground cherries were a sweet bonus 🙂

Shungiku greens, green and purple beans, yellow pattypan squash, swiss chard, parsley, celery leaves and seeds, tomatoes, strawberries, and ground cherries.

Shungiku greens, green and purple beans, yellow patty pan squash, swiss chard, parsley, celery leaves and seeds, tomatoes, strawberries, and ground cherries.


Happily harvesting,



A Baby Beet Harvest

June 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

We’re moving in six weeks and I’m thrilled to be headed to a new little house with a big yard soaked in sunshine. Due our upcoming move, I skipped planting season at our townhouse (hard to do)… but we still had a few beets leftover from last fall. They survived the winter and today I harvested and roasted them. These little nuggets will make a delicious addition to my lunch salad tomorrow :).


Peeled and ready for the oven.


Roasted with a touch of olive oil, salt & pepper.


Seasonal Musings

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

It is raining here.  The grey skies lend themselves well to helping the yellow, red, and orange leaves stand out all the more.  The sunshine of previous days let the feeling of summer linger past the official change of the seasons, but now it feels much more autumnal.  Thanksgiving is approaching which naturally turns one’s mind towards being more grateful, but such thoughts have been stirring in my mind for the last while simply because life has ups and downs, and sometimes on that rollercoaster thankfulness is forgotten.

This past summer of gardening also prompted me to think more about this – it was supposed to be the best year yet for the garden (I think that every year!), but circumstances meant the cultivated aspect of gardening was abandoned to veggies growing wild or not at all.  A mixture of success and failure existed side-by-side, though not necessarily in equal measure (who knew failure could be so glaringly represented in bush beans utterly lacking in productivity?!).  However, I decided to let go of what didn’t work and instead be thankful for what did (three cheers for successfully growing swiss chard!!!).

Through the autumn and winter months ahead, I’ll spend time musing over how the garden can be more productive next year and what I’ve learned from the failures and successes of this past summer; but for now, a nod to being thankful with a sampling of what the garden produced this year.

Red Russian garlic and onions - first time for an onion harvest! Previous years produced bolting onion flowers and zero growth on the bulb.

Red Russian garlic and onions – first time for an onion harvest! Previous years produced bolting onion flowers and zero bulb growth.

The last harvest of a variety of tomatoes

The last harvest of a variety of tomatoes

Golden zucchini....I love the rich colour this variety has.  Big or small, it's always tasty :)

Golden zucchini….I love the rich colour this variety has. Big or small, it’s always tasty 🙂

Basil (Rosie, Genovese and Cinnamon varieties) and sage before being dried

Basil (Rosie, Genovese and Cinnamon varieties) and sage before being dried

Oregano leaves dried and crushed

Oregano leaves dried and crushed

Saving seeds - fennel  (mmm....licorice!!) and New Zealand spinach

Saving seeds – fennel seeds (mmm….licorice!!) and New Zealand spinach seeds

Pie pumpkins and a little squash - it was supposed to be an acorn squash but its looks seem to indicate otherwise.  Any ideas on what type it could be?

Pie pumpkins and a little squash on the left – it was supposed to be an acorn squash but its looks seem to indicate otherwise. Any ideas on what type it could be?

Basil still growing along with flowering cilantro and marigolds

Basil still growing along with flowering cilantro and marigolds

New crop of mustard greens with basil

New crop of mustard greens with basil

Still gratefully munching on beet greens,


Harvest. It’s Happening.

July 1, 2015 § 1 Comment

In fact, I’ve been eating so much gosh darn greens that I haven’t had a moment to blog ;).

How to harvest greens?

The “Snip Snip”:

In the past I’ve used the snip snip method at the base of the plant and taken a few leaves from each plant at a time. This way, the plant continues to grow and creates a long vertical stem with a leafless trunk like base. I’ve done this for years, but do find that after a few weeks of this, the leaves growing at the top of the plant change texture and just aren’t that tasty.

The “Mow Down”:

This year, I decided to try the mow down method that is just as it sounds … cutting the entire plant near the ground so that it sprouts all new leaves over again. I wasn’t 100% sure whether this works for all greens, but gave it a whirl with my Pomegranate Crunch from Salt Spring Seeds.


Two weeks later, here’s what sprouted back:

Mow down sprouted

I was thrilled to see that the plants that I mowed down are all growing back fresh new leaves. I’m not sure if you can pull this off more than once, but I’ll give it a try after these freshies are harvested.

For the past few weeks I’ve been combining my Pomegranate Crunch lettuce and Osaka Purple Mustard Greens from Omega Blue Farms along with some chopped chives and incorporating them into my daily salad for lunch. Well, let’s be honest, my husband usually (read: always) makes our lunches, but at least I can take credit for growing the greens.

Spicy mustard greens, chives and pomegranate crunch lettuce from the garden.

Spicy mustard greens, chives and pomegranate crunch lettuce from the garden.

Eating from the garden is topping the charts of things I’m loving most these hot summer days. I also adore these yellow beauties (and so do the bees):

Mustard Blossoms

Mustard Blossoms


When you harvest, do you snip snip, mow down, or use another method?

– Amy





June 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

It is impossible at this time of year to keep my thoughts from wandering over to Sweden and, more specifically, Midsommar.  Having lived there, I celebrated three midsummers along with some of the things that make this one of the most important, if not the most important, holidays in that northern country, including: the beautifully long days of light and warmth, pickled herring and shots of snaps, fresh and locally grown strawberries with cream, and yes – the locally grown new potatoes….I mean, potatis….topped with crème fraîche.

And speaking of locally grown, I’ve begun harvesting my unchitted, early variety Warba potatoes.  In fact, dinner last night was almost entirely from the garden – freshly picked and pulled with no time to lose nutritious delicious-ness.  If I had a cow then I could say that the butter and yoghurt used were also homegrown, but I don’t (but if I did have a cow, I’d want it to be a jersey cow.  How can one not love jersey cows with their big, kind eyes and long lashes? I think they’re the prettiest cows around 🙂 ).

So with Midsommar on the horizon, and the long days of summer at the doorstep, I threw together a simple meal with the main course featuring the humble potatis.

IMG_8556An assortment of fresh greens (and blues!)

IMG_8575A salad made with Osaka Purple mustard greens (Omega Blue Farms), Drunken Woman and Pomegranate Crunch lettuce (Salt Spring Seeds), chives, and Sugar Ann snap peas, Corvair spinach and Borage flowers (West Coast Seeds).

IMG_8561New potatis! No potato is too small to leave behind…

IMG_8568I started with butter (unsalted), sea salt, ground black pepper, fresh sage leaves, Red Russian garlic scapes, feather-y fennel leaves, and the flower stem of an onion plant…

IMG_8572…then added some Rainbow swiss chard (Salt Spring Seeds), Merlin beet greens and a few small stems of some Sorrento Raab broccoli (West Coast Seeds)….

IMG_8581…served with a topping of plain yoghurt sprinkled with some freshly cut Italian parsley.