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Spring is springing?

The weather forecast for the summer predicts a hot, dry summer across the Prairies.

…really? Could have fooled me. The spring started off promising, but we seemed to have settled into a rather cool, wet period for the last few weeks.

Or maybe I’m just getting impatient. See, I haven’t been able to get my garden in yet. My seedlings are started, my whole seed order has arrived… I just need to wait until the garden warms up and dries out a bit. Hopefully I’ll get that chance next weekend. I’m starting to worry about my tomato seedlings, since they’ve been shuffled in and out of the garage so much lately. I may need to start fertilizing them to keep them happy if I can’t plant them out soon.

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I did manage to get my peas and lettuce in about a month ago, though, so they are coming along nicely. They both thrive in the cool and wet, so we should have peas by the end of June, and butterhead lettuce before that.

Every year I try something new, something that I’ve never attempted to grow before. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli and sweet melons have all made an appearance in my garden. This year, I’m attempting artichokes. Artichokes are tricky in this climate, since they won’t produce in their first year, and they aren’t hardy in this climate and thus won’t survive the winter. But the variety I’m trying can (apparently) be fooled into thinking they’ve gone through a winter by setting them out in chilly weather while they are seedlings. The cool temperatures we’ve been having have helped with this, so at least it’s helping me out that way.

But, even if the weather prevents me from getting my garden in this weekend, another sign of summer will be arriving: the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market! The first market of the year will open on Saturday, June 2 at 8am, and will run until 3pm. The Wednesday market will also open next week, starting June 6.

Also, we’ve already started making pilgrimages down to Crampton’s Market on Waverley, which recently opened for the summer.

Have heart! Summer is on the way. We just have to be patient, right?

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Garden planning, 2011

Although it may not feel like it, winter is slowly slipping away. We can tell because we’re no longer going to work in darkness or coming home in twilight. Daylight savings time starts next Sunday, and spring officially starts on March 21. It’s deceiving looking out the window at all that snow, but underneath the white blanket my flowers are thinking about waking up.

Framed.

Just like last year, our schedule looks a bit crazy right around planting time. Consequently, I will not be starting seeds indoors again. (Boo.) So we will have a trip to the nurseries for bedding plants. However, I will soon order the seeds that will be started outdoors.

Based on last season’s records, I am going with a lot of the same varieties. The onions did quite well, as did the peas that I usually order. I’ve been pretty loyal to the pole beans that I usually get, and the quantity of beans that we got was astounding. (We are still eating those beans!)

Lettuce in situ.

But the real news story from last year was the lettuce. The variety we got was butterhead variety called Matina Sweet. It was a good starter, had nice-sized heads, and was slow to bolt (a huge problem we deal with in the summer heat). Plus, it was darn tasty. The heads themselves were the perfect size for a two-person side salad, so we helped ourselves to a lot of salad out of the garden last summer.

I will be skipping the pumpkins, though. Until I can get the weedy side of our garden whipped into some kind of submission, there’s no point in planting any type of viney gourd over there. The slugs just think that I’ve set up a banquet and help themselves.

We will be rounding out the garden with zucchini (no sense in not planting a sure thing), a slicing tomato, a paste tomato, maybe a cherry tomato, and a vegetable to be determined later. I always try to pick one new thing each year, just trying to see what might do well in my garden. Last year it was the onion sets, which did well enough that they earned a spot in this year’s garden as well. The year before that it was cabbage, which was nice but also seemed to attract slugs like no one’s business. I would love to try out these short-season artichokes, but they’ll have to wait for a year when I can start my own seeds (unless I find a nursery that has started them for me!)

Also new last year was the herb garden. I’ve put this firmly in my husband’s hands, since the vegetable and flower gardens keep me busy enough. He set up an array of pots last summer and filled them with thyme, lavender, basil, rosemary, mint, and strawberries. I loved having the fresh herbs on hand, and now that we have a better idea of what did well and what did too well (I’m looking at you, lemon thyme) he’ll plan out his contribution to our garden again this year.

Mmm… I can almost taste the strawberry rhubarb pies now.

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Garden Retrospective, 2010

We’re still getting days in the high 20s, and the humidex has been bringing the “feel like” temperature well into the 30s, but summer is ending. You can feel it on the wind, and smell it in the air. The trees are still mostly green, but a few are starting to take on their fall yellow cast. The lady at The Preferred Perch was on CJOB’s The Gardener a few weeks ago, and said that she thinks fall will be early this year because the birds are starting to migrate already.

Beans.

Oh well. I can’t complain too loudly, since this year has been head and shoulders better for gardening than last year. We’ve already harvested more tomatoes this year than we got all of last year. My poor tomato cages are being crushed beneath the weight of the vines this year, and I have my eye on a few monster tomatoes that are starting to ripen. I also have a gigantic bowl of cherry tomatoes already. A good number of those are destined for the freezer to liven up our winter pastas.

The beans are the real story in my garden this year. I think I’ve frozen about 10 pounds of beans so far, and they’re still going! We didn’t do a very good job last year of keeping them picked, so we’re trying to stay on top of it this year.

Also, the zucchini are producing baseball bats. Bleah. I prefer my zucchini smaller, because they taste better and don’t have as many seeds. But I think I tried to pack too many plants into a small area this year, and the zucchini are being hidden until they’re ginormous. I’m going to have to retool where everything is planted for next year.

Onions.

And finally, this year I got onions. Starting them from seed is for suckers – I’m doing sets from now on! The onions are a good size, and taste good. They also look like they’ll keep rather well, so I did something else that I’ve never done before. After the sugar snap peas were done, I turned over the bed and replanted it to try and get a late crop of peas, lettuce and onions. I figure that even if we get an early fall, they can take a mild cold snap and still produce well. We’ll see how that goes.

Overall I’m pleased with how everything came out this year. I’m doing my best to save as much as we can (since the two of us can only eat so much produce before surrendering!) and have been making great use of our new freezer. I’ll try to do a post soon about some of the things I’m doing to save the harvest for the coming winter.

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Planning the garden

In the dead of winter, a gardener will look outside. Where another person might only see gently rolling snow drifts, peppered here and there with rabbit tracks, the gardener sees something very different. The gardener will see the possibility of what this spring’s garden could bring. Where others see only snow, a gardener will see neat rows of vegetables.

It's that time of year...

When I was planning out our garden this year, I thought about what “new” veggie we’d try. Every year I like to test a vegetable that I’ve never grown, just to see how well it might do. Sometimes they don’t do well due to the weather: for example, the eggplants did miserably a few years ago due to a wet and chilly summer. But sometimes they do great: last year’s cabbages did very well.

I wanted to try out artichokes this year. Vesey’s (my usual seed vendor) advertised a variety of artichoke that would mature in one season, rather than the usual biennial varieties. But when I went to order, the seeds were back ordered… and back ordered.. and back ordered… Until the date that I would have needed to start them slipped away. Oh well. My schedule is pretty wonky this year anyway, so it might be for the best that I didn’t have a special type of seed to start and rush into the ground. I’ll try them out next year, maybe.

So instead, we’re going to try out pie pumpkins. My husband makes an awesome pumpkin pie, and we have found several recipes that use pumpkin (such as soup, curries, pasta…) Plus, I have a section of garden that is now getting sun (woo hoo), so I’ll try planting some vining plants there to help keep down the weeds.

These are the seeds and sets I ordered this year:

* Sugar snap peas
* Pole beans
* Butterhead lettuce
* Onion sets
* Zuchinni (don’t plant too much, don’t plant too much)
* Pie pumpkins

I think that’s it. We’re also going to buy some tomato and pepper starts from a nursery because I don’t have time to deal with baby tomatoes this year. It’s been a few years since I grew onions, and I’ve never gotten them from sets, so this will be new as well.

Now I just have to wait for the snow to thaw… And the garden to dry out… And some warmer weather…

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