Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Got Ramps!!

Well 3 years of reading about ramps. How they banned from being removed or sold in certain provinces (Quebec) and how its expected to be extended, today Shechar from gardenweb sent me an email saying he saw them at St Lawrence Market. I quickly ran on over and bought 6 bunches, which got planted in rain and wind, under the large Linden and my growing oak trees.

Now ramps are supposed to be picky on location, but it is my hope that next year this time I will have established my own "colony" and in a few years I have early season garlic ramps for harvest! Thanks you Shechar!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Its spring

This weekend, we had bikes, shorts, rollerbladers and baseball in the park. I woke this morning to an incredible noise as birds sang proud, sure I would open the curtains to some exotic jungle. To top it off, the first crocus are blooming on in my lawn! Yes oddly enough we have no Forsythia in bloom. And apricot or cherry trees are not even swollen budded yet, a full month after the year before last.

I sit and do the math, thinking, my last frost date is first week of May, but how can everything catch up now? There is simply not enough time and then I check the weather forecast and it shows below seasonal averages for next 2 weeks. and so I rush to my PC and check the 14 day weather forecast - again. it hasn't changed since 30 minutes ago.

Today the guy at the post office asked if I had a landscaping business, having seen me somewhere I guess. As much as gardening started with a desire to do manual labour away from the digital world I work in, it has in many ways connected me with both the past and nature. I feel keenly the seasons and weather, and notice shoots, birds even daylight hours, I normally would not. My body aches from my weekend endeavours, and I laugh that there is gym fit, and then garden fit.

As usual I was a in a bit of a rush and planted out a few hardy seedlings late last week. Checking on them today, it appears I had a high mortality rate. Mainly due to wind, wildlife and a bit dry. Yet I am so excited about the seedlings its and my limited space indoors, I find it hard not to. This year I am planting a couple fidderkraut cabbage, which I am really excited about to try and learn to make sauerkraut. I have planted daikon's and Chinese cabbage for  kimchi making and I really eager to try my rapine, Japanese turnips and Kumatsuna and some new mustards and maybe try some Tsukemono, I am also trying small potatoes from Scotland and France and made potato boxes on the weekend, only to wake in the middle of last night with a far improved design!

Gardening has become an amazing hobby for serial hobbyist. There seems a never ending supply of challenges, opportunity and learning. I went over to fertilize my neighbour in her 80's lawn for her and realized  that I am constantly learning and developing skills that most modern people my age have forgotten, yet to her, it has always being a way of life. How can a little over a generation change so far and what does that say for the next.

Winter is a time of planning and spring the time for implementing that plan. So although the season may be late, and I am reliant on store bought, globally shipped produce,  today I am so excited. I got my peas in!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

They arrived

Well My eggs are here... 12... Not that I can handle more than 2-3 ducks. but I have a friend looking too add a few as well. Ironic, with all my planning and logic, that it takes a young kid to say, but were will they fit when they hatch? Well I did not really build it large enough for 12... 
I have the next 28 days to work that one out. In the mean time my duck-tape, pc fan and light-bulb with willhi controller seems to be doing just fine.

Yesterday while wrestling with their pond, I suddenly noticed the first crocus flower. Stunning, pause and gawk. but by the time I fetched my camera it was closed for the evening. But signs of growth on everything, and kids in shorts all over, so I suspect we well started now. Soil temperature at end of day was around 8-9 degrees.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

I say Potato

Well, This season seems to have turned out to be Asian veggies and Potato fingerlings year. After Raymond le Blanc raving about his mothers potatoes - la Ratte, I searched for ages online and in person and could not find any at the nurseries etc in Toronto. In the end I ordered a tiny sample from Bryson farms in Quebec along with a second Rose Finn Apple Fingerling which the store claimed was also amazingly tasty and paid shipping. These I am still waiting to arrive.

Today I drove out to Peel Hardware and Supply after making a few calls, to buy Alfalfa for my garden beds as a green manure. Something I know my grass loves. Their price was very reasonable and also closer than anyone else to Toronto. When I found the store, I realized that my much abused, and still very much in use, wheelbarrow had being an impulse purchase one day as I had stopped at this very store.

I wondered into the store, gawking like a city slicker gardener in a hardcore farm store, at the hardcore tools and practical things  (they even had a Scythe -  but I could not work out how I fit that in my square foot garden). I came across a bunch of buckets of different sizes with Potatoes in it. On the left was the "Special" potatoes in smaller buckets and on the right was the large regular potatoes. I cant remember the price of the regular potatoes (yukon gold etc) but it was well under $1 a pound. What caught my eye, was Pink Fir potato. This is a Scottish Heirloom, that is to the English much the same as Ratte is to the French.  I added A Russian Blue (late blue potato - for fun) and Candy Cane (who can resist candy) $2.58 a pound. He may have, but could not find Linzer Delikatess, another I am looking out for and had about another 6-8 "special" variates.

Supper helpful and the nicest of nice folks, these were new idea they trying this year, and I sincerely hope that it will become known to those looking top grow or try some a little different to the regular Canadian Tire. They also sold bulk corn, fava and some other interesting seeds and some really sturdy garden utensils. I may just have to check in later in the year to see how it went, before I eat all mine and have non as seed potatoes for next year. The trip for Alfalfa makes potatoes a double bargain.

Now last weekend I built 2 potato boxes and I now have 5 varieties expected and over 3 pounds of seedlings.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Well I never !

Nuff said.

I wonder if my seedlings I planted last week that looked so happy will survive. It is -8 Celsius without the wind chill. Hard to believe it was +22 2 days ago. Mostly cold hardy, that's a bit low. I may be restarting my brassicas!

Monday, 14 April 2014

3 Weeks Till Last Frost

Well, Normally by this time, I have planted up a storm and things are developing quite well. A weekend around 20 degrees Celsius, eventually made the soil workable and tulips and daffs are all starting to poke their heads out. Even the garlic is showing.The pussy willow has burst out, yet, there is no sign of a flower other than snow drops.

Well I took the time to do a few early garden projects. Last week, I built bird houses, which although seem to get a fair amount of attention are still tenant-less. This week I build a new raised bed and extended another. I added some sheep and cow compost and some alfalfa (any one know a good source near Toronto for alfalfa pellets, please let me know), Pulled out the parsnips and leeks that got frozen last year and planted out some hardy seedlings. Here is the new layout.

I had quite some debate on if the new 5 x 9 Bed in front should be marked in square foot or perhaps 1.5 feet for larger plants, but decided for crop rotation, I would leave it in square foot. The garden right at the back is now a 4 x 8 and not a 3 x 5, gaining a few extra feet, although somewhat shaded by the tree next to it, it be a good nursery and leaf vegetable spot.

I used my own compost bin, lots of peat moss, store bought sheep and cow manure and some vermiculite. They could do with more vermiculite in the mix, but the local nurseries had only tiny bags. I think I add more alfalfa or some green manure.

The bright green bins in the background is my new attempt at composting. I have already filled up 3 of the 4 bins with spring clippings. My compost takes to long and newly added stuff making turning difficult and decided to try worm bin composting. I drilled a hole near the bottom and put a hose connector on it, much like a rain barrel. Then drilled a series of holes higher up for air. Now I have thrown a few garden worms in there, but on the lookout for some red wrigglers. They sell them on Kijiji, in a wide range of prices and sizes.
I also used some of the surplus wood from resizing the one bed and the old composter to build my potato boxes.  The idea is rather simple, I will plant the potatoes, then in a few weeks add one layer, and top up with soil and then in a few weeks add a second layer again. Its only about 1 foot high with the 2 boxes, but should help with hilling the few potatoes I plan on growing, while allowing me to move the location. They only 2 feet square, for a total of 4 feet growing space. In order for the boxes to fit more securely, I used 2 x 6 on 2 sides and 2 x 8 on the other. When stacked, they square (background). 
Well today I am tiered and sore, with thorns, splinters and body aches from lugging bags of peat-moss and etc. Such a good feeling. Then I saw that the weather after today turns cold again, and the temperature is expected to drop to -8 on Wednesday.  I am not sure even my kale seedlings I planted out can take that. My peppers indoors under lights are looking like the ready to flower already and the tomatoes are now trees. I suspect spring my be late this year. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

4 Weeks to Last Frost - Well Normally...

With this lingering cool weather and very early winter, I was eager to get started and beefed up my indoor growing. Going from one light and 2 trays to 3 lights and 4 trays. I also started a week early, my logic being that it was a early winter, and was hoping for a early spring. The result is my plants are ready for the garden and I am still 4 weeks away from last frosts.

So I spent a peaceful evening up potting my Tomatoes and Peppers, to what I hope is my last potting. Although they ready, I just saw a flurry fly by the window and dont even have a crocus in bloom.

That's 15 Tomato plants and 15 Pepper plants. As much as will fit under lights and really pretty much one of each type I had planted. Now what you don't see in the picture is the mass of plants that did not make the "cut". I called up my neighbours and said, first come first serve, if you have a windowsill, come and get. I just cant seem to murder them.

The tray has my seedlings I am starting over with. Rapinni, kale, broccoli etc. On the far left back is a few eggplants I have started. Labelling mistakes there have resulted and a large number of "white". Speaking of labelling, I am still using a permanent marker on aluminium blinds that I cut. It really works well. This weekend I need to finalize the beds, rake and prune., but tomorrow is suppose to be 10 degree Celsius and I think I would rather do it in sun, than flurries.

On another note to self, the BX potting mix I bought is proving to be so much better than anything sold at the big box stores. light, fluffy, holds moisture and yet not soggy or crusting. Perhaps its explains some monster plants this year.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

1st April - Learning to Grow disasters

I was one of them, I have to admit. One of those people so divorced from nature that I naturally presumed that a seed sown, was a plant grown. How many times did I ponder the many times you hear of people starving on farms in yesteryear, wondering, why don't they plan better and plant more. Come on people this is what you do.

Well do to some health issues, this amateur gardener left things downstairs, on the deck and in the cold frame on Saturday. Today I eventually managed to make my rounds, all 3 have suffered from different issues.

1) Downstairs was dry, but alive. Things under 6 tubes grow much faster than my last years 2 and its looks like a jungle. There is a lot of up-plotting needed and I will need to rid myself of a number of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, especially since I need the space now for new early outdoor crops which should been done by now.

2) On the deck, the trays I taken out are all pretty much dead. I think the tiny cabbage may survive and one or 2 others. All 3 types of Rappini, lettuce, 2 types turnips etc are dead. This was exposure damage, taking them out for some sun and acclimatization from the warm basement, and leaving them through a couple negative temperature and windy days.

3) Those in the cold frame are half dead. This includes all my onions, leeks, kales and broccoli etc. Its not the wind or the cold that did these, but the dry heat. We had a sunny 12 degrees day, and its bone dry in the cold frame. These died from lack of water, so I watered them and see which if any recover.

Having to start again a few weeks later is not the end of the world, especially since we having such a late spring (ground is still mostly frozen) and the new lights seems to speed up the germination process. I also have at least 10 sources of groceries within 2km. Maybe those pioneers new a few things more than I did.

With my bathtub sitting in the middle of the garden (future pond), the wind blown row cover, all the new wood chips and snow still on the ground, the 1st April 2014 is not feeling
very spring like yet.