Weeds

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.
~Slim Acres

Common-Weeds-Dandelion

“You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden.”   ~Terri Guillemets

“But make no mistake:  the weeds will win; nature bats last.”    ~Robert M. Pyle

As I was pulling weeds on Sunday, it became clear to me, yet again, just how amazing these plants are. The drive to survive is truly remarkable! The tenacity to glue themselves to any surface. The ability to split off a tiny piece of root and keep growing. The level of drought and neglect they can tolerate. Well done. You have to admire them.

After 2 weeks away, it quickly became clear where my last round of weeding had failed. Then again, who knows for sure. I think they work in waves, like an army. Some have fallen back, they are a little weakened. The new troops are fully rested, ready for battle. Until next season, it is hard to say if any territory has been reclaimed.

I was reading an article recently that equated negative thoughts to weeds. In other words, if you are not careful, the good stuff in your mind will become over run with nasty weeds. You are to be vigilant and pull those unwanted plants out by the roots, leaving your mind open to foster growth of the ideas you wanted there in the first place.

Not a bad way to live. I don’t like weeds in my garden. And no amount of creative salad making is going to make dandelions a welcome addition to the middle of my garden paths. I also, don’t want that kind of negative clutter rattling around in my brain. My days need to be clearly focused on what is good in this life. Period.

110 days to go

A sunny afternoon, 110 days before the summer solstice, sure seems better than the same conditions, 110 days after. There is promise in the air. The light is casting hope over everything in the garden. Green is growing new from the brown soil, rather than fading back into it.

Today was a gift. The sun was shining first thing when I got up. The sky was blue and the wind was calm. Temperatures were very pleasant.

I dressed for cooler weather and was rewarded with feeling a bit over heated as I weeded some of the front garden. The ultimate treasure will be on our plates for dinner – a forgotten hill of fingerling potatoes. Enough fresh chives are up to make a tasty garnish.

We don’t get many days like this, so early in the year, that I get to take advantage of. With only Saturdays and Sundays available, the saying usually goes, “What if the first day of sun after 2 days of rain?” Answer: “Monday”.

Walking around the yard this afternoon, it is a welcome sight to see something that I planted and want to be growing, rather than just weeds. If there was a contest, I grow the BEST weeds around.

Heather_web

Heather is always out early. This low growing evergreen shrub will spread easily. Mine has to be dealt with this year. After 10 years, she is out of control.

Snowdrops_web

The snowdrops are of course a lovely first bulb. Easy to grow, multiply on their own without any help. Transplant so well, that I have never bought these. Got a gift one year from my mother in law and just keep letting them do their thing.

Crocus_web

My Mom helped me plant these crocus bulbs when my baby girl was still to be contained in a bouncy seat. Her 10th birthday was last month, so it is time. This fall, I need to plant again and plan a bit better, where I want to see that colour, early in the Spring. It is such a welcome sight, I surely need 10 times as many as I have today.

Bergenia_web

I think this perennial is called Bergenia. It was an expensive thing, bought many years ago, so the tag is long gone. It was the only flower blooming in February at the garden centre. So I had to have it.

Rose_web

Finally, a little tea rose. She is a hardy soul that is hanging on from a bud formed last year.

Fall clean-up

My husband went ahead and cleaned up for me this year. What a great guy! I worked all weekend at my day job and during a wonderful break in the rain, he put the whole garden to bed.

I am super grateful for the help. But every gardener, even those whom share the same house and bed, have a different idea about how the property is best developed and maintained. My husband tends towards a minimalistic view. I like the rambling, move yourself around the plant, tending towards overgrown kind of garden.

Since the days are so short, when I arrived home each evening, there was no way to know how “cleaned-up” the garden really was. I was warned by my man, “everything is tidy now,” he said.

In a quick reprieve in the rain today, I ducked into the front yard to snap a couple of photo’s. I won’t show you here, for I am too sad, but my fig tree is probably dead. I asked what reference he consulted when he decided to cut it back so hard? He said none. It has taken the better part of 10 years to get that tree to produce about 12 lovely figs each year. There is a plethora of tiny fruits that never get big and soft. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I would have never thought to cut it back like this. So we’ll see next summer if the tree survives and if it bears fruit. We’ll see. Sigh.

But I do like how tidy everything else is. You just have to take it as it comes. That is the life of a gardener. Patience.

Other blog posts about the fall garden:

6 months later

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”    ~Og Mandino

First day of fall and I started my tomato harvest. It was a complete joy to run around the garden to every plant and pick off the perfectly ripe and almost ripe tomatoes. A few green ones snuck in from the smaller bunches. Only 2 fruits were taken by insects before me. And the green tomatoes are everywhere still. If I am lucky, I have another 3 to 4 weeks before the rains come. I’ll be watching the weather carefully, with product boxes at the ready. When the time comes, everything will have to be picked. With any luck, we will have various types of fresh tomatoes through November.

All that was my reward. My lovely tray was full of the last round of field tomatoes from my 60 pound purchase. They had to be processed. So after arriving home from New York City yesterday, I had to roll up my sleeves and get to work. First, off came the skins. Then 8 cups went into a pot for salsa. After the 5 new jars were processed,  I was left with a dozen big skin less beauties. I was going to make sauce with them, but after dinner I lost my enthusiasm. The freezer got another big bag of tomatoes – sauce can easily be done on another day. (And the smell of summer will be fantastic when that chilly, rainy winter day comes.)

For today, there looks to be another 2 or 3 bags worth of apples that can be readied for pies. I’m already overflowing with applesauce and the kids don’t like my apple marmalade. Although, I may have to make some and give it away. To let the apples just fall and rot seems like a terrible waste.

There are plums galore this year. My neighbour has 4 children that love them. I may get my kids to pick everything they can today and then give away a fair amount. We will probably have a decent sized bucket leftover. Plums don’t take much to process, so I can see that happening today as well. The canned plums are great made into all kinds of deserts. Also great on ice cream. Which reminds me of the boozy cherries I have for ice cream. (Like we need so many excuses to eat ice cream.)

We had breakfast for dinner last night and with that meal hash browns made from my potatoes. While they can hold in the garden awhile longer, I already dug a bunch last weekend. They need to be washed and put in the fridge and eaten. So we’ll probably eat some version of potatoes all week. I may even go for a few soups where the potatoes provide the base.

I think what made all these efforts in the garden so worth it was my daughter yesterday. She found a last strawberry, perfectly ripe. She picked it and ate it. She said it tasted so wonderful. That made me smile.

Harvest

And so it begins, or ends, depending on how you look at it. After all the hard work of planting, tending, weeding and watering the harvest begins to roll in. Thankfully, not all at once, for the work is not yet over. Now the washing, cooking and processing phase.

From my garden, the figs, potatoes and apples. Just a few apples that fell to the ground, not great to look at, so I made a pie.

Everything else is local to Mary’s Garden or out to the Okanagan. Not exactly a 100 mile diet, but much better than bringing all this up from California and Mexico. (I realize that coffee is not grown there, but Hazelmere Organic Coffee processes the beans, just down the road from us.)

As you can see from the quantity, I got a little carried away in my buying. This all has to be eaten as is or turned into something or otherwise put up for storage. Most of this cannot keep for long. This weekend will be busy.

Garlic, how wonderful does this look? Compare that to the stuff that comes all the way from China!

Back in March I planted these potatoes. Just the fingerlings. The purple ones produce seed and spread out further through the garden every year.

My fig tree, started out as a baby, maybe 4 feet tall. Now she has spread out across the whole side of the house casting an impressive amount of shade with her floppy big leaves. The fruit is 2 inches across, massive in size when compared with commercially produced varieties.

This is the best time of year to be a gardener and to live in a part of the world with a nice long season.

The Sun

Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

The sun finally came out today. There had been a small glimpse of it yesterday, but then a rain storm came through that was very strong for this time of year. The temperature dropped about 12 degrees C and the wind did some damage. But today, it was warm enough to put on some sun screen.

In anticipation of my photography e-course that starts tomorrow, I ran around taking some photo’s. And the light cooperated with my efforts. It was fun to get the creative juices going. Thinking about all the techniques that I sort of know like scale, proportion, depth of field, etc.

With all this rain, we have mushrooms growing in our grass. That is a common sight in December, but is very unusual in late June. Still, they are cute, I think.

So many of the plants are taking over. This is our front walkway and you can’t walk there now. When those hosta leaves are wet, it makes your whole leg look like you stepped in the ocean.

When I am walking around with a camera, I tend to notice very tiny things in the lens. It was really great to see this bee and to get confirmation that it is a native honey bee no less.

The beach towel hanging up on the end of the fence is from my daughters field trip to the beach this week. That was one fragrant towel, bringing home the smell of every, once living thing from this part of the Pacific Ocean.

And around the corner from this fence is our hot tub. Once the lid was off, the chemicals were topped up, it was time to have a quick soak with a book. Our chlorine floater is anchored to the edge of the tub with a fishing weight. That way it doesn’t sink itself into the filter basket.

We’re here for a good time – Trooper

We’re here for a good time
Not a long time (not a long time)
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day

The golden hour of the evening came. That brief period of time when you almost have to run around to get all the shots you might like to.

Lucky

Lucky I am not living off the produce from my garden. Not that I think you can actually live off a single harvest of anything like asparagus, anyway. Last count is 4 toothpick thin spears, that I don’t dare cut. The new asparagus patch has fallen to next years list of garden chores.

Lucky #2 is that we live in an area of great produce selection from local sources. So I made this fantastic salad the other night from fresh asparagus and my home-made cheese.

Lucky #3 is that I planted an early crop of radishes. April 1st the seeds for these babies went into hanging pots in my greenhouse. Tonight we enjoyed these at dinner.

Lucky #4 is the fantastic supply of perennial herbs I have growing in my front yard. I felt like making a marinade for steak with lots of herbs, garlic and roasted chillies.

Summer will come

You can feel it in the air. There has been a shift in the overall temperature. No more teasing now.

Unlike the rest of North America, we have had a long steady winter. Lots of snow in the mountains, cold and damp up until a week ago. We really were beginning to feel this winter may never end.

And then there is that one day, when the scale tips. No matter how many days ahead will not be “nice”, the trend is sliding towards favourable conditions and I like it.

Last night I spent a good 30 minutes watering in my greenhouse where a bunch of different herbs and veggies are in various stages of growth. I like to watch the water seep down around the plants and smell the oils from the leaves of each one. I imagine the new and vigorous growth to come. And eventually the tasty harvest.

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”   ~Winnie the Pooh

Time to think, (and keep thinking), is one of the things I like about summer and having a garden. There is a good amount of time spent weeding and watering and thinking. I think these kinds of activities are what our modern brains need. Easy mechanical tasks that allow your muscles to develop and your brain to wander over and work on more significant thoughts.

And summer is when you truly can stop and smell the roses, for that is when they come into bloom. Or notice the other types of flowers as they have their days in the sun.

This sea of cherry blossoms lasted for only a couple of days before they faded and then turned brown. If you don’t sop and notice, you just miss these great sights.

Tomato whisperer

I’ve really done it this time. Of the 288 seedings that I planted in March, I transplanted almost 25% of them today, all tomato plants. Even for me, the woman who once grew over 200 pounds, this is a bit much.

Here is how it breaks down:

  • Peron 4
  • Oregon spring 7
  • Prudens purple 1
  • Yellow Roma 6
  • Persimmon 2
  • Tan 2
  • Pink grapefruit 6
  • Rocket 6
  • Black krim 6
  • Brandy wine 5
I am particularly proud of the black krim. Those are from seed that I saved over 2 years ago. And those plants look the best of them all. Not too leggy, no yellow leaves, not drooping over.
Last week before I left for Oslo, I should have transplanted my babies into the greenhouse. I thought that my family could water while I was gone. But my daughter confessed that the plants got pretty dry, hence the yellow leaves.
But, as the list above can confirm, I can afford to lose a few plants. I do not have enough room for even 1 of each variety. So I will have to find other places in my garden and other gardens in general to adopt some seedlings.
And another year of growing tomatoes on the Coast is underway. Beyond hoping for enough sunshine, not too much moisture on the leaves, blossom end rot and blight, a good crop is a sure thing.
The life of a farmer.

New growth

There is something deeply satisfying about seeing new growth in the Spring. Maybe it is the sight of pretty flowers or the feeling that new life is waking up after the long winter sleep.

I have a strange sense of surprise when my plants come back to life. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes there is damage or complete ruin from some kind of winter kill. I am filled with pride when there is vigorous new growth. When something dies, which is not so common, I look at the empty spot as a place to try something new.

Every so often, the empty spot, is ever so sad. It appears that my asparagus patch is gone. For anyone that has grown this lovely Spring vegetable, you know, it takes a lone time to get it established. 3 years before you cut the first spear. But, I am going to try again. Now that I know I can do it, I will be more careful about tending the plants throughout the season. And I’m picking a new spot, and I’m going to grow way more of it.

These photos are from the front yard of my house. The apple tree is out my bedroom window and is the first thing I see every morning. These lovely tulips are just below the tree. 9 years ago, the apple tree was very small, about 3′ tall. Now it’s 3 distinct varieties and arms stretch wide and tall. If the blossoms are to be believed, it should be a great crop this year.

To have a garden in the front yard is to be completely different. We have taken away most of the grass, save for a small stretch out front of the fence, beyond the property line to the sidewalk. And even that, I have dreams of planting with food crops. I have long wanted to plant kiwi’s along the fence. (Apparently they can be grown in the Vancouver area).

I have a well established fig tree, started at about 3′ with one single stem. Now it branches out on several main trunks and stands much taller than my rancher house. My son and I enjoy the figs as fast as they ripen on the tree, so it will be some time yet before I can make preserves.

In my stash of seedlings nestled under the grow lights, I have 4 artichoke plants. Last time I tried them, we got a few years of production. Then we had a really cold and snowy winter and the plants died. So again, I have learned that when the reference books tell you protect your plants over the winter, I should probably do that.

And on the process goes. There is always something going on in the garden. Even if it seems like only the weeds are the productive ones. Everything in turn, has a time to shine. After all, weeds are just plants where you don’t want them to be.

Twigs

Last week-end while I was working in the back garden, I cut a bunch of pear tree limbs and gathered them into a vase. My daughter thought that the buds would open into flowers, pretty quickly.

Quick, as any Mother knows, is relative.

My husband expressed concern mid-week that these “twigs” were a bit of a monstrosity in our little kitchen/dining room. He of little faith.

In the expected time, (by me anyway), the buds have started to unfurl. Now my daughter and husband think these “twigs” were a good idea. In another few days they will be an early glimpse of the showy fruit tree display that is still 4 to 6 weeks away.

Since the weather forecast for Vancouver is rain, rain, rain next week, these delicate blossoms will be a welcome reminder that Summer will indeed follow the showers of Spring.

288 plants

That is how many I will have if everything germinates for each divided spot in the seedling trays. Some have many tiny seeds in each spot, but some seeds are really old and won’t come up at all.

But still, that could be a lot of plants to deal with in 6 weeks time.

It is not the first time I have over done it. Once the seeds are sprouting into a plant, I am done. I cannot kill a plant. It has to be potted up in my greenhouse into a bigger pot, labelled and brought along until the weather is reliably warm. Then I have to find a home for everything, whether it is in my garden or not.

We once rented a house that was located on a working orchard. It was the original family house and there was a huge garden in the back. I planted tomatoes that amounted to over 200 pounds of fruit. My dear friend came to my house and processed most of it for me, while I was away on a business trip in Asia. If she had not done so, most of that crop would have been lost.

This year I have planted a bunch of different things:

  • a full tray of flowers with 36 possible marigold plants, (my husband loves them)
  • half a tray of onions and exotic herbs
  • almost a full tray of tomatoes, about 8 different kinds
  • 4 different basil varieties
  • 6 artichoke plants, which I really hope are going to the garden

It is going to take a good deal of organization and strict time management to keep up the garden this season. Or I’ll give most of the seedlings away. We’ll see.

Winter apples

A few people have commented to me this fall/winter season – “you have apples left on your tree”. And I would feel guilty. I had gone to all that effort to water them, weed around the tree and pick most of them at perfectly ripe. But somehow that last bunch was left on the tree after my enthusiasm for gardening fades in the fall.

It happens every year. I start off the Spring roaring and ready to go. I have long lists of tasks and planting schedules. It is going to be the best season ever. And as the weeds begin to get the better of me, and the watering becomes drudgery, I am doing well just to harvest. So the apples outside my bedroom window were mocking my lack of enthusiasm for the last of the harvest, general clean up and the final weeding.

About 2 weeks ago, I asked my husband, do birds eat apples? My thinking was that some good would come from them. He wasn’t sure. Then a week ago, a flock of robins on migration stopped through my yard. It was really cold and they were really fluffed up and they were taking refuge in my apple tree and eating away at the apples. And then a few days later, a squirrel was darting through the yard and turned to face me with a mouth full of apple before it launched up onto our roof.

So now I can say that I am leaving a bunch of apples on my tree for the wildlife. I never would have imagined that I would have a tree that could produce enough apples for me, let alone leaving some out.

Good start to the day

While on holidays this summer at my parents cabin, a good start to my day would be with a coffee and a book in the hot tub. When the sun got higher in the sky and it became too warm, I would get out and start my day.

I had such a morning on Saturday. It was 19 degrees C in the shade when I slipped in for a soak. A few chapters later and it became so warm from the sun, I had to get out.

But I was completely energized. I dug out some shorts and a tank top from the bin of summer clothes getting ready for storage, and headed out into the front garden. I attacked the weeds for the better part of the day. What I was able to complete looks great. (There is, unfortunately, more days of work to do than there will be good weather for).

The clouds moved in, late in the day. We had our first big wind and rain storm of the fall. But the morning felt like summer and it happened on a day when I was able to enjoy it!