Monday, December 31, 2007

Root Crops - some new, some old

Chicory flower in the background, beets and turnips in the foreground coldframe.

Root crops are great to grow. They take up very little room compare with sprawlers like winter squash and have a great yield. They grow well in the north and they store well in my cellar downstairs.

Here is a low down on what I grew this year, what I'll grow next year, and what I'd love to try in no particular order.

1. Beets

I don't have much luck getting big beets but I think that's because I space them too closely, and don't thin judiciously enough. I've tried:

a. Lutz Greenleaf
b. Detroit red
c. Burpee's Golden

Grow again? Yes. I am still hunting for my favourite variety but I'm betting on Lutz Greenleaf because of its large sized root, reputation for storing well and plentiful greens crop.

2. Parsnips

The first year I tried parsnips, they didn't germinate. Since then, I've learned that the seed needs to be very fresh as it doesn't last long. Now, I grow from fresh seed every year, and have had great crops every time. They seem less bothered by wireworm, store fantastically well in ground and in the root cellar, as well as being sweet and delicious regardless of the growing conditions so far in my garden. I've grown:

a. Hollow Crown

b. Harris Early Model (I think)

Grow Again? Absolutely! I really like the flavour of hollow crown but I'm not partial to either yet.

3. Turnips

My experience with turnips has been limited to Goldina turnip which is a re-selected golden fleshed variety. I have nothing but good things to say about this turnip. It is vigorous, good looking, tasty and stores well. I love its pleasantly bitter taste in summer but my hubby does not. At any rate, after a few good frosts, it is very mild and sweet. The colour is also a lovely addition to the rainbow of root crop colours. I've tried:

a. Goldina

Grow Again: Yes! I've also recieved some seeds of Orange Jelly turnip from Bifucated Carrot and hope that their summer taste pleases my hubby more!

4. Carrots

I've been growing carrots since I've been gardening. My best tips are to water well during germination, thin well if you are interested in a good sized carrot and above all to have loose friable soil unless you try some of the round or stubby nosed carrots. Remove all rocks and clay chunks, ammend with organic matter or sand if you need too to at least a depth of 6 inches. In my garden, it is hard to get a really sweet carrot which I am still working on but it may have something to do with soil acidity. I've tried:

a. Various nantes types
b. Dragon
c. Oxheart
d. Unnamed varieties

Grow again: Yes, but I must find out how to grow sweeter carrots.

5. Potatoes

I find that the skin on new potatoes has a distinct taste that strikes me as poisoness and have done so all my life. Most people don't know what I'm going on about. At any rate, it means that I am less ga-ga about new potatoes than most though I do enjoy them. I've grown a number of varities and have found them all satisfying including:

a. Banana
b. Russian Blue
c. Carleton
d. Cherry Red
e. Grocery store volunteers
f. Kennebec

Grow again: No. I've had pretty good luck growing potatoes, but I have limited garden space and do not plan on using it to grow maincrop pototoes which require not only a substaintial amount of space for yearly needs, but also care to prevent various pests and diseases. I would prefer to grow other root crops in place of them until I get more space.

6. Jeruselum Artichokes

Is it fair to say that one grows JAs? Or do they grow themselves. Certainly I spend some time harvesting them. I've only grown one variety purchased by someone else from an organic produce store so I don't know the variety but it is at least 10ft tall with insignificant flowers and spectacular yields.

Grow again: I have no choice! They are restrained by a walkway and a brick wall.

7. Salsify

I am in the process of discovering this. The salsify that I planted in the perennial bed grew fairly well and I'm hoping will produce flower this year and reseed itself. Next year, I'll harvest.

8. Scorzonera

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this PERENNIAL root crop. According to ..., the author of Perennial Vegetables, the young leaves are edible and taste something like spinach. It also has a nice yellow flower.

9. Skirret

This is another PERENNIAL root crop I'd love to try but ideally I could get ahold of a plant division so I could know the properties of this variable plant beforehand. It grows clusters of roots stored and cooked similarly to carrots though some claim it has an inedible core.

10. Burdock

Another root I have no experience with.

10. Earth Chestnut

I've ordered seeds!

11. Chufa (link for animal fodder use)

I will not be growing this crop again. It produced fantastically well, looked great but cleaning, processing and storing required more time than I had. If I had some equipment, it might be different. Also, it would make a great crop for foraging animals.

Grow again: no

12. Chinese Artichoke

The tubers that I orderd from this member of the mint family are growing well but I haven't harvested them yet. They are dimunitive plants so far.

13. Hardy Yam

Another intriguing plant listed in perennial vegetables that I know little about. It seems to have a mixed reputation. If you have an experience (or know if it grows here, have a supplier, all the rest...), let me know.

15. Dandelion

I grow this every year ;-) but I haven't tried any yet. This year!

16. Celariac

Though technically a swollen stem, I include it because it stores pretty well the same as a root. You have to start it early, it looks pathetic and you wonder how such tiny little seedlings will ever become the ugly giants you see in the stores. Then you plant and hope. It grows and grows and grows. I've only tried:

a. Prague Giant

Grow again: I've no complaints. It's versitle, tasty, and has stored very well so far. It also makes nice little celery like stems for you if it sprouts.

17. Chicory

I grow it but I've never tried it. I think I'll make roasted chicory and dandelion root...

18. Groundnut / Apios

The seeds I was given did not germinate last year, but I'm trying some different techniques next year. It looks quite pretty in my friends garden and supposively tastes good too.

19. Hamburg rooted parsley

Germination failure. Next year. Always next year.

20. Turnip rooted chevril

As far as I'm concerned, this is a mythical vegetable. Anyone out there grow it? It appears different from Earth Chestnut but they both are related to chevril. Anyone?

21. Horseradish

Another great and easy perennial that some might consider more of a condiment instead of a vegetable (including myself). I grow it every year as if I could stop growing it... it grows near the JAs.

22. Radish

Never met a radish that I liked but I grow it to ward off the critters.

23. Sweet Potatoes

Will I grow them again? Yes, oh yes oh yes. I had a great year with them harvest wise. They cured better than I expected given my unconventional technique, and taste fabulous! I've tried:

a. George Jet

b. ?? I was sent a red skinned, cream/pink floury fleshed one.

Grow again: Yes!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Next year's garden - success and failure
The alliums

A series of posts discussing my feverish garden planning.


The alliums

Every year, I have grown onions: Onion sets, onion from seeds, started onions from flats. Every year, I have harvested onions: Big onions, small onions, onions riddled with wireworm.

You have to start the seeds early, space properly, weed judiciously, and hope they store well. Even though, I always start lots, I find we run out of onions too soon. In order to grow enough for our families needs, I think I'd have to devote a quarter of the garden to them, and there are other plants that I would prefer to grow. They also are insistent on having lots of light, water and food and little competition. Not only that but they are outbreeders, meaning I don't save the seed and their seed viability is low meaning that I have to buy new seed often.

All in all, I have decided that we would stop growing (and therefore cook less with) onions, but instead grow (and cook with) many other members of the allium family.

The Perennials

Chives: Super easy to grow, self seeding, with attractive, edible flowers, this plant is a must for any herb garden. Just clip few off a handful of slender leaves to add to your sauce or salad when needed. Garlic Chives is a vigorous cousin but is a bit too boistorous for some gardens - use liberally as a pot herb and deadhead to prevents numerous volenteers.

Topsetting onions. Also known as walking onions. These onions form bulbs at the top of stems that bend to the ground and root. Use these as you would pearl onions. You can also use them as green onions and best of all you can eat the bulb itself which is not huge but big enough.

Potato onions or multiplier and shallots: Last year, I stuck some shallot bulbs in the ground and only two came up. Apparently, they behave rather like garlic by splitting and then growing bigger. According to at least one source, multiplier onoins have a two year cycle - the first year forming bulblets and the second year these grow fatter. You could harvest some and replant the rest. They also keep well.

Bunching onions: I haven't grown these yet either but plan on dedicating part of my garden to them. They are perennial, productive, early and tasty. Oh and they are easy to grow! Hmm.. maybe I'll give part of my polytunnel garden to them. Next to the chicory perhaps.

Garlic: As I was writing this, I realized that garlic is a perennail too. I grow it successfully every year and add to my varities by purchasing locally grown heirloom garlic at markets. Using locally grown varities increases my chances of success. I need to grow lots of garlic too but I happily devote space to it. Most of my garlic is hardneck so instead of braiding the necks for storage, I tie them together and them hang them somewhere dry and room temperature. You have to love veggies that store at room temperature and low humidity. After harvesting, break apart the bulbs that you won't be using and replant the cloves to have a new crop of bulbs next year.


Leeks - Isn't it great that leeks are the only allium that I haven't listed as a perennial? Many leek varities are very, very cold hardy. They will overwinter in most environments (to ensure this, mulch heavily with leaves in the late fall). They can be harvested as baby leeks, as big leeks at the end of the season and again in the spring.

Despite the fact that I have listed leeks as not a perennial (it's biennial), I intend on making a 'perennial bed' for it. Ammended with lots of goodies, I will let the leeks overwinter then drop seed. Then I'll transplant or thin the seedlings. We'll see how it goes.


Root Cause on perennial onions - lots of varities discussed

Some perennial onions I have never heard of!

How to grow shallots by one of my favourite veggie info blogs: Vegetable Garden Tips

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas fellow plant bloggers


For those of you dreaming of a white christmas.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Overwintering peppers - another blog!

I love garden experimenters and here is one who grows peppers in a polytunnel year-round in France:

Mas du Diable

They have a beautiful blog, property and site! (Can I move there with you guys?)

My peppers

Currently, my peppers are fighting off a small infestation of aphids! I have been giving them weekly sprayings of mild soapy water and then washing them off but still the critters remain. They are concentrated on the weaker 'long cayenne' plant. Let us call that 'the fall guy'. The fatali is almost unaffected.

According to at least one site, I should let them drip dry with the soapy solution on them? I have been rinsing them off pretty quickly. I think I'll leave the soap on longer next time.

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Hello in there little peppers. The white stuff at the foreground is you guessed it, the smoothering white of winter. I mean snow.


More on Aphids on indoor Pepers at Urban Chiles

Where are you coldframe?

This picture goes out to Gardinista (blog worth a visit - north of north gardening), who had the audacity to claim that Ottawa did not have serious winters!!

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The path we dug out for the post man.

Here is the path to the coldframes... By the way, the snow is at about 3 ft!!!! - insert appropriate unhappy sound as you imagine yourself over knee deep in snow as you go to empty your compost.

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To all you people that wanted a white christmas, enough already!

Note that you have to dig down to get to the snowframe... I mean coldframe.

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I hate to see how high the snow cliffs will climb by the end of the season around this 2ft. coldframe.

I punctured the plastic peaked polytunnel thingy, normally known as the spaceship, around here. Reason to make sure that you didn't bring the metal tipped snow shovel with you! Taping was not an option as it is too cold for the glue to stick so I stuffed plastic bags in the rips which seems to have solved the problem for now.

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You might be able to make out the white plastic bags from the snow.

But I know you are wondering is there really anything green and unfrozen in there?

Ummm... sort of?

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Packed with 2inches of leaves (not enough)

The Kholrabi leaves weren't entirely frozen. In fact, they felt quite healthy and leathery yesterday so today I harvested it for you - A big old hunk of ice.

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Would you like some Kholrabi cubes with that drink?

Leaves in pretty good condition, swollen stem, frozen. It did not taste too bad though. When I de-thawed it in hot water, it had the texture of frozen carrots. I would throw it in a soup or stew.

The frost seemed to come from the ground which is a problem I have been having with my season extension project and is why I have a new project: the ground insulated polytunnel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Storage Veggies - celariac

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This odd vegetable is called celariac and is as the name suggests related to celery. It has a swollen stem which stores well into the winter, or so I'm told. This is the first year I try it and right now it is piled in the same box with the parsnips that survived the wrath of the cutworm. I had intended on brining in a box of turnips and carrots too but the ground froze quickly and I wasn't able to fully pack down my 'leaf frame' (think cold frame with leaves) in time. Anyhow, they should overwinter for food in the spring. The same lack of time this year meant I hastily stored my roots in plain old garden soil which you aren't supposed to do but it has worked for me every single time I've tried this technique.

My experiment so far:
In storage

Sweet Potatoes (cool, not cold after curing) - keeping well
Celariac (cold room, above freezing) - keeping well
Parnips (cold room, above freezing) - keeping well
Jeruselum Artichokes (experimental storage in soil in cold room) - keeping well
Squash (dry, room temperature) - keeping well
Tomatillos (dry, room temperature in husks) - keeping well
Tomatoes, winterkeeper (dry, room temperature) - a little whizened but still good
Potatoes - We ate most of them...
Onions - gone, must grow more
Garlic (dry, room temperature) - keeping well
Kale (outside getting chilly) - still tasty in soup
Dried beans and peas (dry, cool) - excellent
Turnips and carrots - in frozen ground but usually fine
Cabbage (fridge) - excellent
Beets - last I checked some were in good condition - the leaves were not frozen - in my spaceship (hoophouse thingy)

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hey what's with the long period between posts?

I admit it. I've been cheating. I have another blog. But I still love gardening. Really. It's just not very inspiring now under two feet of snow. And well, the other blog is so new and exciting and why don't I just introduce you:

Left School

Yes, it's a homeschool blog but not just any. No, it's secular and lefty and new! So if you have no interest whatsoever in checking out this other subject matter, fear not. I will be plant crazy before long.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ottawa Welcomes Winter.

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My mother has moved to Gabriola Island off the coast of Vancouver Island's sheltered gulf side. I'm sure when she sees this, she will still feel the shiver of Ontario winter down her back but then she'll look out her window to the dew sparkled evergreens and know that in February there will be daffodiles.

And she will tell me about them.

I know she will.

It's a tradition in our family. Retire. Live in BC. Call the children buried under snow to ask if their bulbs are up yet. No? Oh right, you live in winterland.

Welcome to winterland fellow bloggers.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Harvested my Jeruselum Artichokes

We've had some hard frosts now so I've started digging out the root crops that I plan on using or storing in ernest now.

Up came the parsnips, some turnips to the chagrin of my hubby, carrots and beets. Most of these I leave in the ground under a coldframe and mulch. Carrots, at any rate, overwinter here without any significant protection, just a pile of leaves. The disadvantage is that you can't dig them up when there is three feet of frozen dirt.

I also yanked my celariac (a subject for another post) and my Jerusalum Artichokes:

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Jerusalum Artichoke tubers with a shovel for scale

I had so many that I was guilty of leaving bags of them on some of my neighbour's door knobs. Now, I know that some of these people have tasted JAs before, but for some they were mighty puzzled until I gave them a phone call to explain.

For those of you that don't know, in the summer, this relative of the sunflower produces Jack-in-the-Beanstalk sized stems topped with tiny weeny yellow flowers at the very end of the season. Their energy expenditure (besides going into producing these massive stalks) goes into producing knobbly, crispy, white, and tasty tubers.

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Jerusalum Artichoke blackened by frost.

The first time I tasted them, I 'liked' them but was a bit surprised as I had not had anything quite like them and I will not try to describe them to you either. They can be used in much the same way as potatoes, but unlike this starchy tuber, the crisp JA can aslo be used raw in salads or for dipping.

But the best thing about this plant is that it is hard to kill, easy to grow, relatively pest free, nutritious and perennial. Oh and it contains a starch called inulin is save for diabetics (though some say it causes wind). Why doesn't anyone grow it?

Did I mention that it was hard to kill? Any tuber left in the ground will sprout and it is hard to get all of them. Some people curse this plant if they discover it left to romp unattended by previous owners especially as it is a descent screen but not a particularly decorative plant:

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Jerusalum Artichoke - aka the Jack in the Beanstalk plant (credit to my neighbour for the nickname. She says she stares at it while washing dishes)

It does not store as well as other tubers, but can be kept a while (a month, two, accounts vary) in a moist, cool environment. I usually roast and puree mine then freeze to add to stews etc... Besides, depending on the year, it is diggable from September to November and then again from March to May so those are just JA seasons.

A pest for every plant

Okay, so it really is a great plant. Only I was a bit dissapointed to note that I had some root maggots. I would have looked for them but I hadn't expected to see them in this noted pest free plant. At any rate, they are easy to remove. Let's hope they are not too much of a pest next year.

Plant it and they will come...


JA growing page
Mapple Farms - Canadian Distributor

Monday, November 5, 2007

Garden gold, red, orange, brown...

Leaf Mulch

I decided this year that I would make leaf mulch. Normally, I put all my leaves in a pile to make leaf mould which is a great soil conditioner, and a nice mulch. However, it takes at least one year, if not more to make leaf mould.

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Front spiral garden

It is a very nice organic method, little energy use (mostly just yours as you rack them into the recepticle or pile), little waste. As most of us are plagued by the LAWN, we feel the need to remove most of the leaf litter to maintain the falsehood of a mowed meadow instead of a forest clearing. Psst - you can mulch leaves onto the lawn but I don't know to what quantity. I use this fact as an excuse for not removing every last leaf. Anyhoo -

There is another way of using your leaves as mulch - the impatient way.

Instructive Instructions

Step 1: Use lawn mower to bag up the last cutting of grass and leaves.
Step 2: Dump bagged or racked leaves onto your driveway
Step 3: Run over leaves with a lawnmower until they shredded into small pieces
Step 4: Apply a thin layer to perennial beds as mulch
Step 5: Use as insulation around tender plants
Step 6: Smile at the odd looks of neighbours.

A Conversation with Neighbours

I didn't have enough leaves for all my gardens so I got some off my neighbours. They were bemused? confused?

Me: Hey there. Saw you raking like fiends yesterday.

Innocent Neighbour: We thought of tossing them over the bushes into the neighbour's yards but figured it would be better to bag them.

Me: Funny you should say that because I could use some leaves.

Innocent Neighbour: Really?

Me: Yeah, I'm making leaf mulch. (very important that you explain that aren't just leaving whole leaves on the beds to blow back into their yards). I am grinding them very small so they won't blow around as much.

Innocent Neighbour: Well we have a lot of leaves.

Me: Great.

Innocent Neighbour: I think there are 15 bags.

Me: I'm sure I could use it.

Innocent Neighbour: 15 bags.

Me: Super. When can I get them.

Innocent Neighbour: I'll open the garage

--Meanwhile, Innocent Neighbour's wife, whom we will call Unbelieving Neighbour came out. --

Unbelieving Neighbour: No, she doesn't.

Innocent Neighbour: I'm not kidding.

Me: No, really I want the leavs.

Unbelieving Neighbour: There are 15 bags!

Me: That should just be enough.

And now my beds are mulched.


Info on leaf mulch
Oak versus maple leaves and dandelion populations?
Making partly decomposed leaf mulch
More on leaf mulch - whole or shredded
Urban Leaf uses

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A frosty end
solanums versus brassicas

It looked like we might have had a November tomato, but 2 days before, frost hit.

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Black cherry tomatoes, various other tomatoes, and in the distance, eggplant all frost bitten

Sad, yes, but not to despair, I still have my cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, chinese cabbage, tatsoi, broccoli, rabe, as well as root crops and other greens.

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From foreground back: chinese cabbage, kale, and brussel sprouts

Caution Gardening 201
For the not quite novice, the forgetful, or the bored.

This is the tale of two vegetable families.

The solanums

These are warm weather lovers. They drink in the sun, and fear frost. With the exception of the potato, it is the fruit that we eat. They should be started between 6-8 weeks before the last frost date, eaten with gusto at the height of the season, and then bid farewell to at first frost in the fall.

For most neophyte table gardeners, tomatoes are at the top of the list of vegetables they grow. They are relatively easy and the taste fresh from a backyard garden is without comparison. I credit the growing requirements of the tomato as part of the reason that so few beginner gardeners are aware of the best practice for growing another group of veggies.

The brassicas:

Ah, delicious and very healthy brassicas, all are quite cold tolerant. Some are extremely hardy and will survive vicious winters in a cold frame, such as kale, tatsoi, and mustard greens. Others, require a bit more pampering but like purple sprouting broccoli, will happily overwinter in mild winter areas. Most, in fact, prefer cooler weather. Or, should I say, that to get the most out of the vegetable and prevent bolting, you need cool temperatures. For gardeners with a short growing season or little strong sun (because of fog or rain or both) or where it is rarely warm enough to grow a good beefstake tomato, these crops fill in the garden.

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Left to right, brassica, parnsips and parsley then dead solanums.

They can be put out when soil temperatures are still on the cool side. Under cloches, and coldframes, I started some fabulous savoy cabbage this year when we were still having light snowfalls. The quick growing brassicas, like short season cabbage, spring broccoli, and any of the leafy greens such as broccoli rabe and bok choy are great early season choices. If you don't have a coldframe, try pop bottle cloches.

Then mid-summer, start another crop of the quick growers to mature in the cool temperatures of fall. Many brassicas such as brussel sprouts and turnips, taste better after being bitten by a few frosts. Starches are converted to sugars to lower the freezing temperature of the vegetable so they are sweeter.

Even if you don't love these tasty treats (and how could you not LOVE BROCCOLI???), grow them just so that your garden doesn't look so sad after first frost.

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Long season purple cabbage beautiful contrasted with fall leaves, don't you think?


Coleman's Four Season Harvest
Fall Crops - tips on planting
Fall Crops - an equation
Virginia Tech - brassica growing tips

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saving annual seeds

Note to fellow gardeners (and self):

It's that time of year to share your seeds. Think of those annuals that could easily be mistaken for perennials because of their consistent tendencey to reseed themselves. You always have a supply of cosmos, more or less in the same spot, without even trying.

Instead of just enjoying the bounty, why not share? You know that come next year, you'll be spending some of your weeding time removing the crowded volunteers of calendula and alyssum anyhow so collect some of those extras as seeds to give to your fellow gardeners.

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Black lace elderberry intertwined with morning glory.

Note to self (and fellow gardeners):

Think of how much money seed companies are making on some of those seeds that your neighbour is ruthlessly weeding out and tossing on the compost pile. If it's touted as heritage, heirloom, open-pollinated, easy to grow, and re-seeding, heck someone you know may well grow it.

Here are some easy to collect favourites:

1. Cosmos
2. Morning Glory
3. Calendula - herb
4. False Sunflower - native
5. Poppies
6. Bachelor's Button
7. Nigella
8. German Chamomile - herb
9. Fennel - herb
10. Parsley - herb
11. Nicotinia
12. Cleome
13. Amaranth - herb
14. Orach - herb
15. Alyssum

There are lots more and your growing conditions may allow for more or less annuals to self seed. Let me know what works for you!


Seeds of Diversity - a network of seed savers, and information.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The October Tomato and frost watch 2007 - end game

So it's October. Halloween, pumpkins, colourful leaves and frost... Right?

Well in the normally chilly north of Ottawa, strange things have been happening with the weather or should I say climate. At any rate, after a slow start to last winter where it didn't really snow until JANUARY!!!, they are predicting temps in the upper twenties (Celcius for you nonconformist Americans) this weekend.

I not only have one October tomato, but many, enough for sauce and salad. Not only that but the peppers are rebudding and the eggplants are still going strong. I would show you pictures but my camera is on the fritz.

According to some, the average first frost is October 5th which would make this an average year (the weather network is showing frost possible around the 9th of October), but it sure feels unusual as I throw on my sandals and summer dress. Perhaps it's not so much the lack of frost as the balmy weather that has me thinking, which means googling.

According to The Weather Network, a normal for this time of year is 16C. It was 25C yesterday. The record is 27C in 1950. Just be thankful it isn't 1975 when it was -1C.

Get out there and garden but remember the frost is on the pumpkin some time next week!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reheading cabbage - proof

Remember when I told you that if you cut off the head of your cabbage but left the plant in the ground that it will rehead? Remember?

And remember how you said to yourself, whatda know... but didn't really believe me? Or believed me but didn't bother to do it yourself?

Well check it out:

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You should be able to see four or five mini-cabbages in this picture.

Here's a close up of one and my rather large, rather mannish hand.

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Perfect little side dishes.


The before post

Overwintering hot peppers - sunny season closing

The hot pepper plants will need to come in out of the cold soon so I've dug them up and repotted them in a pot that gave room for their rootballs to expand. Despite this insult, they haven't so much as shaken off a leaf.

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Caribbean red and fatali, both habaneros, I believe.

The fatali (with yellow fruit) is doing fabulous this year (year 2) and according to my neighbour is hot HOT HOT. How hot? Let's relive the conversation.

Me: "Do you like hot food?"

Neighbour: "Oh yeah, I love hot food."

Me: "I had quite the harvest of jalapenos this year."

Neighbour: "I don't find them too hot. Just a bit spicey."

Me: "I have a couple of really hot ones. A caribean red one and fatali."

Neighbour: "I've heard of that one."

Me: "Yeah? Want to try one?"

Neighbour: "Sure."

I go and get a fatali, gingerly, wrapping my shirt around it.

Me: "Here you go."

Neighbour: "Thanks." He starts to take a bite.

My face tenses but before I can say maybe you want to cook with it or something - too late.

Neighbour:"Oh yeah, it's hot. Woah. Yeah hot. Wow. That's hot. Ah. I have to go to the backyard now..."

So I guess it's hot.

Here are my jalapenos (also hot).

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Jalapenos with stretch marks

My long red cayennes are also in their second year but the top halves have died off. You can see the small one in the foreground.

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Hot peppers potted up for overwintering indoors, including long red cayenne.

Unlike the fatali, they were kept in irregularly watered pots all summer so I wonder if drought caused them to die back. Also, unlike the fatali that produced one crop, the cayennes produced several all summer. I'll re-pot them and see how they do this winter.


Info on the Scoville Heat Scale for hot peppers

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sweet, sweet potato success for northern growers!

Unlike the unicorn, the bermuda triangle or the possiblity of sasqwatch in the woods, this is one tall tale, that I can verify to be true:

You can grow sweet potatoes in the north

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Variety: Jeorgia Jet supplied by Mapple Farms.

Or, at least, you can grow 'em in Ottawa. Here's is my adventure, in pictures, complete with a sweet ending:

1. I received my much awaited for package of sweet potato slips in the mail from Mapple Farms. They were limp and sad, as expected, but I planted them with great hope in my pre-warmed bed with plastic mulch.

2. The cutworms got two of my plants. Bottomless plastic cups solved the problem.

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3. They grew into nice little plants.

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4. And grew.

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5. Until they mulched their own garden bed. Good little sweeties.

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6. Frost has been threatened on and off on the longterm forcast but nothing yet. I decide to harvest on September 14th.

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7. Look at these beaties!

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8. I was really surprised by the size and number of them. Notice the latex dripping out of this one.

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9. This one wasn't so pretty but it was huge.

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10. There was some pitch fork damage so I had to cook those up for dinner tonight (or at least that's the story I'm sticking too). Yum!

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Now I just have to make sure that I cure them properly. My husband thinks it's unreasonable to keep the house at 80 degree celcius for 5 days. I've taken to wrapping a tray in a winter blanket (with a air vent), in a plastic laundry bag, with a frequently heated water bottle in a warm room. Let's hope that'll be enough. I'll let you know.

Spend Sweet Potato Vine:

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Hortiphilia Fact

Sweet Potato Greens

According to Ken Allan's fabulous book on growing sweet potatoes, listed below, you can eat sweet potato greens though this will cut back on tuber production.

Heck, here's another one since it's been awhile.

Hortiphilia Fact

Make Sweet Potato Cuttings

Instead of composting your old vines, like me, take healthy cuttings from the tips of the vines and root them up in water (they may already have some roots on them if they were sprawling on the ground). Pot them up and plant them next year. This is a great idea for ornamental sweet potatoes too.


Sweet Potato book for northern growers
Mapple Farm: Supplier of Georgia Jet slips, and more.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Season Finale, an ongoing post

I'm not sure what's more attractive:

The fall flower fave's

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or these gorgeous collards

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Season closing part 1 - soil warming

What worked and what didn't in the veggie patch:

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Eggplants and peppers were out of this world this year. Seriously, the eggplants performed like zucchini. And like those most notorious of vegetables, I felt like standing at the edge of the drive with armfuls saying, "please take some." Unfortunately, they also share the fact that not everyone is crazy about them (like me.)

Previous years, I have had adequate success with hot peppers but very poor luck with eggplants or sweet peppers.

I have now learned to use a technique called soil warming. This involves covering the soil with clear plastic about 2 weeks or more before planting - I use vapour barrier - and cutting holes in to plant. Seriously, the contrast is between getting a couple mishapen fruit to huge, healthy plants loaded with fruit. This year was not more ideal than most either. It was all down to this fantastic techique. See my demonstration earlier in the year.

Thanks again Ken Allan

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The 'other' edible relatives of the tomato

So most of us veggie gardeners already know that potatoes, eggplants and peppers are related to the glorious tomato but these are just the frequently talked about relatives.

The tomato has other family members rarely mentioned in dinner table conversation.

Let me introduce you to some of them:

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Tomatillo plant

This is the tomatillo. Best known as an ingredient in salsa verde. Used thus, it is wonderful but I also like to eat them out of hand when the husks turn yellow. They have a fleshy fruity taste with an edge of tartness that is difficult to describe. The green tomatillo, in my garden, doesn't need supplemental watering and grows in an open but sprawling habit.

Ground cherries are also grow in a papery packaging. They are delicious little berries used fresh, in perserves or even pies. I grew Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry this year and found that it was an extremely prostrate plant, one could even describe it as a ground cover. The yellow berries are eaten when completely ripe. This is when they turn bright yellow and fall off the plant. You can store them in their husks for a perid of time (the amount differs depending on what you read) but let's say a couple weeks.

Lastly, we have sunberries (not garden huckleberries). Perhaps the most contraversial family member. Why did I specify that they were not garden huckleberries? I suspect that would require an entire post to explain but in short:

Luther Burbank bred the sunberry in the early 1900s but critics charged him with re-introducing the garden huckleberry. I don't have experience with the latter but understand that it is only palatable after lots of sugar has been added. However, sunberries are very tasty eaten right off the plant. Here's my problem with them. Everyone warns you to only eat the ripe berries. The unripe ones and all other parts of the plant are poisonness (you shouldn't eat potato fruit or tomato leaves or... this family only gives certain parts up for consumption). Well, I have two small children who routinely eat green tomatoes and strawberries so shouting at them every time they are near the sunberry patch to only eat the purple ones is a bit exhausting. My youngest did eat a couple green ones and seemed completely unaffected by the way.

Also they are a bit time consuming to harvest because but no more so than blueberries. On the plus side, they are early and productive. Oh and they taste great in apple crumble.


How to make ground cherry pie

Mapple Farms, my supplier of sunberry and tomatillo, as well as rare tubers including short season sweet potato.

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

How to grow a cabbage as big as your head

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Or at least as big as my niece's head.

1. Start way too optimistically early - like March, under lights.

2. Transplant in a 18 inch square space, ammended by half frozen manure, when you are still getting snowstorms even though you know that you should wait until it is reliably 7C outside at night or warmer (but not too warm).

3. Cover with little cloches and fret alot.

4. Figure there's no way these guys are going to make it and start another batch in April. Pretend you planned this.

5. Forget to water a lot.

6. Pick off cabbage worms, or better yet, do a little science project by bringing them indoors to watch them turn into butteflies. Lots of fun though releasing them does add to the pest population.

7. Wonder, when you get around to weeding, if they will ever be ready

8. Harvest first and second crop (both survived) and wonder in amazement that it actually worked again!

9. Be grateful for the joys of gardening.

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This cabbage has no lingering doubt when the spammers make comments about its size. Those holes on the outer leaves (the inner leaves were unblemished) are caused by an assortment of catepillars and slugs. But they left sooo much cabbage, I can't really complain.

Wait you really want to know how to grow great cabbages?

Veggie Gardening Tips is a blog full of great information about organic vegetable gardening and he's written a post to answer just this question!

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Overwintered Peppers - a sunny update

Perhaps, followers (humour me) of my overwintering pepper saga are curious what has happened to the darlings now that they have come out the other side of darkness and cold.

Well, fourty leaf fatali has a little surprise for us:

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The Recap:

To save you from searching through links to find out all about the excitement of fourty leaf fatali, let me tell you a tale.

Once upon a time, there was a man who was married to a plant crazed lady. She made him watch the children while she attended some excruiatingly boring seed event with a whole bunch of long haired organic types. He would have been dozing in the corner if it wasn't for their baby and toddler. To try and entertain the man, she suggested he pick out a hot pepper variety to grow.

He picked out fatali. The name, at the very least, sounded promising.

However, the plant proved to be anything but. It produced a ground total of 4 leaves the first year. Yes, four. Admittedly, it was smushed into a pot with two other peppers but that was only because the crazy plant lady assumed that the 2 leafed seedling was going to keel over at any minute when potting time arrived.

Well, crazy plant lady decided to try one of her crazy plant projects and brought the overcrowded pepper pot indoors for the looooooooooooooong Ottawa winter. She managed through much subtle negotiation to secure the coveted south window light for her babies. Noticing they looked unhappy in January, she repotted them. By this time, four leaf fatali had suprised her by turning into fourteen leaf fatali. Maybe it liked cold wintertime windows and low angled sun? It also produced buds, would it grow fruit? No such luck! The beds fell. The leaves started to look sad.

Crazy plant lady sighed.

But come spring, she stuck it in the garden in the designated hot pepper spot with what she presumed were others of its kind. Unfortunately, a wind storm had knocked over all her potted pepper babies and she had repotted them hastily, forgetting to make sure they were all labelled properly so Fatali is surrounded by sweet peppers.

Then fourty leaf fatali made more buds, and low and behold fruit!

More overwintered peppers

And my cayenne plants are producing their second crop. I think I'll try and overwinter some of the sweet varities this year.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Even more links on The First Tomato - an ode

How can us gardeners not but give praise to one of the highlights of the growing calender. The great and glorious moment when we realize that no it is not a red candy wrapper that was tossed under the tomato plant (like last time), but a ripe tomato.

The singing of the heart, the opening of the salivary glands, the writing of the blog entry.

Here is a quick review of my hastily collected but still wonderfully fun posts about the First Ripe Tomato:

I love the look of this variety on Dreams and Bones

A beautiful post with a beautiful tomato at My Grandpa's Garden

My Dutch Garden has written about some of the many challenges we tomato growers face but don't worry she still has a handful of tomatoes in her belly!

Garden Desk beats the crowd by picking this beauty on June 15th.

My Roots Run Deep showing that even vegetable wary children cannot resist the temptation!

Short and sweet (oh so sweet) on Fluffius Muppetus

May Dream Gardens gives her first beautiful tomato the royal treatment.

Another early bird with a harvest on July 6th at View from the Mountain

For a tomato of a different colour try Growing Thumbs Gardens who is actually growing tomatoes in this post. ;)

I love the light in the Inadvertant Gardener's photo, very spiritual.

More on tomato gold at Gotta Garden.

An interesting picture. I love the small plastic pig beside the perfect cherry tomato at the reluctant remodeler

Little bit about heirlooms, and a lot of tomato love at Geek Buffet

You Grow Girl harvested July 2nd... did they say Canada Day? Canadians. I'm jealous

The all important question of what to do with the first tomato is discussed by Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log.

I like the picture of this cherry by Richie Design.

More on my harvest schedule on Po Moyemu - In My Opinion.

No photo but I love How Mary's Garden Grows describes the other method of handling the first tomato - eat it immediately.

Down on the Allotment has ripe tomatoes too!

Bifucated Carrot has orange/red tomatoes to eat.

A subdued post on Skippy's Vegetable Garden.

I keep forgetting to add mine.

Do you have a ripe tomato? Share it by dropping me a link. I'm happy to edit (hee hee hee).

Bad Tomato Mommy take II
Green Thumb Sunday

You should always cage your tomatoes properly so that they have good air circulation which lowers the chance of disease, and keeps your fruit off the ground so that no critters take a bite, and frankily caged tomatoes take less space.

If you happen not to get around to doing this until later in the season, you may resort to less elegant solutions...

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... for example, smushing them together in an impromptu fence made of plastic trellis and parts of a plant stand... you might do this... but you shouldn't.

P.S. The tomatoes did recover but next year, I vow not to bother with those puny so called tomato cages. My robust babies need better support.

Want to see more tomato abuse?

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Maplelawn Gardens

Maplelawn is a lovely walled cottage garden to visit in Ottawa.

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A sunny border with liatrus, daylily, false sunflower, bellflower 'bluechips', poppy, and more

The colour scheme is exuberant to say the least but never does it jar the eye. The tireless volunteers in this old time garden have ensured a full season of gorgeous bloom.

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Blanket flower

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Veronica (speedwell)

None of the old time favourites are left out.

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Garden phlox

And every knock and cranny is crammed with plants:

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Hens and chicks

If you live in the area and love gardening, check it out!

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Snowball hydrangea hedge