Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Purple cabbage and bolting lettuce (random picture).*

Okay, I luv ya garden bloggers, really. I love the mega popular blogs with their 54 comments which are a blog post in themselves. I love the obscure subject garden blogs with their on-point discussion and well researched posts (not to say that the former can't be the latter too). I love the meandering blogs which dabble in a little knitting and stray to posts about dogs romping in the snow. I love you all from the funny to the serious, to the constantly updated to the infrequently written BUT

I can't read them all!

There are just so many that I think I am developing blog-blindness. I try to scale down my reading so that it is manageable but I just have to leave an encouraging comment on that neglected blog with no comments that has fantastically written posts. I have to read the latest on Empress of Dirt and her 'Snow Punnies.' I am deadly curious how much gardening Heavy Petal is going to get up to with the baby on the way - I hope lots -, or what Bifucated Carrot is going to uncover on his wonderfully political organic gardening seed saving blog. But there is more, what will Crafty Gardener create, what story will Kate Smudges in Earth, Paint and Life tell us and what will A Study in Contrast find in her garden?

Oh and, of course, there is Blooming Writer who is in the process of writing something, something about blooms? A book perhaps? What will it be about? I'll have to read and wait. And... and will My Grandpa's Garden's jellybeans sprout? Will Northern Exposure ever have snowdrops ;-)? Seeded has discovered winter sowing, will it work out? How can The Gardeners Anonymous blog make me jealous with her glorious garden today? Is Growing Thumbs really growing thumbs? How deep exactly do My Roots Run Deep go? Will May Dreams Garden find her microclimate crocus soon? Will Root Cause make me want to grow another obscure veggie?

There are more and if I didn't mention you, shame on me but please forgive me. It's the blog blindness setting in again.


*Why did you stick a picture of lettuce and cabbage in this post that clearly has nothing to do with lettuce and cabbage? What if I was really interested in interplanting late season brassicas with fast maturing lettuce and wanted some information about it? Or what if I wanted to know what varities (mammoth red rock, four seasons lettuce, I think) you were growing that had such wonderful colours? Hey, did you ever think of that you trickster blogger? What were you trying to do, get me to come to your blog because of the picture?

Yes. Some searchable places (Blotanical), use pictures in their summaries and well, sometimes you are scanning really fast and ... Thanks for visiting?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dreaming of the Garden

Memories of sunny time.

So I woke up wondering if I had really gone to the nursery and bought all those seeds and then I realized that it was just a really vivid gardening dream. I have been reading incessantly about gardening again which surprises me as in October I had 'gardener's exhaustion' and was almost looking forward to the long white winter rest. Not so anymore, it pains me to see all these posts about snowdrops. Here are merely a few that I have stumbled across:

The Green Fingered Photographer
Heavy Petal

Perhaps I should start a meme cataloguing when we all get our first snowdrops (if we even get them). Then we could map us out: BC (Heavy Petal) - Jan... and so on. In Ottawa, I think it's sometime close to April...

On a positive note, my hubby found a whole bunch of garden pics that I hadn't uploaded. Even 'he' - who cringes when people bring up the subject of plants in my company - said "Isn't it amazing how colourful it is?" Here are a couple to remind me that the world can be more than Black, White and Brown.

Veggie Garden in full glory


Newly installed garden with a Yellow Rose


Mums in Fall




Helenium in the spiral garden


Basil Seed Bracts


Gifted Dahlia (plantcycle)


Bellflower - you've seen it before but I wanted to end on a cool note...


Isn't colour wonderful?

So if you read this send me your snowdrop pics, I'll make a file (sigh). I'm sure to be interested until the end of bulb season.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Greens - what to plant & what not to plant...


Gorgeous collards, two varities though I am not sure which is which.

... that is the question on this series of posts. See:



What a HUGE vegetable subject this is. Human Beings seem to be willing to sink their teeth into a whole botanical ecosystem of greenery. I will try and do my best to catalogue all I know about what grows in the north (here), what I am growing next year, and what I have resigned not to grow again. I am not including those that are only grown as 'herbs.' That is the subject of another post.

Perennial Greens:

French Sorrel - This year, I've decided to go for it after hearing all these tales of delicious lemony sorrel soup in spring. It will also tolerate some shade. YES (I will grow it)

Bloody Dock (red veined sorrel)- This sounds a bit tough for me but hey what do I know, I've never grown it. It appears in The Urban Farmer's garden of delights. MAYBE?

Lovage (borderline 'green', more of a herb) - I have grown this plant for several years and find its semi-shrub habit and deep green, cut leaves quite attractive. I also love the flavour in soups and stews. Some people eat this celery relative raw but I find the taste a bit too strong. Interestingly, it smells almost like chicken stock. Another plant that doesn't mind a bit of shade. YES

Chicory - The chicories (unlike endives) are perennial and I have lots of anecdotal evidence of friends and relatives (often italian) who grow it year upon year. I am still waiting for signs of life in those that I've been growing in my spaceship - recent pic here. I'll keep you posted. YES

Rocket / arugula - Apparently, perennial, but I'm not sure how hardy it is. YES

Salad Burnet - Ordered the seed for this from Salt Spring Seeds. I'll let you know. YES

Stingy Nettles - I don't grow these myself, nor have any volunteered for me, nor have I ever eaten stiny nettles but I hear good things!

Good King Henry - My seed arrived. It is a spinach relative, whose shoots are eaten in early spring. It is sometimes referred to as poor man's asparagus. Most of the time, people say it tastes great, but Carol Deppe in 'Breed your own vegetables' says her plant tastes awful. She suggests that there might be a lot of variation in this uncommon vegetable and that you should try more than one seed source before giving up on plants like this. YES

Asparagus - Actually a young shoot but I'm including it (even though I do intend on doing an 'all stems' post) I don't grow it because I don't have a convinient spot to grow enough for our family's needs. Apparently, someone has planted it nearby in Ottawa. Must go a-foraging.

SeaKale - Another plant mostly eaten for its spring shoots, I've gotten mixed messages on whether or not this is hardy in Ottawa, but I'm going to try it anyhow. An old time Ottawa Garden writer grows it so I figure, it's possible. YES

Chickweed - Well, it might taste good I suppose but it's on my 'haven't tried it yet' list. I am friendly to this week so I guess I grow it so ... YES

Scorzonera - I'm awaiting the seeds. This is something without a seed source (that I could find) in Canada but with some impressive mentions by the authors of 'Perennial Vegetables,' and 'Breed your own Vegetables Varities.' Though it is commonly thought of as a root crop, I guess the leaves in the spring taste almost like lettuce, and it's perennial (though once again, I've read very conflicting information on how hardy it is). Hope it works for me! YES

Grape Leaves - I love seasoned rice stuffed grape leaves! YES

Fiddle Head Ferns - Another delicacy that no one has cooked for me (including myself). If you have a shady spot, this plant is a great idea.

Mint - Is this a green, a herb, a tea plant, desert? I don't braise it, but I certainly use it in salads including cous cous.



Good old purslane, the wild variety, ready for harvest, with some green orach leaves (large) in the background, also coriander, chokecherry, 'black lace' elderberry in the picture.

Cold Hardy

Mache / Corn Salad / Lamb's Lettuce - This is definitely cold hardy, it's still sloooooooowly growing in my spaceship, and it has reseeded nicely for me. So nice, I didn't have to thin it or anything. YES

Claytonia - My first crop failed so I'll have to order more seeds and try again. YES

Giant Red Mustard (motherearthnews) - I am excited about trying this piquant braising green, especially now that I know it reseeds. YES

Arugula / Rocket (motherearthnews) - The native is perennial so is of more interest to me and I hear it also reseeds. YES

Parsley - I include this as a green because I use it so heavily in sauces and pesto that it is nearly a vegetable. It reseeds prolifically for me every year. It is extremely cold hardy in a coldframe as well. YES

Warm Season

Amaranth - Related to the common garden pest pigweed has some lovely vegetable relatives including a tri-varigated variety. It can also be grown for its nutritious seeds. I have grown the weed before. It definitely reseeds so I have no cause to doubt the cultivated variety won't reseed as well. The problem would be with the varities crossing (if you didn't want that). I know that the ornamental reseeds as well. I'm growing a grain variety this year though some of those vegetable ones look lovely.

Orach - A reseeder related to spinach that doesn't mind warm weather but is sometimes described as a cool season crop. I grew lime green, green and red orach last year. This year, I plan on trying just the red and purple varities. It is quite ornamental in seed. YES

Beetberry - I have yet to have this seed work for me but there is always next year. Another relative of spinach which produces bland red berries as well. YES

Wild purslane - Well this certainly reseeds. Pull out the baby plants and pop them into your salad. They are full of essential fatty acids. Grow again? Um, I have no choice. YES

Magenta Spreen lamb's quarters - A relative of lamb's quarters. Oh yes, reseeds too. It has a pretty pink blush to the giant leaves. Grow again? I have enough regular lamb's quarters around that I don't need to grow this too.


Cold Hardy

Various lettuce, weeds (oops), radish flowers, and some onions for good measure.

Herb Stella / Minutina / Buckshorn Plantain - This was quite a tasty herb even when it was a bit aged. I will try it again next year. YES

Lettuce - I don't have great luck with the heading varities and this year I am only going to grow loose leaf types but next year, I'll try the headers again. Often it will reseed in my garden though I've not tried to baby these seedlings in the coldframe to see if they come back. My favourite loose leaf types are the ubiquitous 'salad bowl,' and 'oak leaf'. At any rate, worth growing for the seed because they are inbreeders, which means that they (most of the time) come true from seed, even when starting with a small population (small amount of plants) in close proximity to other varities. YES

Spinach - I am growing so many relatives of spinach that I'm not entirely sure why I'm gorwing htis but I love spinach and it is wonderful to see a field of it where I will grow warm season crops in the near future. YES

Endive - The annual version of Chicory. Yup, I'll try it again, mabye this year I'll get a crop. YES

Kale (see brassicas, coming soon to this blog) - I love love love Kale. My favourite variety is Semi Dwarf Westlandse. It seems hardier than the famous Red Russian that is still alive, but unhappy in my spaceship. YES

Chard - I am amazed at the variety of temps this will grow at. Again, it was flavourable in the height of summer and in the depths of winter inside the spaceship. I am going to try a slightly different variety called Bietina. YES

Beet Tops (also included in the roots section) - I grow this incidentally as thinnings of my beets. YES

Turnip Greens (also included in the roots section) - These too are used as thinnings. YES

Cress - I think I'll try Land Cress (or have I already?) this year. YES

Oriental Greens - tatsoi, bok choy (these are brassicas as well) - I love the variety of wonderful flavours of these brassica greens and will definitely grow these again. I'll try a mix of these one year and give you my results. YES

Chrysanthanum / shungiku - intriguing but never tried them. They sure do look pretty in flower!

Chevril - I like this herb but it goes to seed too quickly for me.


Warm Season

Cultivated Purslane ('golden', 'tall') - I'm a bit scared of this given my friend the wild purslane but I am willing to give it a try as I hear it has superior flavour and browth habit. YES

Mizuna - Cold and warm hardy in my experience. YES

New Zealand Spinach - Never tried it what with the amaranth and the orach and the chard, I have no need.

Malabar Spinach - never tried it.

Curly Mallow (reseeder?) - My curiousity is piked. I wonder how regular mallow tastes.

Collards - I'll address these again in Brassicas but they are highly productive, extremely tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and delicious. I recommend that other people grow them but I am giving them a miss this year because they are huge plants and I already have a lot of greens. YES

Basil - Yup, this one too. Like Parsley. I even use this in sandwiches. Yum. YES


But there is more, oh so much more. This subject never ends. I've not mentioned some mexican greens such as Huauzontle and Epazote, stems such as Alexanders and Celery, Flowers such as Calendula and Daylily, other wild foods such as dandelion. We could go on, and please do. I always love to learn about something new!


Read a whole lot more about greens!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Garden Blogging and Photos

I've noticed that certain blog categories have more gorgeous photographs than others and garden bloggers really love their photos if they can take them. The sumptuous pictures of flowers and veggies, I think speak to the love of the sensual that many gardeners share - the sight, sound, smell, taste and touch of living world. My photos are mediocre compared to some of the art pieces I've encountered. Baby sprouts are as carefully lit as newborns, first blooms are bridal beautiful, and harvests are bright and proud. They are big in detail and intimate even at a distance.

Thanks garden bloggers!

Urban Farming - cold style (part I)

Okay, nearly everytime I look up 'urban farm' I am brought to lovely sites of west coast gardens where they dance happily in the eternal greenery of spring time. That's not to say there aren't brave urban farmers in more northern, central locations such as initiatives like foodshare in Toronto but they seem to be fewer and farther between.

Overwintered Fatali hot pepper (was in my window sill) with a Caribbean habanero.

Perhaps it is just natural that the embarrasing riches of urban edibles occured first and most frequently to those who lived in such lush climes. Or maybe it is the history of 'free spirits' that roam the coastal paradise. Whatever it is, I say let us in 'parka* land' not be outdone!
*A parka is a very well insulated coat used to prevent you from freezing your bums off - literally.

Large coldframe / polytunnel type thing.

We too can BAN THE LAWN.

Now I know this sounds like one of those things that is easy to dream about but more difficult to do. Not that it is hard, really it's quite easy. I can provide anyone who needs it with detailed instructions... but it is difficult to overcome the barriers of normalicy to allow yourself to start killing off the bowling field of green.

Overlit picture (sorry) of cosmos growing around a very productive though young Montreal Plum in the front yard mini-orchard.

I too have my limitations. Let me call them Neighbours, Family, and Time and Enjoyment.

Lavender hedge with a cabbage patch just behind it in what will be a raspberry patch. I got lots of puzzled looks about the cabbage, even some compliments such as 'What is that purple plant - some sort of floweirng kale?'

Neighbours: "What will they think?"

If you landscape your frontyard mini orchard or decorative veggie garden nicely and keep it weeded, they will be curious, maybe even impressed. If you give a huge grinny smile everytime they pass by, and start handing out tomatoes, they may start to think you're kooky but grow darn tasty produce. If you keep it up for years, skipping merrily down the street with armfuls of excess green beans and mint flowers, they might get thinking that they too could do something of the sort.

Centre of my mini-orchard spiral garden in the front. As the semi-dwarf /dwarf trees grow, perennials will be thinned, changed or given away.

If you garden in your backyard then it's your little secret isn't it? Unless of course, you're inclined to do the aforementioned skipping.

Rugosa rose produces lots of edible rosehips with diablo ninebark, a cultivar of a native.

Family: "Where will the kids play?"

Sigh. This is my life - balancing the supposed needs for my children to dash around on a green surface, my husband's need for something restful and decorative and my need to overthrow the lawn. If you have a big enough yard, this should not be a problem. Give them half and keep half for growing veggies. And remember, gardens are great places to play.

Not my garden but a heritage cottage garden nearby. That's my little seedling though.

If you have a very small garden, then you might need to get more persuasive. I suggest you start small, really small and quietly expand year upon year as you re-cut the edges of your garden bed. -hee hee hee- (Note to husband: No, this is a suggestion for other people. I never, ever do such a thing. Really.)

Chufa grass which produces edible tubers, backed with beebalm and lemon balm, flanked with germon chamomile (the last three make great teas), and on the other side by my husbands garden with some ornamentals. P.S I'm not convinced by this pink / red combo - plants shall be moved.

As for time, I understand not wanting to take on too much and that gas powered lawnmower or landscaping company makes short work of a large space. However, a well mulched garden can be less work than you think. Start with a garden patch filled with perennial edibles and herbs and see how you like it. You may find that pulling the occasionally weed out of your decorative rock garden filled with sense sensational herbs far more satisfying than running the lawnmower.

I love the fact that the garlic is bigger than my toddler!

Time and Enjoyment: "But I like flowers!"

So do I which is why I suggest that you allot a percentage of your yard to the decorative. There are lots of flowers that can attract pollinators, give a habitat to local wildlife, and ward off or trap pests, which also are great to look at. The more visible your garden, and the more you are worried about Neighbours, the higher your percentage can be. Make sure you choice decoratives adapted to your region and microclimates. If you plan on mostly relying on rainfall to irrigate your garden and you don't get a lot of it, then use drought resistant plants. Native plants often fit the bill but if you want to maintain planting spaces for your edibles, be sure to choice plants that won't take over your garden!

Rhubarb planted with columbine, lupin, horseradish, violets (edible flowers), daylily, garlic in the front this year, and there is a row of Jeruselum Artichokes hiding just nearby.

Also, many useful tea and medicinal plants are darn pretty to look at. Think 'cottage garden'.


Part II - Perennial vegetables and season extension for the north - coming soon.

Backyard vegetable garden, with a young blueberry patch just beyond it.


Sharing backyards in urban Vancouver
Wading Pool Gardens - for those without a dirt space.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fresh produce from the garden in Jan!!

Thanks to the builders in 1959 who put a cold room - cellar - under the front steps.

Parnip, celariac, golden rooted turnips and a sweet potato (georgia jet)

All of this produce came from my garden!! It was all kept downstairs in easy and cozy reach, and it made up the bulk of our dinner.

I have good intentions on storing my vegetables in sand or leaf mold but I didn't have either two immediably handy when I harvested the crops, so I packed them in shallow containers in dirt. Yup, ordinary garden dirt. This has been successful for me so far. I try to cover the vegebales parts that would normally be underground, completely, like the roots of the celariac and carrots, leaving the tops tilted up if I can. I do this to emulate normal overwintering conditions. To maintain humidity, I occasionally sprinkle water on the dirt, but I have also put bowls of water in the room.

Gardening 201:

Remember that different vegetables like different conditions but don't get carried away. If you only have one spot to store them, then store what would like it in that spot and don't fret too much if your other vegetables aren't perfect. Eat those that won't store well first. Those that are whizened etc... will probably taste great cooked. At least, they'll probably taste heaps better than what you could buy at the supermarket!


Basement root cellar
Vegetables to store in a cellar, conditions and a discussion cellar types