In the garden: pleasant surprises.

I finally finished my garden clean up this past weekend.  I don’t have perennial beds at our new home; my new garden space is a combination of containers on the balcony and a plot at the nearby community garden. Clean up was easy: I had no issues with diseases with my container plants so all the soil was dumped into a large covered tote and left on the balcony for use next season, and the pots were all scrubbed and put into indoor storage so they don’t freeze and crack.  Clean up at the community garden was also a cinch: our garden committee encourages members to leave plants in place and chop and drop them in the spring.  (I am a huge fan of this! Keeping the dried plants in place over winter helps prevent a bit of soil crusting, as the garden is fully exposed during chinook winds and freeze and thaw cycles. The plants may also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and the sunflowers in some of the other plots may be useful for hungry birds).  I did pull the pumpkin and zucchini plants, as they were beset with a vicious case of powdery mildew.

My garlic is planted at the community garden and mulched and hopefully snug for the winter, and I sunk a large container of alpine strawberries into the raised bed there in the hopes that they might survive. (I don’t have any in-ground spaces like I used to).  I’ll winter sow some more strawberry seeds outside in early March as insurance.

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I haven’t had a lot of time to review this year’s gardening season.  It was a challenging one, as far as the weather was concerned. Spring wasn’t gradual and wet; instead, we were blasted out of the gate with mid-summer-like heat and no rain.  Some direct-sown seeds refused to germinate, even with supplemental irrigation. Our summer was hot and filled with forest fire smoke, and we had a couple of severe hailstorms that handily trashed plants in mere seconds.  Many gardeners I talked to fought multiple insect infestations, but aside from the cutworms early in the season, I was fortunate in that regard. And then, just as everyone was still hoping their pumpkins would ripen on the vine and they would get some tomatoes that were a colour other than green, we were hit with two weeks of snowfall and bitter cold in September.

One pleasant surprise in my garden (besides these) were the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew for the first time.  The plants are pretty, resembling some of our common vetches so much that I thought perhaps I’d get in trouble for harbouring weeds.  The deer find them attractive, as well, which definitely reduced the quantity I was able to harvest.  Compared to some of my other plants, the lentils didn’t seem to require much care – a regular watering schedule was the most important thing, and they made it through the heat better than my sweet peas and sugar peas.

I quickly realized that the timing of harvest is critical with lentils.   The pods must be picked when they are dry, but if you wait too long (a scant few minutes, it seems!), they shatter, blasting the seeds across the soil or the entire garden or into the parking lot in the street adjacent.  I swear I could hear them pinging off the streetlights before I got to them.  😉  I still managed to collect enough to enjoy a decent snack (this recipe is easy to prepare and delicious!).

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Were there any pleasant surprises in your garden this growing season? What about any old favourites that were once again reliable?

And the winner is….

As promised, this morning I am announcing the winner of Charles Dowding’s book Veg Journal!  Congratulations to Sheila Creighton!  Sheila, please email me at the address listed on my contact page and send along your mailing address so I can get the book out to you this week.  Thank you so very much to everyone who entered the contest!

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Book review: Countertop Gardens by Shelley Levis.

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Countertop Gardens: Easily Grow Kitchen Edibles Indoors for Year-Round Enjoyment – Shelley Levis (2018, Cool Springs Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA, Minnesota)

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that we have teeth-chatteringly, bone-chillingly long winters here in Alberta.  Six months isn’t an overstatement, and it can stretch even further than that on occasion.  Accordingly, our growing season is short (and often brutal).  Planting outdoors is a challenge…one that we never back down from but occasionally must grin and bear.  Given the vagaries of gardening in our climate, growing edible plants indoors is a very tempting option.  Yet…growing plants indoors isn’t foolproof – there are so many factors to consider, such as heat, humidity, light, and space.

Fortunately, Shelley Levis has come to the rescue for situations like this with Countertop Gardens! This indoor gardening manual is chockful of inspiration and ideas for turning your indoor living spaces into miniature edible gardens.  From microgreens to herb gardens to simple hydroponic systems, it’s all here.  And there are some surprises, as well: have you ever considered growing mushrooms, potatoes, gingerroot, or tomatoes in your kitchen?  Try them all using Levis’ tips!  She also examines some of the most popular grow-light countertop garden kits available on the market today and discusses ways to maximize their use – practical information whether you’re thinking of buying one or already own one.

Countertop Gardens is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to grow fresh food indoors all year ‘round – definitely a recommended read!

*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Countertop Gardens. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book review and giveaway: Veg Journal by Charles Dowding.

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Veg Journal: Expert No-Dig Advice, Month by Month – Charles Dowding – (2014, Frances Lincoln, The Quarto Group (Paperback 2017))

What a fun, yet practical little book!  Veg Journal boasts ample space to record notes and gardening to-do lists every week of the year, interspersed with beautiful photographs and detailed advice and tips on growing more than 35 edible crops, as well as how to tackle tasks such as composting, dealing with pests, and constructing a raised bed.  Although the book is written by a U.K. gardening expert, the information and the journal feature remains appealing for all readers, regardless of where they garden.

I am giving away a copy of Veg Journal!  If you are interested in winning it, please let me know in the comments below.  The contest is open now until midnight (MST) on Monday, September 10.  Giveaway is open to all.  I’ll let the winner know in a post on Flowery Prose the very next day.  The winner must agree to email me your mailing address so I can ship the book out to you.  Good luck to everyone!

*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Veg Journal. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Peekaboo pumpkin.

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I’m a newbie pumpkin grower (I grew them once, years ago, with mixed results) and so I’m rather proud of these little ‘Algonquin’ plants that have – so far – weathered extreme heat and hail and powdery mildew.  I am anxious for the fruit to ripen before frost hits. Last night, our temperature dropped to a brisk 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit), so I’m feeling a tad worried about the number of frost-free days left in this growing season.  ‘Algonquin’ is a heritage cultivar, and the fruit is quite small and elongated, not round.  You can check out a photo and description here.

Do you grow pumpkins? 

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.  

Tuesday tidbits.

If you embroider and are on the hunt for new patterns, I recently discovered that the DMC website has about a zillion five hundred or so available for free.  Download away and enjoy stitching!

My favourite recipe of this past week?  Judi’s Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes, found here.  They are the ultimate in comfort food and are a breeze to make.  I could probably eat these every day.  I’m totally not exaggerating here; they are that tasty.

It’s a few years old now (it was published in 2013), but if you haven’t already checked out Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetable Literacy, go grab a copy from the library pronto.  If you have a passion for cooking and gardening, you’ll delight in this breathtakingly-photographed tome.  The recipes look amazing but I can’t stop drooling at (on?) the pictures. (And this one of the reasons why we sometimes find water-damaged books at the library, lol). Take a look at the author describing her book in this video.

The Spring issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates will be out shortly on newsstands across Canada and a couple of articles I wrote are inside: “Carrot Cousins” and ” Preventing Common Lawn Problems.”  The magazine also features the annual Plant Picks section, which I always love contributing to.  And will you get a load of that cover?  WOW.  We don’t have many print gardening magazines left in Canada, and I would encourage gardening enthusiasts to support this amazing publication if possible.

Do you have any “tidbits” you want to share this week? – favourite or new recipes, interesting links or news items you’ve come across, fascinating blog posts you or someone else have put up?  Feel free to mention them in the comments!  

 

Book review: Gardening Complete by Authors of Cool Springs Press.

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Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and Other Outdoor Plants – Authors of Cool Springs Press (George Weigel, Katie Elzer-Peters, Lynn Steiner, Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule, Jessica Walliser, Charlie Nardozzi, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, and Tara Nolan) – 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota

I ♥ the concept of this book! Take eight highly knowledgeable and experienced garden experts and get them to write individual chapters covering essential gardening topics and bundle it all into one comprehensive volume. Everything you need to know to start a new garden or refresh a mature one is here: understanding soil, managing weeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, composting, mulching, propagation, and harvesting. The detailed, accessible writing and sumptuous photography make this book a delight to browse AND the kind of reference you’ll find yourself going back to over and over again. The design chapters are also highly useful, addressing native plants, water-wise gardening, pollinator-friendly landscapes, and container and raised bed set-ups.  This is a well-researched and beautifully-presented project – definitely a recommended read!

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Gardening Complete; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.