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?

Flowery Friday.

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The importance of labeling garden things (plants, seed packets, fertilizer containers, and those assorted parts and pieces for the lawnmower that mysteriously are not currently installed on the machine) cannot be overstated. I believe I have stressed it in more than one article that I’ve written.

This is me clearly railing against my own decent, sound, and meaningful advice: here is a photo of a nasturtium (the super common but super pretty ‘Jewel Mix’) that I grew this year in the community garden.  Trouble is, I also grew the even more lovely ‘Ladybird Cream Purple Spot’ and now that they’re all finished blooming, I’m collecting seed for next year.  Guess what I didn’t do before all the flowers were spent?

Oh well. I’ll have a fantastic collection of ‘Jewel Ladybird Cream Purple Spot Mix’ for the 2018 gardening season. It will be awesome.

What is your labeling practice in the garden?  And do you grow nasturtiums?  If you do, which cultivars are your favourites?

Flowery Friday.

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My poor bed at the community garden is toast, thoroughly fried by the prolonged heat we’ve had this summer.  Really, there’s not much left to salvage now, just a few surprisingly decent shallots and straggling zucchini (and perhaps some potatoes if I ever get time to dig around and check).  Even the sunflowers decided they had enough of the sun, but before they threw in the towel, they yielded a few not-so-shabby blooms.

These are ‘Paquito’, a dwarf branching cultivar, and this was my first year growing them. (Those of you who are members of the Alberta Gardening group on Facebook will have already seen this pic, but it’s a sunflower, and therefore, it’s impossible to groan about the repeat).

What is your favourite bloom in your garden right now?  (If you can’t narrow it down to just one, give me a list!).  Hope your weekend is wonderful!   

Garden discoveries.

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From cutworms to deer…my experience thus far as a member at the community garden near my new home leads me to understand that I have a few different challenges than I did at the “old” place!  We never had to worry about deer at the other community garden (baby jackrabbits sneaking under the fence and vandals, yes, but not deer). I am so surprised that deer would venture out so close to the commuter trains and buses and shops, but let’s just say I won’t get many beans this year.  Oh well.  Next year I will plant the beans in pots and set them on my balcony instead.  Unless the critters have wings, the plants should be safe with that set-up.

A few days ago, when I went over to the community garden to water, I discovered a trio of business cards for a well-known local gym tucked into one corner of my bed, splayed out casually on the top of the soil.  I blinked; was someone trying to tell me something? With the move and job change and all, I admit I haven’t had time to do much walking lately and my hiking trips to the mountains have completely fallen by the wayside.  A quick check of the other beds didn’t reveal any more cards so it seems I was the only target.  I’ve decided not to take it personally.  Indeed, I have to applaud the novel and creative marketing approach, despite its ultimate failure.  😉

The cards got me thinking, however.  While working in your garden, have you ever found anything unusual or interesting, something that seems a bit out of place?  I documented the weirdest (and most dangerous) thing I’ve ever found in this post, and here’s a fascinating link to a list of oddball “garden treasures” for fun and inspiration.

A very short list of a few of the things in my neighbourhood I’m going to miss…

…now that moving day is nearly here and we will be heading to a new community all the way across the city.

The grocery store just up the street. I know where absolutely everything is, aside from the egg replacer (turns out no one there knows where it is, either…might have something to do with the fact that there is some question as to what, exactly, it is). The friendly faces of the staff members will be missed, as well – including one gentleman my hubby and I both worked with years ago at a different job, and a courtesy clerk who treats my hubby like a rock star and makes us smile about it every time.

Our landlady, who has a magical green thumb and grows the most incredible nicotiana and tomato plants I’ve ever seen, and who has always been so kind and generous and thoughtful.

The perennial flower beds that I’ve tended for nearly twenty years…which, well, *sob.* I can’t even begin to tell you how much I will miss them. The balcony in our new place is small and I will be restricted to just a few plants in containers. It will be very difficult for me.

The community garden that I’ve been a member of for five years and served on the organizing committee for.  I met some fascinating people through the garden – everyone with diverse backgrounds, education, and opinions – and learned several lessons about plants and life (!) during my experience there.  I am delighted that there is a community garden near our new place, and I’m already growing some veggies there. I’m starting off small this year (both due to a serious lack of time and a cutworm problem that is unfortunately keeping the plants in check), but hopefully next year’s growing season will be more promising.

The plants in the community that mark the seasons in their own ways: the neighbour’s yellow forsythia in early spring, the soft-needled larch trees in the park next door, the ginormous lilac hedge along the drive.  The mayday tree out front with its sickly sweet-scented but gorgeous white flowers, the snowball viburnums in front of the building across from us.  The plums and crabapples down the street, and the splendid mountain ash with their persistent berries.  Even the green ash tree that has threatened to drop branches on our truck in stormy weather several times over the years.

Nose Hill.  If you’ve followed Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know this is my favourite place to walk and I have posted many, many photographs of the flowers and the landscape there.  Of course, I will still be living in the same city and I will still be able to travel to Nose Hill to walk there but because of the distance, I know I will not be able to go there as often as I do now.  On the plus side, in the new community, there will be several new parks to explore.

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The northern flickers that nest in the trees outside the back door of our apartment building. They are a joy to watch.

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Photo credit: R. Normandeau

The jackrabbits and the squirrels.  Yes, they ate or dug up great chunks of my garden most years, but you can’t help but smile when you see these little furry bundles of energy.  Even while you’re clapping your hands and chasing after them, screaming, “Get out of there, you little ********!” and your neighbours are all going to their windows and lifting the curtains and wondering what the crazy lady is doing this time.

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The library branch I used to work at, a twenty minute walk from my home. I dearly miss the friends I made there – but I know I will keep in touch with many of them in years to come.

That dude who takes his acoustic guitar out on sunny days in the summer and sits on the bench in front of our building and treats us all to some great music.

Cross country skiing in the park next to our apartment.  Especially fun after a fresh snowfall, at night, when it’s quiet and you’re the first to make tracks and the snow is all powdery and perfect and sparkling in the street lamps.

The courtyard of the school where, in the summer, I used to go to read and enjoy the weather on my lunch breaks from work.  One late afternoon, I hid out under the roof for nearly an hour while the most insane thunderstorm I’ve ever seen raged around me.  There was so much lightning and thunder and rain that I had to wait it all out before safely walking home.  Lightning hit a generating station a few kilometres away and the resulting sonic boom was terrifying and awesome.  And…then there was that time I was reading and I heard a noise nearby.  I looked up to see that something…someone…had opened the window of the classroom next to me and stuck a hand out the window.  To say I was freaked out is an understatement, as the school was closed for the summer.  Sure, it could have been a janitor (that’s what I tell myself, anyway), but in truth, there were no cars in the parking lot and the hand sort of just “felt” the air and went back inside, leaving the window ajar. Not really the behaviour of a janitor, but how else to explain it?  And no, I wasn’t reading Stephen King at the time.

The neighbourhood Korean barbeque place that doesn’t have an English name, where my co-workers and I delighted in some really delicious, cheap meals for birthday and other celebratory lunches.  It has the plainest decor and you can seat perhaps a maximum of twenty people in the place, but the food is really stellar.  Sometimes those tiny hole-in-the-wall places are the best.

The community arena where my hubby and I occasionally watched junior lacrosse games.  It’s one of those places where the reek of sweat has completely saturated the entire building, from the floorboards to the ceiling, and you can probably get athlete’s foot from merely sitting on the spectator bleachers, but it’s so fun to watch Canada’s national summer sport grow with these kids.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we caught a glimpse of one or two well-known professional (current and retired) lacrosse players coaching their students in the field outside the arena.

If you had to move today, what are a few of the things you’d miss about your current home and the community where you live?  

 

Flowery Friday.

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This is my first year growing ‘Baby Face’ sunflowers – they are amazing! They top out at just under two feet (about 60 cm) and have a ton of long-lasting blooms. I can’t help but smile every time I see them.

Do you have a favourite sunflower cultivar?