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?

Alberta snapshot: Cross Conservation Area.

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This is one of my favourite not-Rocky-Mountain (!) views from the top of the lookout hill at the Cross Conservation Area, a nature preserve southwest of the Calgary city limits.  I took this photo on 14 December of 2017 (still adjusting to that being last year!). At that point, the weather was dry and warm and completely lacking in snow, which is a bit rare (although not unheard of) for us.  We were promptly walloped with frigid temperatures and significant snowfall over the holiday season, but we certainly haven’t had anything to complain about in the face of the much more significant and devastating recent weather events in other parts of the world.

Fleeting….

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In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

∼Mark Twain

While waiting on the fresh snow to melt outside, I had a bit of fun photographing the bright flowers in a mixed bouquet given to me by a friend.  I spotted a couple of crocus blooming in the garden on 31 March, but they were eaten by jackrabbits within a few hours of my noticing.  “Ephemeral,” indeed….

Flowery Friday.

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Ah…spring in Calgary!  I have no idea what coat I should wear when I go outside – in a five minute walk, it might pour rain or pelt icy snow or be so pleasantly warm you wonder why you put the coat on in the first place.  I love this crazy season!

The garden was partly buried in snow earlier this week and is now gloriously muddy, so I’m admiring from afar the progress of my slowly emerging perennials (all that fresh green!) and the blooms of tiny crocuses, squill, chionodoxa, snowdrops, and muscari.  Isn’t it amazing that the soil is still so cold and yet all this fantastic STUFF is going on?  Even if you’ve been gardening in northern climes for many years, sometimes you just have to pause a moment to take in the absolute wonder of it.  And how here, in the face of such marvels, I can’t even choose suitable outerwear.  😉

In lieu of photos of spring-flowering bulbs, I want to show off another rose I found while touring Patterson Garden Arboretum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan last July.  I love this photo because it’s a teaser…I still have yet to see the open flowers of Rosa ‘Hazeldean’.  (If you’re curious, here’s a link to some images and a write-up of the breeding history of this hardy yellow beauty).

Have a wonderful weekend…and may you always have the right coat for the weather!  🙂

Cold front.

There’s a cold front moving in tonight, with snow in the forecast…the clouds and the wind were definitely letting me know about it as I walked on Nose Hill this afternoon.

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The garden is waking up with all of this warm weather we’ve been having, but I’m not ready just yet.  That sounds funny coming from a gardener, but the timing isn’t right and I’m in no rush.  Better to let sleeping ladybugs lie.  😉   Things will happen in their own time – but this bit of green certainly made me smile.

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Bad hair day.

 

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Still standing…even when the chips are down!  (Which is rather punny, given that my hubby and I came across this mostly-defoliated specimen in a logged area in Bragg Creek, Alberta).   😉

I think a lot of people in the province are coming off of a week of “bad hair days”…perhaps it has something to do with the ever-changing weather and the constant “tuque-on, tuque-off”* activity or the hair-raisingly icy and snowy road conditions.  I’m good with the sunshine and brilliant blue sky that showed up in the south today – that can stay!  Here’s to a new week of “Good Hair Days!”

What are your favourite comforts when you’re having one of those days? 

*55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently

Photo credit: R. Normandeau

 

Frost.

I flipped on the tube the other morning and the TV weather forecaster was using the highly technical term “diamond dust” to describe what’s been going on here in Calgary over the past couple of days.  It made me think of little fairies flitting about at sunrise, their delicate wings catching the light just so as they sprinkled the trees with icy filaments of sparkling snow conjured from the still, cold air.  And then I got to wondering if maybe we ought to use science-based language for weather reports, you know…just because.

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I remember when I was very young and we were having a cold snap during the winter – it was consistently minus 40 something degrees Celsius for over a week.  We lived out in the country at the time and remote car starters weren’t a thing back then so my Dad had to go outside and start the vehicle to warm it up before driving into town to work.  One morning he walked inside, shaking frost off of his coat, and announced that the air was so cold “you could cut it with a knife!”  I was absolutely captivated by this expression, I kept rolling it around in my head and trying to figure out how a person would go about doing something like that.   Did you need a sharp steak knife, or would a flat butter knife do?  Did you just go outside and start slashing away or should you choose a specific piece of the air to cut?

I’m not sure what I would have done with the concept of frost as “diamond dust.”  I guess that’s how stories and poems get written.  And weather reports, apparently.  😉

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