Cam's Gardening Blog

Per vegetabilis ad astra

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Some items from our gardens

2016-09-15 by Cam Farnell, tagged as Veggies

Veggies just harvested along with tomato sauce just canned Big onion from garden Garlic in woodshed
Beans and onions in profusion Processing lots of beans for freezing
Peaches Peaches
Grapes Grapes
Stairs and boardwalk completed.
Stairs Stairs

Mid-summer overview

2016-07-31 by Cam Farnell, tagged as Overview

OK, an overview of the yard and gardens in mid-summer with lots of photos and rather less text. Info about each image is below the image.

Sunflower

We bought a couple of sunflower plants at the Tantallon Market in mid-June. It took them a while to get settled but now they are taking off.

Squash trailing into adjacent bed

That squash plant is supposed to be in the bed in the middle but, after a slow start, it is growing like mad and has wandered into the bed on the right.

Carrots, swiss chart, collards

Carrots on the right, collards left foreground, swiss chard left background.

The broccoli bed

We are still learning to manage broccoli. A number we ate, some were eaten by deer. We haven't had great success getting succession broccolis started although there are some under to plastic cloches which are there mostly to deter the deer.

Some drying beans, not doing particularly well

I think I started these drying beans too soon and/or they didn't like being transplanted. They are not dead, but they are not thriving either.

Garlic just about ready to harvest

The garlic is, as always, doing well. Mid-August it will be time to harvest this garlic and to hang it to dry for a couple of weeks in the woodshed. We only did one bed of garlic this year but I'm thinking that may not be enough. This fall we will probably plant two beds, getting some additional seed garlic from Mark Russel if need be. The harvested garlic lasts about nine months, that that leaves two months in the summer after the previous years garlic is getting old, and before it's time to harvest the scapes. This year I'm proposing to peel and freeze some of the garlic for harvest during that time next year.

Winter onions

Winter onions that we started from onion sets, which are doing just fine. They are in the square bed which holds the peach tree that did not survive. Well dig out the old tree in the fall, but right now we don't want to disturb the onions.

Dill, small and large, in the peach bed

Dill, large and small in the bed which holds to surviving peach tree. The large dill we bought already started, the smaller we direct seeded. In the back left is an Egyptian "walking" onion. We've never actually harvested any of these but they are fun to watch grow.

The asparagus bed just starting to develop

This raised bed is a bit out of the way so it tended to get neglected. Thus we decided to fill it with asparagus, which doesn't need a lot of attention. Asparagus takes several years to get established so the plants are quite small.

Eve

Foreground: rutabagas flourishing; behind that celery and, barely visible, pak choi.

Alice

Summer potatoes. As we want potatoes for a meal we dig up a plant and cook them up, hence the right section of the bed being empty. At first the potatoes were a bit small, but now they are an entirely decent size.

Bob

Bush and pole beans on the left, peas at the back (climbing up the hard-to-see mesh) and more winter onions on the right. These onions are ones we started from seed.

Carol

The lettuce patch. Some ready to go, some over-mature and some just starting. There are more seedlings, ready to be transplanted, in the dome.

Dave

A few more beans far left, then a succession of beets then cabbage. We've already harvested and used one of the cabbage.

Frank

Nominally winter potatoes but these are not doing well at all. At the back of this bed is a row of peas in desperate need of netting to climb up. Most of the potatoes we planted using purchased seed potatoes but for one bed we planted some of the leftover potatoes from last year and this may be it. Should have made notes at the time but didn't. This bed, and the one visible behind it, are the ones I built this spring. These beds are 4 feet by 12 feet. I've built a number of beds of this size, each time improving the design a little bit. The one in the background is Giselle and I'm quite happy with it's design: no improvements spring to mind.

Giselle

More winter potatoes, these ones doing well.

Pepper forest

And now the dome. In the center of this photo, the pepper forest which is rather bigger than it looks because you can see only of the front of it. In front there are a bunch of hot peppers, behind that a lot of sweet peppers. Above and to the right of the peppers you can see the outside row of tomatoes. These peppers almost got wiped out in early June by an infestation of aphids. We sprayed them with a soap solution, which almost killed them and mid-June they were looking very sad indeed. From Ontario we got a batch of Aphidoletes, a parasitic wasp that eats aphids, and they did wonders getting the aphids under control. They are called "wasps" but they are tiny, don't look anything like ordinary wasps, and they only go after aphids, not humans. We are pleased whenever we see them about in the dome.

Tomatoes on the outside

The outside row of tomatoes, top and right, although the pepper forest rather gets in the way. The big tomatoes are all Brandywines that we started mid winter and which started producing early. The smaller tomatoes are "late season" ones that we will let grow until the cold weather kills them off.

Late-season peppers

Six "succession" sweet peppers which are just beyond the pepper forest.

Winter carrots just starting

A succession of carrots just getting started which we hope will hold over the winter. Kim's success last year - she actually got carrots to germinate in December - prompted us to plant these. I'm starting two rows every two weeks starting July 1st to see what is the best time to start them for winter use.

Inside tomatoes

The inside blast of tomatoes, the the pepper forest left foreground. Right foreground is the tangerine tree which continues to do well.

Winter potatoes

Some experimental winter potatoes in the dome just recently planted. I'm curious to see how long we can hold these over the winter.

Basil

Some basil interplanted between tomatoes.

Big tomato

A huge Brandywine tomato, with hand for comparison.

Tomatoes ready-to-eat

Some ready-to-eat tomatoes. We picked all the tomatoes that were ripe yesterday, so these red ones have ripened since then.

Seedlings

Some seedlings in the dome ready for transplant outside.

Rainwater harvester

This rainwater harvester (the vertical black pipe) catches rainwater from the roof and sends it out via a pipe at the bottom. From there the pipe leads to the dome where it helps keep the big water tank full. If the tank is already full, then water from her harvester exits via the black pipe jutting left, at the very top, and into the gutter system.

Rainwater control in tank

A toilet tank filler assembly, pressed into service to regulate the level of the rainwater entering the dome tank. By changing two valves I can also send water from the tank in the dome into the pool to top it up during dry times.

Firewood

Firewood for the winter of 2017-2018. This years firewood is in the woodshed and has been drying for a year. This winter past was mild so we burned only one cord of wood rather than the more usual two.

Scapes

Some just harvested garlic scapes and a tomato for size comparison. These are scapes from the "hot and spicy" garlic. The regular garlic had it's scapes cut several weeks ago. We plan to turn these into garlic scape pesto.

Front flower garden

The front flower garden with lots blooming, and some blueberries and hascap berries on the right.

Central flower garden

The central flower garden looking good.

How different the years can be

2015-03-25 by Cam Farnell, tagged as Weather

March 22, 2012 March 22, 2015

Three years ago in 2012 we had a mild winter and, on March 22nd, we had a record breakingly warm day. The photo above left was taken that day and it shows Evan helping us open up the pool. He wasn't showing off - it really was warm enough to go about in short sleeves and there is no snow in sight.

This year we have had an exceptionally snowy winter. The photo above right was taken on the same day, March 22nd, but this time not only is the pool not open, there is no sign of the pool whatsoever. The tracks through the snow toward the left side are a result of me showshoeing in order to get to the location to take a photo.

Snow

2015-03-19 by Cam Farnell, tagged as Snow, Dome

Dome covered in snow Snow out the dome door Veggies in the dome

It's an interesting winter. Up until January 20th we had hardly any snow. Since then we've had modest snowfalls every few days and a right whopper yesterday with high winds which created very high drifts. The first photo shows the dome with snow piled up to the top of the door. I needed snow shoes to get to the dome. Without them in places I would have been up to my neck in snow. It took a while but I managed to dig my way into the dome. In the past I've thought that there was a lot of snow when it was up to the door handle of the dome. Today I had to dig down through three feet of snow just to get to the handle; then it was a lot more digging to get down to the ramp that leads UP to the dome door. Once inside the dome I took a photo looking out the open door; that's the second photo. And, yes, the snow really was every bit as high as it looks like it is. However inside the dome, third photo, it was +11c (when it was -3c outside) and the plants are thriving. The March sun is actually quite warm so all that snow is going to melt before too long; good thing we live on a hill and not in a valley.

Garden progress report

2014-10-11 by Cam Farnell, tagged as Raised beds, Garlic, _soldier beans_, Sweet potato, Tomato sauce

And now for a long overdue garden progress report.

East-interior bed built East-interior bed filled 14 pounds of garlic

We've been busy over the last two months with the usual fall stuff: moving this year's firewood into the garage, splitting and stacking next year's wood in the woodshed, cleaning and organizing the garage for winter and rather a lot of other things as well. In addition we have been working towards finishing off the dome and the most recently completed major project is the construction of the east-interior bed - first two photos above. We finished getting the bulk of the soil into it earlier today and now all it needs is some topping up with a peat-moss/fine soil mixture and it will be ready for planting winter veggies like carrots, swiss chard, kale and lettuce. Next up for the dome is installing a little solar panel which will power the sub-soil air fan and also power the water feature. Then there will be some building of shelves and storage spaces.

To the right of the new bed there are lots of thing growing in the east outside bed. At the very front there are the sweet potatoes, more about them later. Then there is a profusion of late-fall and winter items: lettuce, kale and carrots although the carrots are still too small to be seen in that photo. Way at the back, just to the right of the rotary composter, is our tangerine tree. We picked that up in the spring and it has been doing well ever since; at the moment it has a bunch of white blossoms on it that are quite fragrant. We are hoping the dome will be warm enough over the winter that the tangerine will make it through to spring; we'll see.

In mid-August we harvested 14 pounds of garlic, third photo above. Needing a warm, dry, well ventilated place to let it cure, we hung it in the woodshed for two weeks which seemed to work well. 14 pounds is probably more than we need for a year, but when we planted this garlic last November we hadn't gone through a full year with home grown garlic so we were still learning. In November we'll plant for next year's garlic but we will probably plant about half as much. In the meantime we're not sparing the garlic when cooking.

"Soldier" beans Sweet potatoes 16 litres tomato sauce

The first photo above shows a few "soldier" beans that we grew in an outside bed. This was our first year growing drying beans, we didn't know what to expect and those beans got pretty beaten up by the hurricane that hit in late July. We got only a few beans from what remained of the plants, but they are nice beans and I would be inclined to plant a bunch of them next year.

Next we have the sweet potatos, shown here in the dome in mid-September looking like they are doing well and with lots of foliage. We expect to harvest these sometime in the next few weeks, so we will find out how they turned out.

And finally the 32 half-litre jars of tomato sauce that we canned. The tomato plants in the dome grew really tall but they didn't set as much fruit as we would have liked. Next year we will trim the plants so they don't get quit so tall (even with a ladder I have difficulty reaching some of them), we'll water them more and we'll spend more time "tickling" the blossoms as in the dome there is no wind to aid pollination. However, 14 litres of tomato sauce isn't bad and that doesn't count the sauce that we made and used directly and the tomatoes that we just sliced and ate.

In late September Transition Bay St. Margaret's co-sponsored a "Food Up!Skilling" event and we volunteered to do the boiling water bath canning workshops. Thus, 13 of the jars in the photo were ones that we did over the course of two, one-hour workshops.

The jars at the very end of the row have pink lids. Up until now we have been canning in the conventional manner, using "two piece" closures that consist of a metal screw-band and a "single-use" lid-with-sealing-compound. That works fine, but one has the expense of buying new lids every year and if for some reason the lids were unavailable then you would simply be out of luck. This year we are starting to experiment with Tattler reusable lids. These work with our existing mason jars and metal screw-bands but then they have a plastic food-grade lid (pink in our case) and a reusable rubber sealing ring. We did the last few jars of tomato sauce using these closures and so far they have worked without problem.