Shooting Stars in the Garden

Well, I am back, happy to be in the garden- with my little kangaroo tucked into our favorite mei tei style carrier.  Motherhood has been very good to me and I adore our little bird and am so happy to be spending the summer with a newborn. We don’t get to spend a lot of time in the garden yet, but we try and take a walk out there every day.  There has been a lot of rain this year, as I’m sure most Southern Albertans can attest.  The garden has taken a beating (we lost quite a few tomatoes and all of our cucumber seedlings) but now that we are getting some sunshine, the plants are thriving.

A first for this garden is garlic.  We planted it last fall and it was one of the first plants to come up this year.  I love planting in the fall and letting things just come up when they are ready.  The garlic seems to be doing well judging from the top growth.  It reminds me of shooting stars:

Just like onions, the tops are edible and are called garlic scapes.  Thanks to my morning blogroll, I found this out through SouleMama.  She makes pesto with them and recommends pruning them to put more energy into the garlic bulbs.  I might just have to leave a few because I want to see what they look like when they flower!  But I can’t wait to harvest the garlic this fall.  There is nothing like locally grown garlic- the cheap storebought stuff from China (tell me why we must import garlic from other countries when it can be grown here?) just doesn’t stand up.

Seed Starting

Thanks to the beautiful weather, I’m sure everyone has now been bit by the gardening bug.  Admittedly, we are a little behind in our seed starting due to all the preparations we’ve been doing for the baby bean this spring.  But this weekend was a gentle reminder to get on it.  Having not ordered from any seed catalogues this year, we headed out to green haven to browse what we hoped was a more diverse selection of seeds.

Though there weren’t as many varieties as the seed catalogues, we came home pleased with our new stash.  This year, we’ve decided to not grow so many cherry and grape tomaotes; last year we ended up with far too many (and still have jars full of savory jam, freezer bags full of frozen whole, and packets of dehydrated.)  But really, there’s only so much you can do with little tomatoes.

This year, we picked out two bigger varieties; one coined a ‘mortgage lifter’, promising 2-4 lb tomatoes. the other, an heirloom beefsteak-type.  Me thinks these would be excellent sandwich tomatoes.  We also went with our old standby, roma, which I love to can and some ground cherries, which were really fun last year.  Those combined with a few other varieties and maybe a few of our leftover cherry & grape tomato seeds from last year, and we’re good to go.  We also picked up cucumber, eggplant and peppers to start.  We’re going to get some lettuce, chard and pea greens going in the cold frames soon.

What I was really excited about this year was my new seed pot maker:

This simple, yet genius little device transforms strips of newspaper into little pots for planting.  Its about as eco-friendly as you can get; as once the seedlings are ready for planting, you just stick the whole thing, newspaper and all into the ground.  This is my first year trying this so I’m hoping I like it.  Much smarter and cheaper than buying plastic, peat, coconut, etc pots.

Are you starting seeds this year?  what are you planting?

Fresh Greens in October

We currently have 2 cold frames from which we’ve been enjoying fresh greens from lately- lettuce, spinach and chard.  They are fairly basic, just a frame angled slightly to the sun with an old window fitted to the top.  When it’s really warm out, we’ll open them up, and when it gets really chilly at night, we’ll put a blanket over them.

It’s so nice to enjoy some tender young greens this late in the season!  Its been a beautiful fall in Lethbridge, and we’ve only just pulled out the garden this weekend.  Many of our flowers are still in bloom too!  Hubby just finished picking & drying out bunches of hops for winter beer brewing, and next up, we’ll be drying mint for tea.

As for canning, I’m definitely DONE for the season- major canning burnout!

What’s happening in your garden and kitchen?  Are you still growing or preserving anything?

Cabbage Fail

Cabbage- the (food) stuff of settlers and pioneers, that bittersweet peasant food.  Fried, fermented and raw, I love it.  When I discovered how to make sauerkraut the real way, it opened up a new door in food preservation for me.

So of course, the next logical step would be, why not grow it?  Ha.  Easier said than done, that is, if you want organic cabbage.   I’ve attempted growing cabbage a few times now- the first time not realizing that it required special attention and effort.  That attempt at cabbage growing failed miserably-  the plants looked more like a type of swiss cheese than cabbage.  Admittedly, as a gardener, I don’t do well with plants that require special attention.

So this spring, I made the commitment to cabbage.  I got garden netting and kept close watch on the little gals.  I followed the laws of companion planting and planted onions and marigolds nearby.  The carrots love tomatoes book said so.

Onions going to seed near the cabbage

Throughout the spring and early summer, I kept careful watch.  Things were going well.  If I noticed any problems, I would sprinkle cayenne pepper, spray soap water, or even squish a few eggs and worms by hand (yeck).

Early July- looking good

Everything was going fairly well until I got back from holidays.  My garden sitter said he had seen some butterflies getting through the netting.  So when I got back, I added a second layer.  But it was too late.  Our backyard had already become a cabbage butterfly sanctuary.  They were everywhere, and still getting through the netting.  I should have gotten a finer mesh.

A few of the heads of cabbage had gotten quite large, so I thought maybe I could just pick off the outer leaves and the insides would still be good.  How could any bug live inside a cabbage?  The time came to take the netting off and pick me some cabbage.  I chose the biggest head first.  But when I turned it over, there was slimy green eggs and worms everywhere.  Layer after layer I peeled, and just when I thought I got to a bug free zone, there another worm would crawl.  It actually really grossed me out.  None of the cabbage was salvageable, and it wasn’t even compost-worthy (and in our garden, even weeds are compost worthy) as I feared the grubs may move on to other things in the garden.  Into the garbage the ten or so heads went, along with the probably hundreds or thousands of worms and eggs.  A true cabbage fail.

So how did the pioneers do it?  They couldn’t of had access to this chemical ‘dust’ everyone talks about.  Well cabbage butterflies, this isn’t over yet.  Consider it a challenge for next year.  Ironically, while on holidays, I picked up a second hand book on organic plant protection.  The book is chock full of hints and tips from old timers, magazines and articles.  One old lady suggests sour milk.  Perhaps I’ll give that, or some of the other ideas a try next year.

But there’s always a silver lining.  While doing some weeding, I found a volunteer in another part of the garden.  Lemon balm that I did not plant!

Funny enough, I sit here and read about how lemon balm is “a member of the mint family, is considered a “calming” herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety…”  A must for organic cabbage growers!

Have you grown cabbage?  What are your horror or success stories?

Ildi Abundance

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like these Ildi tomatoes.  This is a new variety for us that we started from seed that we ordered from Vesey’s.  They have required some major pruning and stand over 4 feet tall.  I can’t wait to taste the ripe yellow grape tomatoes very soon!

In The Prairie Garden: July

July’s sudden onset of hot, hot weather is just what the doctor ordered for southern Albertan gardens!  The weeds are also thriving; if you are keen you may notice purslane shows up in quite a few shots.  Check out this post to learn about how you can eat it and to get a better overall look at my garden!  Below are a few shots of ye ‘ol urban homestead:

Asparagus Peas

Asparagus Peas: something new for our garden this year, apparently these beautiful crimson flowers eventually turn into odd-looking beans that taste like asparagus!

Ground Cherries- these little lovelies were grown from seed back in late winter. They are cousin to tomatoes and tomatillos, and by the end of the summer, should have a sweet fruit ready inside!

Ildi Tomatoes- these are a yellow grape tomato... looking forward to eating some in the next couple weeks! Also grown from seed earlier this year.

Potatoes in Bloom: there are probably little nuggets just waiting to be devoured underground.. nothing better than fresh potatoes! We have 11 potato plants total, mostly red and a few yellow

Cabbage- I'm a little worried about my row of cabbage. I have never yet grown cabbage without it getting attacked by cabbage worms/butterflies. This year I tried netting, but it appears its not fine enough and the cabbage butterflies are still getting through. Hopefully I can tackle this by doing some squishing.

Strawberries- planted last year, the strawberries have really taken off this year. so yummy!

There’s so many things growing & thriving right now it’s hard to include it all.  My west-facing front yard is abundant with many of the drought-tolerant flowers I planted last year including lavender and this: (I can’t remember the name)

Hope you are enjoying July- what’s thriving in your garden?

OWC Prairie Urban Garden Tour: this Sunday

HAPPY SOLSTICE!


Exciting news for all you gardeners!  The OldMan Watershed Council and the Galt Museum are presenting a free tour of Urban Prairie gardens this Sunday!

OWC Prairie Urban Garden Tour

Join us for a FREE tour of Prairie Urban Gardens in Lethbridge!
Tour is self guided and begins at the Galt Museum’s Native Prairie Garden.

At 10am and again at 1pm, local expert June Flanagan will be presenting/leading a tour of the Galt Museum’s Native Prairie Garden.

Pick up a copy of the addresses and a map from the Galt Museum anytime between 10am – 2pm. Plant suppliers will be selling native and drought tolerant plants on-site. Informational displays and refreshments will also be available.

How it works: Using your own mode of transportation, visit the gardens at your leisure between 10am-4pm. A guide will be at each garden.

Click here for registration information.

What is a Prairie Urban Garden?

A Prairie Urban Garden is a yard or garden that follows the 7 principles of xeriscaping. They are attractive and have a low environmental impact because they are designed and maintained in harmony with our dry prairie environment. Xeriscaping principles allow people to create beautiful, drought tolerant and low maintenance gardens right here in southern Alberta!

Visit www.prairieurbangarden.ca for more information.