Monday, April 27, 2009

Self seeding sea of greens

So I was worried that even though I had been seeing orach seedlings for weeks, my mustard hadn't germinated yet.

Mix of orachs from green to purple to variations in between.

Like I needed to worry. Yesterday, I notice a sea of tiny purple and green heart shaped brassica seed leaves where the osaka purple mustard was last year. I think it's safe to say that they have reseeded themselves.

That's not green and purple mold, those are all mustard seedlings.

The sweet cicely seed head I tossed down also has dutifully reproduced.

Sweet Cicely is a pain to germinate having a chilling requirement, liking a bit of freeze thaw (so I hear) and insisting that three earthworms do the tango at high noon on April Fool's day before breaking dormancy. It is also a short lived seed so I figure that I would let mother nature do what it does best. I lay the seed head down and said, good luck. As usual, they grew.

I'm waiting to see what else will pop out of the ground unplanted but certainly planned.


Orach is a slow to bolt spinach substitute that is so decorative that it is often grown as an ornamental. Comes in a range of colours from lime green to purple. It reliably self sows in my garden for early spring greens with no fuss. I think it should be said that spinach is an orach substitute.

Wild Garden Seeds has a great selection of Orach and Mustards.

is a spicy green that gives a stir fry or salad a kick, though milder versions have been bred. It is a cool weather lover as well but when it bolts, it showers the ground with seeds for a repeat performance the following year. Or you can eat some of the flower heads as sassy broccolini.

And lastly, Sweet Cicley has got to be one of my all time favourite perennial edibles. It is highly decorative with finely serrated leaves on this bushy perennial that reaches about 2-3 feet in my garden. The white lace cap flowers are similar to other members of the carrot family and attract beneficials. They are followed by large black seeds that stick straight up. The entire plant is edible and tastes of anise. It can be used as a sugar substitute. Best of all, it grows in part shade, being fond of the dappled shade at the edge of a wood lot so I'm told. Mine grows along the wall of our house in a dry garden. I love this plant.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crop Circles in the Garden - updates

N.S.D. (No Snow Day) has come and gone in this garden and things are progressing fast and furious. I am working on my own garden as well as designing several others. Hopefully implemtation will be soon. I love putting in new garden beds.

The Veggie Garden Face Lift:

I've decided to take my vegetable garden which previously looked like this:

Last year's veggie patch was all about the wide stripes.

And turn it into something more decorative, ie. circular so now it looks like this.

Yes, I too used a rope and a stick to make my 'crop circle'

Today, I'm planting some peas, potato onions, and parsnips.

A question for you all, what do I put in the centre of the circle?

An allotment:

I went out and got myself a 30x40ft parcel of land. It's the one in the background. Right now it looks something like a brown, muddy field but hopefully it will transform into a lush edible jungle in a couple of months. We are planning on donating much of the produce to the Grow a Row campaign.

Gorgeous isn't it? Oh you were looking at what is presently there. No, no gardens only look into the future. Now do you see it?

The Kids Garden:

The front is being redesigned to include this little circular bed which often has a plastic dino living on top. It is planted up with a Josta Berry at the moment but I'm not sure if I'm going to leave that there (the jostaberry - the dino can stay) or plant it somewhere else and choose something else for the centre - a nice contorted redbud that's only borderline hardy here? No, no, it's for the children, the children! Anyhow, they are planting mini pumpkins in this bed this year too. Nearby are several blueberry shrubs and I'll be moving over the alpine strawberry soon. I'd also like to squeeze in another currant bush somewhere?

Yup, another brown spot. It will be filled with pumpkins, pansies and berries.

We are all impatiently awaiting the arrival of pansies at the nurseries so we can dot them around the garden. They are a favourite of my eldest.

Introducing my eldest to the family biz. Here she is planting Catawissa tree onions. I have more local gardeners - anyone?

Oh and I transplanted a bunch of old alpine currant, along with a row of young suckers. My neighbours were throwing out there hedge and replacing it with a cedar one. I hope they take so we can yell, "Not past the hedge."

The Container Garden:

Since my neighbours had to buy a lot of cedars they had a lot of pots left over. Big pots. Perfect pots for peppers, etc.. to grow. I plantcycled more than half but the rest are mine, all mine! I have plans. I also got a bunch of huge tupperware containers to grow cukes, cherry toms etc... on my porch for easy pickings (yes, I can walk 10ft into the backyard). I have fantasies of preparing a salad on the porch by just plucking off a cuke and some greens right beside the salad bowl.

Not the right way to grow vertical but nice pots.

The count so far:

Lettuce - the red iceburg is big enough to plant into the garden
Edible Chrysanthum
Nodding Onion - Giant Pink (this plant will germinate under any conditions - I swear its container was bone dry).
Bachelor's Button
Various weed seeds

One of these pots contains red iceberg lettuce ready for transplant. First I have to get some cups to put them in and keep out the slugs.

The perennial beds:

As you know, I'm on a mission to remove any plant not pulling its weight. This includes pathetic looking ornamentals, anything I can't eat, or isn't native. I'm adding to this list anything that self seeds itself annoyingly that I can't eat. I've started to get rid of a nice matting bellflower that though technically edible tastes a bit too green, and not that good kind of green. I'm also removing the mountain bluet as its seedlings are a pain to remove and a native sunflower whose latin name I've forgotten for now but its reproductive abilities are impressive.

Spiral Garden in spring.


Let's just say that my husband is happily awaiting the day when our guest room no longer looks like a greenhouse.

Spring Cleaning means good trash:

I got this trellis from the curb as well as a cute metal froggy garden decoration which I'm using as a stepping stone.

I'm giddy, a puzzle with no picture.

I love spring!

Croci in the garden.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Why the shouted title? Since I've finally gotten around to reading Michael Pollen's 'The Omnivore's Dilema' my vague sense that corn fields were spooky has expanded into the word having malevolent overtones.


He writes about the Naylor paradox where the more corn prices fall, the more a farmer plants and the more flooded the market, the more the prices fall and ... Anyhow, we eat a huge amount of corn directly, processed or because it is fed to our meat animals. Eating corn, in and of itself, is not bad but there is a massive overproduction of this resource hungry crop.

I do not know why this corn field was left unharvested but it got me on a reverie of our unsustainable agricultural system, and reminded me once again at the importance of growing locally. Of growing perennial plants. Of caring for the soil and of biodiversity in plantings. It reminded me of why I try and reach out to others to spread the word that you can grow some of your own food.


It also reminded me of this weird experience:

Long ago in my youth, I was travelling across Canada with a couple photographers. We were documenting abandoned places for a never published piece called 'Discarded Endeavours.' Anyhow, we were snooping in an abandoned farm house. The door was obscured by a tangle of shrubbery and though mostly empty inside there was still a couch and a bookshelf with a couple volumes including some war time poetry. We decided to check out the house next door. Owned by a relative perhaps? This one had no vegetation around it. As we got closer, I could tell there was something strange about the windows. Closer and I knew what it was. Corn. The house must have been gutted and used to store grain. We dared not open the door.