Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 - Year in Review

This was an intense year.  High stress, too much to do (I bit off WAY More Than I Can Chew) and unprecedented pest pressures (by mid-June, I had already proclaimed it Year of the Pest).

Swarms of aphids - only one of the many pests that plagued the garden this year

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Black Friday Got Me

I received an email from Pinetree yesterday - a 15% off Black Friday event.  But it's much too early for seed ordering - I usually don't get to that until January, sometimes even early February.

Each year, I go through a process:  Review my notes, plan next years garden, THEN immerse myself in seed catalogues and websites....and inevitably change my plans to accommodate a few more varieties 😀.  I usually do a preliminary plan in October, however, as I need to know where to plant my garlic, but this plan always changes quite a bit (except for the garlic!) once I go through my notes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Onions - An Unpleasant Surprise

In early October, I needed an onion.  They were still on the curing rack so I went to the garage to grab one.  I’d been using up the Ailsa Craigs first since they don’t keep very long – only 2-3 months – but I decided to go for a Copra this time.

Seems ok on the outside, other than a tiny bit of frass
(I always seem to have some damage, so that doesn't usually set off any alarm bells)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Mushroom Adventure

I love mushrooms and in the back of my mind, I knew that I would try to grow them one day.  So imagine my delight when I received an e-mail from the folks over at Field & Forest Products telling me that I had won a draw for a tabletop mushroom farm.  I put in a ballot during the recent GWA Conference in Buffalo, but it never really occurred to me that I would win.

What's most surprising is that they are one of the few suppliers of live plant material that ship to Canada.  We don't see that very often, that's for sure.

My package arrived last week:

Couldn't wait to see what was inside...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Harvest Monday - October 23, 2017

The season is coming to an end as are the harvests.  In a way, I'm relieved - it's been the kind of year that's best when seen through the rear view mirror.

Late summer/early fall harvests are always the most varied - let's start with the fruit.

Mystery Plums

Saturday, September 23, 2017

More Than I Can Chew

I've had some less than stellar years in the garden but this summer has been right up their on the stress scale.

It wasn't because of one culprit in particular, but rather a combination of:  the never-ending pest/disease issues, the weeds that grew like weeds 😉, three trips over the course of the summer (fun but I fell WAY behind as a result), helping my mom in her transition from married to widowed,  the current (BIG) garden project, and, to top it off, finding it hard to say no to my volunteering.

I'm finally going to admit it - I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Even the harvests are often an obligation rather than a joy.  I usually take on a little more than I can handle - I just want to do it all! - but I think this year I've learned my lesson.  Hopefully.

It's been a while since I've done a garden update, so I thought it high time I do a quick stroll through the garden and point out some of the highlights.

The most exciting thing that's happening is a harvest - our first ever apples!

The first ever ripe Haralson apple

Since this was our first harvest, we weren't sure when the apples would ripen nor what they would taste like.  When I chose the apple varieties, I relied primarily on catalogue and internet descriptions.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Harvest Monday - September 11, 2017

This has been an exceptionally busy summer.  I've been away 3 times since the end of June which definitely hasn't helped when it comes to making progress on my garden "to-do" list.

The one thing that I haven't been doing a lot of is harvesting.  More accurately, I have been harvesting but not as much as I usually do at this time.  This is partly because I simply haven't been here to harvest but there has also been less to harvest due to all of the pest pressure this year - there were a lot of casualties early on.  Some I replaced, such as the lettuce, but others (winter squash, peppers) I did not.

So on to the harvests and first up, we have the tomatoes.  These started as a trickle but then sped up throughout August.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

À Paris

Well, hello there - it's been a while!  I am back from a family vacation in Paris....and now I need a vacation to recover from the vacation, if you know what I mean :)

Despite our minimal French vocabulary, it was rather easy to adjust to the Parisian way - in fact, after only a couple of days, the lady in the boulangerie down the street from our hotel would bag our "usual" baguette order as soon as she saw me walk in the door.  I loved that!  The biggest adjustment was not having a "normal" coffee in the morning.  I must say, however, that I did become quite fond of café au lait - yum!

Sunset over the Seine

Anyone who has been to Paris knows how incredible it is.  I'm hugely interested in all things historic and, coming from a country where a building from the turn of the century is considered "old", you can imagine how I was struck by the history that I saw on practically every street.  From the boulangerie that has been in the same spot for the past 150 years to the narrow streets that are barely wide enough for a car, paved with cobbles on which horses once trod, it was wonderful to be immersed in a culture that places more value on restoring what exists than replacing it with something new.

This post is photo-heavy so you may want to grab that cup of coffee or tea right about now :)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Garden Project of 2017 - The Plan

In my last project post, I spoke about The Solution to The Problem.  In this post, I'll give a few more details on the expansion as well as the timeline.  We don't have an able bodied crew at the ready - this will change once the kids are a bit older ;) - so most of the work will be done by me, myself and I with the occasional spousal helping hand.  Translation:  This will not be a quick project!

The Plan

After the trees were moved, we were free to start the expansion.  A picture is worth a thousand words, even a very bad Google maps image, so here is a rough illustration of the planned vegetable garden expansion:

House is on the right; the street cuts across the top left corner, neighbours driveway is on the left.
Red = Current Area #1;
Blue = Expansion to Area #1;
Green = New ornamental border;
Green "flowers" = transplanted spruce trees

Monday, July 31, 2017

Harvest Monday - July 31, 2017

The harvests have picked up since my last Harvest Monday post three weeks ago.  Still no sign of a mature cucumber but there was one pleasant surprise yesterday - the first Sungold tomatoes!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Garden Project of 2017 - The Solution

In my first post on the Garden Project of 2017, I spoke about the "why" - namely, eliminating the need for chicken wire fencing around Area #2 by transitioning those beds from vegetables to ornamental.

BTW, if you find yourself saying "I don't recall seeing that post", I'm not surprised since I goofed when posting it.  I inadvertently hit "publish" before the post was ready and then promptly reverted it to a draft.  What I didn't realize was that when I did eventually publish, it would post as of the original date, which in this case was 3 days earlier.  Oops.  Next time this happens (and we all know there will be a next time, don't we), I'll have to remember to copy and paste to a new post.

Now, back to the topic at hand - this years garden project.  Since the beds in Area #2 will become cutting flower beds, I will need to build four new vegetable beds elsewhere.  The best solution is to expand Area #1 but this involves dealing with a couple of issues:  (1) two large spruce trees growing right in the middle of where the expansion would be and (2) lack of privacy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Harvest Monday - July 10, 2017

This is turning out to be "one of those years" - you know, those really bad years that are sprinkled amongst the good ones?

Here we are in mid-July and this is my first Harvest Monday post of the year - THAT'S the kind of year it's shaping up to be.  Firstly, I've been incredibly busy both in and out of the garden - I'm having a hard time keeping up (and truth be told, I'm not keeping up at all but am way behind).  Then there is the frustration of those dang rabbits - they are still getting into the veg areas and I've just about given up.  Many veg have been damaged, among them lettuce, peppers and eggplant, but their primary focus lately has been beans and peas.  The rabbits are, apparently, very particular as some varieties have minimal damage while others are now mere sticks poking out of the soil.

Another unwanted newcomer to the garden that I mentioned in a previous post has ramped up it's presence - from one lone beetle spotted about a month ago to this:

Potato Beetle Larva - All were picked off and dropped into a soapy water solution
minutes after their moment in the spotlight

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Garden Project of 2017 - The Problem

I'm back from the Capital Region Fling and it was amazing - as I knew it would be.  The gardens are always wonderful but what really makes this event special (yes, I know I keep saying this, but it bears repeating) are the people - what an incredible bunch they are!

2017 Garden Bloggers Fling -Capital Region
Photo Credit:   Wendy Niemi Kremer
Once back home I was, as you would expect, faced with mountains of laundry to do and an equally daunting meadow of weeds to pull.  The good news is that I also found quite a few harvestable goodies, including snow and snap peas (finally!).  With our cool spring, these were a long time coming.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Year of the Pest

When it comes to gardening, one thing is inevitable - no matter what size space you have, be it a balcony or an acreage, you will inevitably encounter a pest or critter that makes you go "ARGH!!"

It's only mid-June and I've already had more than my fair share of "ARGH!" moments - in fact, I've had more pest issues in the past two months than in any full year in the past.

So here's a rundown of what's been plaguing my garden, starting with those critters and pests that I've already spoken about in previous posts.

(1)  Rabbits

The bunnies have been finding gaps in my fencing and feasting in my I know how Mr. McGregor felt.

Bunny #1

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Early June Update - Part 3

Last but not least in my June garden update series is Area #2.  This is the smallest section of the vegetable garden, containing only four beds.

First up is the brassica bed, which is having a peculiar issue that I've not seen before - sowbugs eating the greens (aka pill bugs, aka roly polie’s, aka wood lice – I think these guys corner the market on the number of names they have…over 17 according to Wikipedia!)

Sowbugs enjoying their lunch

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Early June Update - Part 2

Up on the hilltop, most of the spears in the asparagus bed have been left to fern up and feed the developing roots.  This will be the last season of holding back on the harvest - next year it will be full steam ahead!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Early June Update - Part 1

With all the rain we’ve had this spring, things are growing at breakneck speed – not the least of which are the weeds!  Our mild winters in the past couple of years have also been a bit of a curse as I firmly believe that they’ve resulted in weedier and buggier growing seasons.  Even previously well-behaved ornamentals on the north side of our house such as sweet woodruff and lily-of-the-valley have become aggressive in their spread.

As is usually the case each year, I went from being on top of things in the early spring to falling behind - now I'm playing catch up.  There have already been some setbacks in the veg garden but, overall, things are looking good. 

In this post, I'll concentrate on what's happening in Area #1 and first up are the tomatoes.  I’ve reduced the number of tomato plants I'm growing this year from 28 to 24 (which I spoke about HERE) and am spreading them out over 3 beds.  One side of each bed holds tomatoes, while the other is planted up with a different companion (eggplant, basil or beans).

Tomatoes (right) partnered with eggplant

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Fruity Look at 2017

The Berries

High on the priority list over the next couple of weeks is cleaning up the raspberry and blackberry runs.  I mulched last year but the grass & weeds just keep taking over as I’ve never had enough time to would think I'd know better by now.  The raspberries are doing well regardless, but the blackberries have taken a beating - I'm sure our hot, dry weather last summer didn't help matters.

The blackberry canes are so small that if it weren't for the flags,
we wouldn't know where the runs are.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Fruits of 2016

We had some winners and some losers when it came to fruit last year.  But one of my happiest fruit moments was when we harvested the one and only fig:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Harvest Monday - May 8, 2017

This is my first Harvest Monday post of the year and it's over 2 weeks earlier than usual.  Why?   Because last week we picked our very first spears of asparagus:

First ever spears harvested by my son last week

Friday, May 5, 2017

More Brassicas - Kale and Beira Tronchuda

It's been overcast, cool and rainy for the past week with only one day of sunshine.  I've done plenty of sowing and transplanting but with the cool temperatures, growth in the garden is fairly slow.

Earlier this month, a couple of the brassicas were transplanted into the garden, namely the kohlrabi and rapini (both of which I spoke about in a previous post).  Kale and Beira Tronchuda were also supposed to be transplanted at that time but I forgot to add them to the hardening off tray, so they didn't end up in the ground until a couple of weeks ago.

Baby Beira Tronchuda

Baby Kale

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Up on the hilltop, the lettuce went in last week.  Hurray!  And then a few days later, a whopper of a storm tracked through our area and they were pummeled by strong winds and heavy rain.  Boo!

I considered placing a cover on the bed ahead of time, but then thought this may do more harm than good, as the winds would likely rip off the cover and cause further damage.

Battered Lettuce

Friday, April 21, 2017

Every Season Has Its Issues...

The weather finally turned a couple of weeks ago, after our April snowstorm, and I have been busy with bed prep, seeding and transplanting.  It’s wonderful to finally be working outside!

Since the weather outlook was promising, with temps staying above freezing for the most part, I spent some time this past weekend hooking up the drip system.  Of course, things didn’t run as smoothly as I would have liked.  A vacuum breaker fitting that my husband left on one of the hoses had corroded and essentially fused with the hose – my bad as I forgot to tell him that any fittings should be taken off the hoses before storing.

The faucet is a strange size (larger than usual) and requires specialty fittings.
The fitting that is fused to the hose is the only one that will fit and it was a PAIN to source.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Peppers, Past and Present

2016 was a banner year for peppers, due in part to the hot, hot weather.  But I won’t give the heat all of the credit – I did a few things differently last year and I’m confident that these changes also played a part in the bumper pepper harvest.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Brassica Starts - Rapini and Kohlrabi

The weather has been wonderfully spring-like over the past week - I've been prepping beds, hardening off seedlings and spent one day ridding an old perennial border of buckthorn.  Then, this morning, I woke up to this:

The pile of buckthorn brush sits beside the large tree on the right

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saving Allium Seed & Transplanting Leeks

In the past couple of years, I've been experimenting with onion seed storage.  Alliums are one of the few vegetable seeds that do not store well so it's usually recommended that you purchase fresh seed each and every year.  The issue I have is that I enjoy growing a variety of different onions and leeks which means that, in most cases, I only sow a small portion of the seed packet.

When I spend over $30 for allium seed,
it irks me that so much of it is going to waste

So my question was this - was it possible to save the leftover seed for an additional year?  This would cut my seed cost almost in half since I usually have leftovers for every variety except Copras.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to growing a veg that I love, I don't give up that easily if I run into problems.  Case in point - sweet potatoes.  I'm on my third year and have yet to have a good harvest.

This past season, with it's super hot summer, I was convinced that I would get a halfway decent haul.  I grew the potatoes in both black grow bags and large plastic tubs but neither yielded a particularly impressive harvest.

One of the sweet potato tubs,
just before tipping it over to reveal the harvest

Friday, March 24, 2017

Allium progress

2016 was a very disappointing year when it came to onions.  The season started off badly and never seemed to get any better.

Firstly, I tried a different approach when I sowed the seed.  Instead of using a plug sheet as in the previous year, I scattered the seeds in large 2"x4" cells.  I was hoping to (1) gain space under the grow lights and (2) minimize drying out of the soil as it was more difficult to tell when the plug sheet needed watering and I would tend to let them dry out too much.

All was well and good...until I had an issue with damping off and lost a good number of seedlings.  Of course, grouping seedlings into one large cell means that the disease easily spread and I likely lost more than I would have had I used a plug sheet.

Conservor shallots in 2016, succumbing to damping off

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring is here...hopefully

Yesterday was the first day of spring and it was surprisingly spring-like.  With the roller coaster weather all winter, I was half expecting a blizzard.  For the last couple of days, I've been able to comfortably walk around outside wearing only a fleece jacket.  Now, I'm not crazy enough to put my winter coat and boots away just yet - call me superstitious, but whenever I jump the gun, Mother Nature inevitably shows me who's boss.

Inside the house, however, I'm the boss - within reason, of course :)  As there has been little consistency in our weather, I decided to maintain my seeding schedule as is.  There's always the temptation to move things up a bit when the weather is unseasonably warm, but it's a gamble - sometimes it pays off while other times, it doesn't.  This year I have a lot on my gardening plate (more on that in a future post), so I'm sticking to the original game plan.

The onions, leeks & shallots were seeded back in February and are well on their way.  So far, no issues with damping off like last year.  Now excuse me for a sec while I look for a piece of wood to knock on ;)

Onion, leek and shallot seedlings, well on their way

Friday, March 10, 2017

2016 Year In Review - The Numbers

In my last post, I gave a general overview of the 2016 season.  Now it's time for the nitty gritty - the numbers.  If you're not into the numbers, skip down to the paragraph after the "Pounds" table where I give the low-down on which veg did well and which did poorly.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

2016 Year in Review - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot

If I were to describe the summer of 2016, one word comes to mind – HOT.  Actually make that two words – VERY HOT.  All...the...time.  Think I'm exaggerating?  This is what a senior climatologist at Environment Canada had to say:  "May, June, July, August and September, five months in a row, it was the warmest such period in Toronto's history, in 78 years of records...we also had 38 days when the temperature reached above 30 degrees, more than the three previous summers all together".  See - I'm being completely objective here :)

So what did the hot weather mean for the vegetable garden?  Well, crops that love heat were in heaven – it was a great pepper year and the number of butternut squash that I harvested from the same number of plants more than doubled from 5 to 12!  Crops that are partial to more moderate temps, however, didn’t do nearly as well – turnips and kohlrabi come to mind.  Even though I harvested a bumper crop, in terms of yield, both of these developed a stronger, less sweet taste than in the previous year.  In other words, we harvested more of them, but they weren't nearly as delectable.  I would have rather had it the other way around.

Hot temperatures resulted in kohlrabi that lacked the mild, sweet taste
they had in 2015 and every bulb was a bit fibrous to boot

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Is it spring?  Is it winter?  I’m so confused!  I have a feeling that’s what my poor perennials and trees are saying as well – I can practically see them scratching their heads as they ponder whether it’s time to leaf out or not.

This has been the warmest February that I can remember – one day last week, it was actually shorts weather with temperatures reaching a record breaking high of 16C/61F.  And yesterday - a high of 14C/57F.  Today?  It's -7C/19F with a windchill of -15C/5F.  Crazy.

Of course I, being human and all, enjoy a bout of spring-like weather just as much as anyone else, but this feeling is always tempered by worry.  Top of mind are the fruit trees.  If they come out of dormancy during one of these warm spells, thinking that spring has officially arrived, it may be another fruitless year if all those buds are killed off once winter returns.

My apple trees are in their 3rd year and I was actually hoping to get a few fruits from them this year.  I’ve had to pick off baby apples from the Granny Smith tree for 2 years in a row now – a necessary evil so that the tree spends its limited energy developing a good root system.

Baby Granny Smith apples in 2015