Garden Update - Area #1

Area #1 has 8 beds plus an herb bed and it is home to all of the brassicas & favas as well as more tomatoes, peas & beans.  With only eight 8'x4' beds, I thought this would be a fairly quick post but as usual, there was just a lot more to show and say than I expected.  So get comfortable :)

Tomatoes are planted in beds #1 & #2 and these are spaced down half of the bed just like those in bed #12, which I spoke about in my last update post.

Bed #2

And we have some baby tomatoes forming...which means that tomato season is not far off!

Baby Costoluto Genovese

In the other half of each bed, I have 2 each of a couple of determinate varieties (Taxi & Orange Blossom) as well as sunflowers and zinnias.

Peggy's Delight Zinnia

The zinnias were grown from seed sent to me by the lovely Tammy at Casa Mariposa, who also sent me a packet of tithonia seeds.  Those seedlings found a spot in the herb bed.

Tithonia Goldfinger

Because of our vacation, I was late in getting these seeds sown, so it may be a while before we see any flowers - although I do see buds on the Zinnias..very exciting!!  I am SO looking forward to that burst of colour…thank you Tammy!  I would have loved to plant these in the front garden, but since none of the ornamental beds have drip (planned for next year!!), their chances of success would have been pretty low, especially this year with our lack of rain.

My original plan had been to also grow cilantro and dill in the tomato beds, but I just didn’t get around to sowing any – not a big loss when it comes to the dill as I have been harvesting dill as needed & pulling volunteer plants since spring!

Volunteer Dill in Herb Bed
As for the cilantro, I'm still using the mounds that I froze last fall, so I think I'll be doing another fall sowing for that one.

Bed #3 contains broccoli, turnips (planted in between the broccoli rows and most of which has now been harvested) and Kossak kohlrabi.  The broccoli and kohlrabi were getting quite large, so I had to switch up the supports -  you can see the kohlrabi pushing up against the netting in the photo below:

Difference in size between the old supports and new

New supports = Lots of breathing room

Some of the supports lean a bit as I'm using 2' rebar in the tubing and it really should be 3', a size that I don't have.  That will have to go on my purchase list, but these will do for now.

I have 3 varieties of broccoli planted up – Arcadia (the favourite from last year), Munchkin and Packman.  The largest plants of the bunch - Arcadia - have yet to produce any heads.

Arcadia broccoli

I've already harvested one rather oddly shaped head of Packman, but this next one looks promising so far:

Packman Broccoli
Most of the turnips sowed between the broccoli plants have been pulled.  The few stragglers that are left were late sowings that filled in a few bare spots in the turnip row.

White Lady Turnips

The Kossak kohlrabi is also sizing up.  This was a favourite from the farm I volunteered at last year and it was HUGE.  I had planned to transplant the seedlings using a 12” spacing, but then completely forgot and used 6” instead.  I only realized the error when I ran out of seedlings and I wasn’t even halfway through filling up the 2x4 spot that I had allocated for them.  So I left those in place and started a few more seedlings, this time spacing them correctly.

The first round of the Kossak kohlrabi is almost ready to harvest

Bed # 7 also contains brassicas - napa cabbage, Joi Choi, kohlrabi, mizuna, collards, tatsoi & kale.  The kohlrabi is doing ok, but I'm finding the other veg in this bed are not growing as quickly as they should.

Bed #7
There are 4 varieties of kale growing in this half of the bed, together with a couple of rather sad looking collards on the top left:

Kale varieties this year:  Red Russian, White Russian, Red Ursa, Starbor
The other half of the bed contains napa cabbage, Joi Choi & Kolibri kohlrabi.  This is my first time growing napa cabbage, so I'm not at all sure what to expect.  This will be a learning year for that one:

Napa (on the left) varieties:  Soloist, Kaboko, SD Mini Napa;
Joi Choi (two heads on the right)
I'm attributing most of the slow growth to a combination of excessive heat & inadequate watering.  A good dose of fish fertilizer would probably do them some good as well.  Once the drip lines are in place & I fertilize the bed, I'm hoping to see some improvement.

The one veg that has done fairly well in this bed is the kohlrabi - I just harvested one bulb that was over 500 grams!

Two veg in particular, are not sizing up at all but those are not mystery - both the tatsoi & mizuna have been completely overshadowed by the kale.  I planted 2 mizuna - one bolted while still a tiny seedling and the other one is just sitting there:

Tiny Mizuna
The tatsoi isn’t doing much better – it hasn’t seen the light of day in over a month.  Even when I harvest the kale, the leaves that remain still overshadow it.

Not much hope that this guy will size up
It would be lovely to give every veg a nice big spot from which it can get the most exposure to sunshine from every angle, but having limited space - and a lot of veg to grow - that's just not possible.  When I plan the bed layout, I try to organize things so that every variety gets a good amount of sun but I'm still at the trail and error stage of that game.  I obviously have quite a bit of tweaking to do when it comes to this bed.

Since the kale isn’t going anywhere soon, I’ll likely end up pulling the tatsoi as I doubt it will do much of anything.  This doesn’t mean that I’ll have to do without tatsoi & mizuna this year, however, as I plan to include them in one of the fall brassica beds.

Bed #4 is my favourite at the moment – the lettuce is bursting from the bed in all it’s glory:

Royal Red & Sierra MI

Jericho, Sweetie Baby & Pinares

Sierra MI
I’ve been harvesting heads instead of leaves as it’s likely the lettuce will start bolting soon - I'm quite frankly amazed that it hasn't yet.  The Agribon that I'm using to shade the bed has done a great job in keeping that bed cool(er).

This bed also held the spinach on one end, which is long gone, and the Swiss chard is at the other end.

Chard varieties - Peppermint, Fordhook Giant & Bright Lights
The chard is growing slowly, likely because of the Agribon covering the lettuce right next to it.  I have plenty of other greens happening right now, so I’m not in a big rush.

Bed #5 contains the strawberries.

Strawberry Bed
Slim pickings at the moment and I’m quite looking forward to pulling everything up, not only because this bed is a right mess at the moment, but also because I’m planning on sowing some carrots here.

I mentioned in my Hilltop Update that it seemed as if something was tunneling in the carrot bed on the hilltop and now I’m certain of it…I’m guessing voles.  In the past week I’ve noticed several inch wide holes that are definitely tunnels.

Vole Hole
I’m getting a bad feeling that I may end up with very little coming out of that bed.  Sowing another bed of carrots will act as a bit of added insurance, should the worst happen.

That's the bad news.  Now for the worse news.  I've noticed a few similar holes in other beds on the hilltop - specifically the asparagus, garlic & potato bed.  Aargh!  I charged up that ultrasonic gadget that I received for Christmas last year, but it's not performing as expected.  It is supposed to emit sounds at a frequency inaudible to humans if motion is detected.  The only problem is that these sounds are definitely audible..and piercing.  I had it on for a few minutes but then had to turn it off as it kept going off every minute or so.  Plan B would be to dig up each bed and line the bottom with hardware cloth...which is a lot more labour intensive than hanging up that gadget.  Plan C is pray that they find a new home elsewhere...I should be so lucky.

The final two veg beds - #6 & #8 – hold legumes.

Bed #6

Half of bed #6 is planted up with 3 varieties of pole bean:  two Romano type beans (Garden of Eden & Golden of Bacau) and one dried bean (Speckled Cranberry).

All of the climbers on this side of the bed have started to run

Golden of Bacau is a favourite from the past – unfortunately, it was the carrier of Bacterial Brown Spot which also ended up infecting all of the other bean varieties in the same bed.  But I love this variety so much, I had to give it another go.   I’ve purchased new seed this year and fingers are crossed that we don’t have the same issue.

The other half of this bed is divided into two again.  Half is planted up with Oregon Sugar Pod Peas while the other half contains bush beans.

Oregon Sugar Pod Peas
The snow peas started to produce early and they just seem to keep going.  So far, I've harvested over 2.4 kg (5 lbs) from this small 2'x4' spot.  I can't believe I didn't have them in the garden plan sooner:

These short vines are much more productive than one would think
The bush beans beside the snow peas consist of two varieties – Oceanis (from seed I saved last year) and a newcomer, Provider.

This side of the bed holds the bush beans, Oceanis (left) & Provider (right)
The germination on the Oceanis was miles ahead of what it was last year:

2015 Bush beans - Oceanis (left) & Contender (right)
I had bean germination issues last year on practically every variety, so I’m not certain if the better germination was due to conditions or my freshly saved seed.  I’ve never grown filet beans before, so I’m quite excited to try these.

Bed # 8 is all about the favas (broad beans) with a sprinkling of Sugar Snap peas:

Favas with one small 2x4 section of Sugar Snaps

This is the disastrous bed from last year that was invaded by willow tree roots.  The tree was removed last summer and I let the bed rest for the remainder of the year after amending the soil with lots of compost.  I figured that the best crop to put into this bed would be legumes – and they are doing really well, so I’m happy with that decision.

I’m growing the same two varieties of fava that I grew last year – the relatively short Extra Precoce de Violetto (EPV) and the taller Ianto.  While Ianto has just started to flower, the EPV has set a good number of pods already and I'll actually be harvesting some within the next few days.

Plenty of favas have set despite the hot temperatures

The supports that I created using rebar, bamboo and twine for the EPV are also doing extremely well.  We have had some very bad winds in the past month and all of the vines are still standing tall.

Fava supports performing according to plan - hurray!

The sugar snaps, however, have teetered a bit.  Firstly, I made a mistake when I positioned the trellis and placed the two panels too far apart.  Secondly, we have had some very strong winds over the past month and the sugar snaps line up exactly with how the wind generally blows (from west to east), so the vines from the 1st sowing are completely leaning over into the section where the 2nd sowing is.  I've tried to put them back in place but haven't been overly successful.

Peas leaning due to the heavy winds
Next year, I'll be tying some twine between the two trellises at the end of the bed so that the block of peas have something to hang on to on all sides.

As I mentioned above, there are 2 sowings of sugar snaps - this year, I decided to try to stagger the harvest so I did two small sowings about a month apart, instead of one larger one.  So far so good on this little experiment.  The 2nd sowing of peas is just starting to flower, so I'm optimistic both about the idea of staggering the sowing and the timing I used:

2nd sowing of sugar snaps
I have yet to talk about the sweet potatoes - these guys are tiny and they still don't have a proper home, which I'm sure isn't helping matters:

Sweet Potatoes ready for their permanent homes

If ever there was a good summer for growing sweet potatoes, this would be it.  I've been holding off on potting them up because I was waiting for the drip to be installed on the hilltop - which it is now.  At the end of the each row of beds, I've installed an extra drip run which will be for watering pots that I plan to place there, including the sweet potatoes.  I'm hoping to have them potted up and put in place by tomorrow.

Last, but not least is the herb bed.

Herb Bed

It’s a bit of a jumble at the moment as I have a bunch of that volunteer dill in a few spots as well as a gangly bolting parsley plant.  This is the first time I’ve had parsley make it through the winter and I wanted to take advantage of that fact by collecting seed.  The variety is Comune 2 and my seeds are several years old, so this opportunity came just at the right time.

Also in the herb bed is the calendula my daughter picked out when we went seed shopping at William Dam in the spring.  You can sort of make out the orangey bloom in the photo above but that shot was taken in the evening when the flower was partly closed.  Here it is in all it's daytime glory:

Balls Orange Calendula
The striped petunias in the background are also my daughters pick (from last year)
I've also noticed a strange anomaly on my purple sage - a few of the leaves are variegated:

Surprise variegation on purple sage

Aren't they pretty?  A couple are completely white/green while the others have a pinkish cast to the white areas.  I'm actually thinking I may try to propagate some through cuttings, although then I risk loosing that section entirely if the cutting doesn't root.

Area #1, if you recall, is where we removed the two spruce trees and in order to do so, we had to take down the chicken wire fencing that keeps the bunnies out.  Putting the fencing back up has been on the to-do list since then.  The area where the fencing is going has been expanded and sheet mulching is MUCH easier if the fence is not in place when we do it.  It's this mulching that is holding things up at this point.

I do have several yards of premium mulch still on the driveway, but that is reserved for the ornamental beds.  For the pathways, I use the MUCH less refined but FREE mulch that’s available from the municipality.  The only thing is, you have to pick the mulch up yourself from the local dump, so this has been put on the backburner until more pressing tasks are completed, such as installing the drip and completing the mulching on a couple of the front yard beds.

Luckily, we haven’t had bunny issues in this area yet.  Now let me look around for a piece of wood to knock on… :)


  1. What a wonderful large garden!! I do hope that vole will not do damage to your things. I have to agree that sage is pretty! I have basil and should try making up a little pesto! It has been so hot and humid here I don't enjoy being outdoors much. Hoping to harvest a few things from the garden before we move. Nancy

    1. I've just ordered another gadget online to help with the voles, but this one has an adjustable volume...fingers crossed that it actually works!! I agree with you on the heat; I'm finding it hard to work outside unless it's early morning or in the evening. Fingers crossed you are able to have a few harvests very soon!

  2. I'm so sorry about your tunnelers!
    We've started the SLOW process of putting hardware cloth on the bottoms of beds as we replace old ones---about 4 per year. Of course, the first beds to be done were the carrot beds. Those tunneling $astards won't get my MOKUMS, darn it!
    Again, Margaret-I so admire your notes. I strive to get better, and this year is definitely an improvement, thanks to you.
    Have a great week

    1. Oh, you are MUCH too modest, Sue! It's you and your garden that is the inspiration. I recall when I first came across your blog way back when and was, quite frankly, green with envy as you had the EXACT setup that I had always wanted, including the barn...I have a thing for outbuildings :)

      I had no idea you had vole/mole issues too. SOOO frustrating!! I've actually found another gadget online - the Yard Sentinel - and I've just ordered it from Amazon. It has different frequencies, etc., and the volume is adjustable. One reviewer indicated that it worked in specifically getting rid of voles in her garden. I figured it was worth a try as the thought of digging up all of the beds - just as I was thinking most of the hard work was behind me - is NOT sitting well!

  3. What a bad time of year to get voles. Hopefully some owls and hawks move in and take care of them.

    Your tomatoes look great and those broccoli plants are huge, none of mine have formed heads yet and a few were blown over by some strong winds. Your snow peas look so amazing, are you going to try growing them in the fall as well?

    1. Thanks Phuong - I am planning on doing a fall sowing of the snow peas, but it's a bit of an experiment as I'm not sure if the timing will work out. The plan is to switch up the bush beans/snow peas (i.e. do a fall sowing of snow peas where the current bush beans are and do a fall sowing of bush beans where the spring snow peas are).

  4. Your garden is so well organized, and you have such a huge variety of plants growing. I'm getting some ideas for expanding my own garden. The voles are very bad news. I hope they don't do too much damage.

    1. Thanks K - This vole issue is quite unexpected. The hilltop beds were only built last year and they were lined with cardboard as that area was full of grass/weeds. I suppose that's why I didn't really see any eveidence of them until now as the cardboard is likely now decomposed and they are free to roam.

  5. It's all looking very productive. I hope whatever is digging the holes doesn't make a meal of too many of your crops. By the way it absolutely threw it down here yesterday and overnight and into this morning. Will it ever stop raining here for longer than a few hours ?

    1. That's my concern as well, Sue. Last year, I had a few nibbles on some of the potatoes, but it wasn't too bad at all. Even if the "Yard Sentinel" I ordered works (see my response to Sue above), it's probably too late for the garlic and developing potatoes - I'm sort of dreading what I will find once I harvest them. And I would gladly take a day of rain off your's like a dustbowl around here!!

  6. Supporting Broad Beans / Favas is always a challenge, but I love seeing what sort of structures people make for their peas and beans! I'm hoping to be able to get hold of some Hazel beanpoles for next year - I have a "promise" from our local countryside rangers that they will give me some in the Autumn. The "ultrasonic" device doesn't sound much good. These things are often better on paper than in the flesh, as it were.

    1. I know what you mean - a lot of these types of gadgets don't deliver on their promises. I purchased a different one (with adjustable sound & wide range of frequencies) from Amazon where a good chunk of comments indicate it has been effective in their garden. Worst case scenario is it doesn't work and I have to start digging up beds and adding hardware cloth next year. But if it works, I may be able to save some of the crops I'm growing now and avoid all that backbreaking work next season. It wasn't that expensive - around $45 - so I figured it was worth the gamble.

      And I hope your countryside ranger comes through with your hazel beanpoles - I know how much you are looking forward to getting your hands on those!

  7. Huge garden, Margaret, and it looks wonderful, a lot of work on your part. I'm growing a tall snow pea (Green Beauty) up a trellis this year and like you say, the problem is the winds blowing the peas away from the trellis. I have to resort to tying twine between the uprights to pull the peas back to the trellis. Provider is a great bean, hope you like it.

    1. Thanks David! The winds have been so bad this year. My efforts at bringing the peas back up with twine didn't do too much; I guess I left them a bit too long. I also think this is a bad year for sugar snaps in general. They don't seem to be producing anywhere near as much as normal and I blaming the heat.

      I'm quite looking forward to Provider - they are just starting to flower, so it won't be much longer now!

  8. I am so impressed with all the food you grow! I really need to diversify my kitchen garden pallet. Voles are the devil! They have been particularly bad in our garden this year. We've lots almost all of our hostas, irises and lilies to their appetite. And this is with wire mesh and chicken grit in the planting holes. They are not digging holes from above the plant and going in. I think they've outsmarted this gardener.

    1. Thanks Karen! Ugh...I can't believe they are digging into the soil from above. I'm hoping our voles aren't as smart as yours!

      We haven't had any issues with them in the main garden, likely because our soil is so rocky. In the hilltop area, however, is significantly less rocky - much nicer to dig up for both us and the voles, unfortunately. I originally thought of our rocky soil as a curse, but with the vole issue, it has turned out to be a definite blessing in the main garden area.

  9. Funny thing about that sage - I have a plant that is variegated and looks just like that sport on your purple plant, but it is now producing branches that are purple. I'm guessing that one arose from the other and tends to revert.

    Whew, there is a lot going on in your garden now! Your growing season is so compressed compared to mine, I don't know how you manage to get everything done.

    1. Well, how strange is that about the sage. You're probably right about it reverting - that makes total sense.

      We do go from trickle to flood in a such a short time and it is hard to keep up - I wouldn't mind a more leisurely pace, that's for sure! Each year it gets a little bit easier and eventually I'm sure I'll find my groove (so to speak) and won't be scrambling to get things done like I often am now.

  10. I love it when the plants push up against the netting, they seem so full of life! I am envious of the kohlrabi - mine don't seem to want to form at all and I have nothing but leaves.

    I've seen vole tunnels here and there but mostly around flowers (odd as they definitely love my root veggies most years). A shame, sorry to see that is happening in your garden!

    But fabulous results otherwise, you have a beautiful garden!

    1. Thank you Susie! The vole issue is really disconcerting - just another unforeseen challenge in the garden. You're so lucky that they don't get to your veg very much.

      This year, the kohlrabi seems to be doing much better than last & I have no idea why as I think they have received the same amount of sunlight and this years watering hasn't been the best either. Sometimes they just have an off year, I guess.

  11. That was a great tour and you have so much going on! I loved the lettuce and the peas for sure. We have vole problems here and I've not had much luck in catching any of them either. Thankfully either natural predators of feral cats seem to keep them in check. They sometimes pop up in the greenhouse and eat something though. Interesting you have tithonia planted, it's a butterfly magnet for me here and so easy to grow.

    1. You know, I've noticed one particular cat in our garden a lot more often then usual so perhaps they are helping with the vole issue. The other day I actually saw it catch something near our shed and assumed it was a mouse, but maybe not!

      I'm quite looking forward to seeing the tithonia bloom - their bed just got the drip installed in the past couple of days, so I'm hoping to see some good growth on them by the time I'm back from my trip.


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