Late Summer Garden

Right now my garden is bursting at the seams — okay, well, all except the peas, which have died back somewhat. My potatoes are starting to pop out of the ground (they don’t grow down very well because of the hard clay under the garden), and I have to keep re-covering them with soil so they are not damaged by the sun. Before I planted the garden this year, I doubled the amount of soil, which seems to have delayed potatoes popping up, but didn’t keep it from happening.

Even tied back, my tomato plants have passed “threatening to take over” and are now simply the rulers of the garden. When I look out the window behind them, it’s like looking through a jungle to the back yard. If you can see me hiding back there, you’ll get an idea of how tall the plants have grown — and they’d be taller if I had taller stakes to support them, but their fruit is weighing them down.

Today’s harvest included a whole lot of cherry tomatoes, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, and hot peppers — along with handfuls of herbs to use in cooking tonight.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, my garden definitely doesn’t grow with silver bells, and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row. I mean, outside of the historical explanations, the plants in the “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” nursery rhyme were all flowers, and I’m just not that big into flowers. I love to look at a beautiful flower garden, no question, but when it comes to growing my own plants, I prefer something that I can eat. Although last year I did grow a bunch of nasturtiums, which serve both purposes; both the flowers and the leaves are edible, and the leaves make a lovely, slightly-peppery pesto.

This year I skipped the nasturtiums, as well as my usual crop of pumpkins. I usually plant my pumpkins along the fence line, but this year we were supposed to get a new fence installed, and I knew that the installation would kill the delicate vines. Now the installation has been delayed until September (much to my great frustration), but I’m still kind of glad that I didn’t plant any gourds this year. It has been an incredibly wet summer so far (I’ve only had to water the garden once), and with all that water comes earwigs, which will eat all the fruit from a squash vine before it has the chance to grow more than a few centimeters in diameter.

Banana peppers were a late addition to my garden, but they are growing well despite the cooler summer we’re experiencing. Any hot peppers that I grow this summer will be incorporated into hot sauce come fall, which I can and then save to give out at Christmas.

My parsley, even more so than my other herbs, is trying to take over the world — which is why I plant herbs in pots instead of directly in my garden. After my successful attempt at tabbouleh the other day, I have a feeling that this plant will become our main source for this dish this season. I think I’d prefer a higher ratio of parsley to bulgur next time, so the plant will be used up even faster, unless its growth rate increases. Herbs generally fare better with pruning, so it could happen.

My Swiss chard is coming up nicely. I’ve never actually grown this plant before, but I was inspired by my friend’s garden last year. The rainbow colours of the stems are gorgeous. I made pickles of the stems last year, and much to my dismay the colour leached out of the stems into the pickling liquid over time, leaving the stems a pale, flaccid cream colour. What a shame. Maybe this year I will freeze the excess stems instead to saute or steam at a later date.

My tomatoes are coming up nicely, although I think that they, along with the rest of my garden, could use a few more sunny days. Some of the plants are almost as tall as me, although their yield so far seems lower than last year.

Oh, and we’ve already had our first harvest! It was just a small handful of peas, but they were quite delicious according to my children, who were very happy with their haul. The girls really like being able to wander into the yard and pick food directly from the plant. My response when they ask me to do so is invariably yes (so long as the food is ready for harvesting). I really have no complaints if they want to eat more fruits and veggies.

Growing Garden

I am happy to be able to say that my garden is coming along swimmingly!

My little lilac bush, which is no taller than me, is blooming like crazy for the second year in a row. With an intensity all out of proportion of to its tiny tiny size, it perfumes my home when I leave the windows open, especially in the early evening.

My wee pear tree was pollinated, and is actually growing fruit! I can only find four immature fruit hiding under the leaves, but that’s not half bad for a tree that’s only a few years old. I wonder what kinds of pear these will be? The tree is supposed to be grafted with four different varieties, but I can’t remember what type is on which branch.

My apple tree was pollinated well and there are hundreds of tiny immature fruit hiding among the leaves.

My peas have begun to flower, which means that there should be pods any time now! If I’m lucky, the plants will produce food all summer. Now, if only I could train them to grow up the pallet trellis instead of sideways.

All of my potatoes have started to put up leaves, which means that the roots are growing as well.

The shallots, on the other hand, aren’t doing nearly so well as last year. Only three of the plants have started to put up leaves, and the leaves themselves have been quite small. I’ll leave it another week or so, and if I don’t see more growth, I’ll plant more between the healthy plants. Why waste the space?

Last but not least, my tomatoes are starting to fruit! This means that I’ll soon have to put up the cages, instead of leaving them as they are on stakes. If they grown anything like last year, a single stake will not be enough to support the weight.

Ottawa Farmers’ Market

I had my first chance to check out this year’s Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park this past Sunday. This being Canada (first outdoor plantings generally happen during the Victoria Day weekend at the end of May) and especially with the flooding we’ve had this spring, there wasn’t a lot of fresh produce out yet. We probably have at least a couple of weeks before garlic scapes (one of my all-time favourite ingredients) start coming into season. However, there were lots of baked goods, preserves, freshly-cooked food, and locally-grown plants. It was a rainy, chilly day, but we still had a lovely time. First came the exploring:

The Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park, with the Aberdeen Pavilion (also known as the “Cattle Castle”) on the left.

Potted herbs for sale.

Maple Country Sugar Bush

Acorn Creek Garden Farm



The Right Bite

Then of course we had to stop for lunch:

The Hot Potato Company

My baked potato wedge poutine from The Hot Potato Company

Raon Kitchen

Thing 1’s chicken bimbap from Raon Kitchen

Then of course we had to get dessert; this week it was tarts from Savoury Pursuits Fine Foods:

Savoury Pursuits Fine Foods

And then back to exploring!

Linda’s Garden

The weather is promising to be much nicer this coming weekend — actually summery weather in June, who’d’ve thunk it? Here are some of the local markets that are running this (and every) weekend until fall:

Ottawa Farmers’ Market: Orleans
Thursdays, 12:00pm – 7:00pm
Ray Friel Center, 1585 Tenth Line

Cumberland Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 8:00am – 1:00pm
R.J. Kennedy Community Centre / Cumberland Arena, 1115 Dunning Road

Ottawa Farmers’ Market: Byron Park – Westboro
Saturdays, 9:30am – 3:00pm
Byron Park, 432-454 Richmond Road

Ottawa Farmers’ Market – Lansdowne Park
Sundays, 9:00am – 3:00pm
Aberdeen Square, Lansdowne Park, 450 Queen Elizabeth Drive

Building A Garden

As part of my commitment to growing at least some of my own food (because heaven knows I can’t grow enough food to feed a family of four on the amount of land we own), I’ve planted a vegetable garden in my back yard. It’s been a bit of an exercise in trial and error, because I never had a successful garden of any kind before. Until the last few years, I didn’t have the land — but I also didn’t have enough interest. I can’t pinpoint a particular event that changed my point of view, but I think it has been a gradual thing. That being said, my house didn’t come with a conveniently prepared garden plot, so it ended up being being both a mental and physical commitment to working outdoors.

I scoured my old photos for a picture of my old deck, but I hated it so much that it’s not in very many of them. The deck came with the house, and it was very poorly built — and then they painted it with interior paint, which of course didn’t last and led to it rotting out even quicker than it would have in the first place. However, we couldn’t afford to replace the deck right away, so we kept it as long as possible. The plan is to put in a small patio by the patio door sometime in the next year or two beside the garden, since what’s currently there is clay — otherwise known as very slippery mud when it rains.

However, after last year’s spring thaw, my husband and I started stepping through rotten boards on the old deck. That was the last straw for me, so I started taking the old deck apart. It was worse than I thought; the deck had been directly attached to the house wall and siding had been removed to do so. This meant that there was rot that had to be removed, new boards put in, and new siding put up. Also, the basement window under the deck had never been finished properly on the outside.

It was great to get all the boards out, but then I had to take out all of the concrete supports, which I could barely lift and definitely couldn’t carry. I ended up using a trolley to do the lifting and lugging. I also had to remove a huge random chunk of concrete that had been hidden under the deck. It was almost three feet long and a foot and a half wide, and weighed more than I did. That was a fun exercise of digging and lever use to get it out of the ground. Not only that, but it served no purpose that I could see, since there were no holes in the top where something had once been mounted.

Then I fixed up the wall of the house, and my husband helped me clear the sod where I wanted the garden to be. It was ridiculously difficult to get even the small amount of sod out that I needed for the size of garden I wanted. The seed had been planted directly in the local clay, and that stuff, when dry, is really, really hard.

I lugged in probably 2,000 liters of soil for the garden all by hand. Otherwise, nothing would grow in my garden except weeds. The soil is so poor out here. I also added a copious quantity of sheep manure compost.

I added a plastic border around the garden and planted it for the season.

With regular watering (last year was a dry summer), the garden grew really well.

I mean, it grew REALLY, really well. (I’m in the photo for scale.)

Then of course came the harvest, and then winter… By spring, the snow had collapsed my garden border, and the spring rains (which were pretty severe here, even where there was no flooding) started washing out my garden soil. Ambitious weeds started taking root before the planting season began.

Last week I built a cedar border around the garden to hold the soil.

Last year my root veggies were short and stubby, and started poking above the surface of the garden instead of growing down because they were thwarted by the hard clay under the garden soil. So this week I lugged in another 1,500L of garden soil to build up the garden, as well as another 350L of sheep manure fertilizer.

Then I planted the garden. It’s been rainy enough that I haven’t had to water it myself yet. I hope that we don’t get so much rain this year that it destroys crops. Although the way things are going right now, that is a distinct possibility. I have my fingers crossed.