Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Enough to Make Me Cry

Actually there are not enough onions here to make me cry and that's the really sad part. I'll pause here so readers can take a moment to break out their magnifying glasses....... Can you see them? I know it's tough but if you get really close to the screen and squint a little you might be able to make them out. Now where was I? Oh yes. My onions are a flop. A colossal failure. An unmitigated disaster. My big mistake boils down to three words: location, location, location. I planted two rows of onion seeds, a white bunching heritage variety, on the wrong side of two rows of carrots. The carrots did, and are still doing, incredibly well. So well, in fact, that they completely shaded out the onions. Arrghhh! Lesson learned. I won't make the same mistake next year. In the meantime, I'm going to try and make the most of my pathetic little harvest: perhaps I can whip up the world's smallest serving of french onion soup? A thimble-sized onion casserole? Would pickling be overkill?

Potato Salad Anyone?

As this summer goes on, the days seem to be getting more and more perfect. Take today: a comfortable 23 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect for laying about in the sun doing nothing, just like this year's potato harvest. That's it there just minutes after I pulled the potatoes from the soil. It's a modest harvest to be sure, but certainly enough to enjoy several potato salads, my favourite way to eat potatoes. I planted them out of nostalgia (about a decade ago, potatoes were the first vegetable I ever tried to grow.)

I might not plant them again next year, though. They take up a lot of space and take a really long time to reach a decent size. Potatoes are fun and their blooms are quite pretty. They are also so easy to find in any grocery store and dirt cheap. That makes me think it might be wiser to use the potato plot for something a little more exotic next year. Maybe some swiss chard and beets (okay, hardly exotic but to an amateur vegetable gardener, they're pretty cool.) They have the added appeal of being pick-as-needed crops. You pick what you need when you need it and the rest of the plants just keep growing. I really appreciate that about this year's carrots. I'm plucking one or two daily for dinner and the rest keep growing, and growing and growing. My vegetable area is so small I doubt I'll ever really need to consider long-term storage solutions for my harvest, so pick-as-needed seems the way to go. My poor potatoes. I haven't even had a taste yet and already I have rejected them. Let's face it though, as good as it might be, there's only so much potato salad a girl can eat.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

26 Tomatoes

Can anyone stand another picture of my grown-from-seed Petitebec tomatoes? They are the most exciting thing happening in the garden right now. Every day I collect a dozen or so but today the count reached 26. I shared a couple of my March-sown plants with my in-laws earlier this season. Their tomatoes are doing even better than mine. They have more fruit and the tomatoes are reaching a bigger size (almost like a small plum.) They shared some with their neighbour Andy who declared them to be the tastiest tomatoes he's ever had. And, as my mother-in-law pointed out, Andy is Dutch and knows a thing or two about gardening. A nice compliment indeed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Inevitable

A work project kept me out of the garden for two weeks and upon my return, the inevitable had happened: the Chinese Lanterns were in full bloom. I use the term "inevitable" quite deliberately. It is defined as "incapable of being avoided or evaded." That describes Chinese Lantern perfectly. Despite my best efforts to eradicate this plant from the garden, it persists. I have pulled it out by the truckload for years. I have teased its roots out of the soil, discovering tendrils that stretch for several feet just beneath the soil surface. I have cursed the day I planted it and ultimately, I have accepted defeat. I can readily acknowledge that I may never be rid of this plant. Instead, I pluck it when I can and when the lanterns appear, I appreciate their bright orange colour. They are a harbinger of fall (another inevitable) and hint at the beautiful colours still to come. As much as I complain about this plant, I have a great deal of respect for it. Maybe one day, it will win me over completely. Based on my experience with Chinese Lantern, that result may be inevitable.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What Happened to the Zucchini?

I thought zucchini was an easy vegetable. Foolproof. Those who grow it often use the word "glut" to describe their harvests. And, of course, on a slow news day there's always a story or two about an eight-foot long monster zucchini that grew that big almost overnight. So what happened to my zucchini? They are this year's garden disaster story. Things started promisingly enough. Lots of seeds sprouted. The vines seemed to be growing well. That's them growing among the nasturtiums and marigolds (my only pepper plant is in the centre).

Trouble was soon to follow though. The leaves developed what looked to be a case of powdery mildew (I plead guilty to overcrowding the plants. The wet weather was no doubt a factor too). Then it took forever for the first flower to bloom but it did. Finally, I thought. Here they come. But they didn't. Upon further research and closer inspection, it appeared the plants were only producing male flowers. No females. No pollination. No zukes.

Some websites suggest that lots of male flowers to start is normal and that the female flowers will eventually bloom. So I waited for a while but the plants turned yellow and began to wither away. I chucked the whole heap of them onto the compost pile. There will be no zucchini glut this year.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

The sun is shining. There's a breeze in the air. It's a long weekend. And the cherry tomatoes have offered up their largest single-day harvest so far. What a beautiful morning. Hope you all have a great day in the garden.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Round of Applause for Our Volunteer

At the back of the garden, that horrible place that's home to the car, composter and mutant-sized weeds run amok (all of it mercifully hidden from view by a massive yew), nature has tackled a garden improvement project. A volunteer tomato plant has sprouted at the base of the composter and it is growing like crazy. That's a bit of a surprise because this particular area gets very little sunshine until late afternoon. I imagine the plant is compensating by burrowing its roots deep under the composter and drinking up all that compost goodness. Having witnessed its determination in such a hostile environment (the thistles rule back here), I had no choice but to take action. The vine, which had started to clamber across the gravel driveway, is now staked and I'm cheering it on as it grows.

There's plenty of fruit already on the vine. The shape suggests a plum tomato. I'm certain it's a Roma. I can distinctly remember purchasing Roma tomatoes in the not-too-distant past. Romas are an unusual choice for me (I like my tomatoes small, juicy and round) so perhaps that's why the purchase stuck in my head. So sometime since then, somehow, a seed found its way off the dinner plate, into and out of the composter, onto a suitable patch of dirt and, without drawing any attention to itself, grew tall, flowered profusely, and set fruit. All without any encouragement. No soil preparation, no weeding, no fertilizing, no watering. Nothing. Now that's what I call a great volunteer. A round of applause is certainly in order.