Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bring on the Winter

The first snow last week ended almost all delusions of working in the garden for much longer. Fortunately, I was ahead of the game this year completing the fall clean up and some spring preparations well before the arrival of the snow. The berries pictured above are from a Bittersweet Nightshade that grows wild at the back of the yard, clambering up our laneway gate.

All the vegetables from the potager have been harvested. The last was an impressive row of leeks that were quickly consumed in leek potato soup and leek and mushroom suppertime pancakes. The parsley is still going strong. I'm going to leave it to see what happens next year. Six 15K bags of manure were added to the dirt in preparation for spring. The potager was a big success this year. Next year's goal is to use the space more efficiently and to extend the growing season.

The garlic has already claimed its spot in the potager. It's the first time I'm growing garlic and I'm very excited. While volunteering at a children's teaching garden this summer, the aroma of the garlic harvest convinced me I had to go for it in my own garden. Fingers crossed for an amazing crop.

The garlic appeared to be the end of the road for this year's gardening season. That is until the nightmare renovation project from next door reared its ugly head once again. It's a long, long, long, looong story and my garden has taken the brunt of this ill-conceived and poorly executed project. Yet here we are again...flooding in the neighbours' basement (including the brand new addition they put on just last year) means they will be digging up part of my garden one more time. (Is it just me or wouldn't it have made more sense to deal with the flooding of the existing home before adding on a new section? Look up "ineptitude" in the dictionary and you will find a picture of this house and everyone associated with it thus far. Okay, deep breath, cleansing breath, ah that's better.)

News that the garden would be under attack yet again meant a emergency mission to save my Jerusalem Artichokes. I've grown them for years because their enormous height blocks out unsightly views and because their September blooms make my day. It made sense to transplant them to the potager where they will hide the neighbours' monster block garage while existing happily amongst other edibles. I have always treated Jerusalem Artichoke as a flower but having dug up all the tubers, the time was right to shift my thinking. I saved a few to eat and guess what...I liked them! I had them raw and loved their crunch. (Thanks to Soilman for encouraging me to take the plunge into this new food adventure.)

It's hard to believe but everything is done (a first for me in the garden) Everything is planted. Everything is manured. Everything is mulched. Even the garden furniture has been put away! Like the perfect Christmas present, the nightmare reno redo should be done right around the holidays leaving my garden in peace once and for all. There's nothing left to say except "Bring on the winter."

P.S. Winter may soon be here but that doesn't mean the garden blogging has to stop. Heck, isn't blogging a big part of what gets us gardeners through the winter? Stay tuned for posts on my woodland garden holiday decorations, holiday urns and window boxes, and indoor plants that even I can't kill. I'll even share my most embarrassing garden secret. That's right, a secret so horrible and humiliating that it will send shudders down your spine (unless it causes you to go into spasms of laughter first....interestingly enough my secret has had both effects on me depending on what kind of day I'm having.) So stay tuned and keep blogging (I'll want to hear your secrets too!!!). It's going to be a long winter (let's face it, it always is.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Cardinal Comes to Call

There is nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a cardinal. Sure I've seen them on occasion but sightings here in the city are few and far between. So when I caught a glimpse of a brilliant red cardinal perched on the serviceberry first thing this morning, it took my breath away (and not only because of my personal-best, record-breaking sprint to get the camera.)

My garden visitor paused for a drink at the bird bath. He then flitted across the yard to compare his colorful plumage to the bright red berries of the burning bush. I could have watched for hours but he had only a few moments to spare before moving on. Moments like this, brief as they may be, make me feel like my garden is a success and leave me hoping for many more returns from my cardinal friend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Making Mulch

When life gives you a towering Maple tree in your neighbour's yard...

...there's no need to moan about the fall clean-up.

Instead, break out the mower and start mowing.

In no time at all, your huge piles of leaves will be cut down to size.

Tuck the shredded leaves around your plants (in this case a wild geranium) and consider your perennials tucked in for winter.

Unlike whole maple leaves, the shredded variety won't form a dense, choking mat that can kill you garden favourites. Besides there's nothing wrong with helping Mother Nature along. Shredding will speed up decomposition and come spring there will be hardly any clean-up at all. Winter and the worms will have taken care of returning all that organic matter back into your soil.

I used to hate cleaning up the maple's fallen leaves for weeks on end every fall. After making leaf mulch for the first time last year as an experiment I realized what I was missing. Making mulch is a great work-out (especially for me and my push mower). It does my soil and my perennials a huge favour. And, after dropping some big change on new plants during the summer, it feels pretty good to improve the garden without spending a cent. That's right, home-made leaf mulch is free and I find it hard to say no to a freebie.