I’m just going to leave these here…
I’m just going to leave these here…
Edit: today’s post was supposed to be about saving lettuce seeds. However, in my error (I blame a lack of coffee) it was pointed out to me that I had, in fact, harvested some form of brassica. Of course, once I realized, I felt very silly – because I know that lettuce seeds look NOTHING like brassicas. So below is how to harvest some sort of brassica – I still don’t know what plant it is, but any plant that forms a pod like this can be harvested the same way.
Split open the pods over a cup or dish – the seeds are very tiny, and the pods will break open easily!
Save your seeds in an envelope that allows them to breathe. If they are still damp at all, you can use an organza bag to let them dry.
I have a confession to make. I hate bugs. I’m not against all bugs, mind you – ladybugs and butterflies are cool, and spiders are alright as long as they aren’t, you know, on me. The kind of bugs I’m talking about are the hard bodied varieties – earwigs, June bugs, and (a new one for me) cucumber beetles. Just the sound they make when you crunch them, (because let’s face it, killing these Creepies is not “squishy”), makes my skin crawl. I will try anything to avoid having to actually make skin contact with them. So there it is – I am a passionate gardener who hates bugs. Mostly.
Cucumber beetles have become my challenge for this year. They are everywhere! They have nibbled on my cukes and my zukes. I can usually handle picking them up if I’m wearing gardening gloves, but then they get squished by my shoe – the piece of clothing that offers the most possible amount of fabric between my skin and the beetle. The only problem with this method is, I still have to touch the beetle. Which not only creeps me out, but also usually results in the beetle flying away when I get close. (Except when they’re mating – they must be REALLY focussed, because they just keep going while you kill them.)
So I’ve been using this.
It isn’t the first time I’ve used this to collect bugs, but I’ve never done it on such a large scale. Over the last three days we have killed over 60 beetles that have been feasting on our 9 cucumbers and 4 zucchini plants. And yet, they keep appearing.
I should be grateful that their yellow and black stripes are easy to spot on the plants. I should also be grateful that they are mating, so they are easy to catch and kill. And I am grateful. I am grateful that someone thought to build a bug vacuum toy for kids, and that someone was thoughtful enough to give it to my kid, and most of all I’m grateful for the look on my kid’s face when we catch not only our targets, but some other interesting bugs too. This thing is great!
Well, you know I’ve been spending a lot of time outside when it’s been 3 weeks since my last post. Here are a few pictures from our garden. Things have finally started to flourish!
After receiving a trim a couple of weeks ago, our twelve little homegrown sweet peppers have really taken off . They have doubled in height, and have quite a few flowers – and one little pepper on the California Wonder plant! I staked them with bamboo skewers to give them a little extra support on windy days, but for the most part, these are pretty solid plants. I can’t wait to start eating fresh peppers, they make such a great little snack.
Holy tomato plants, Batman! So, this year I decided to try to see exactly how much I could squeeze into my small growing space. I ended up planting 16 tomato plants. I staked four plants to the corners of my square cages, and kept pulling the plugs whenever I noticed them. I have to say, these are the nicest tomato plants I have ever grown. They are really strong, tall, and so far producing quite a bit of fruit. I’m looking forward to trying the yellow tomatoes – a new variety for us.
We had a bit of trouble with our local neighbourhood bunnies. They decided to nibble all the leaves off of our low bush bean plants. It was our own fault, really – we mowed the lawn and they had nothing to eat. Luckily we also planted Blue Lake pole beans, and since bunnies can’t climb or fly, those beans should be safe. The beans have now gotten so tall that they fall over, then climb up themselves. We have harvested about a handful so far, and they are just as tasty as they were last year. One of the things I love so much about beans – they are incredibly easy to grow from seed, and easy to save the seed. They are probably the cheapest, highest yielding vegetable I grow. And they’re great for you, too!
The kale is usually our earliest producer, and this year was no exception. We have already gotten three batches of kale from this patch, and it’s ready for another harvest. The kale chips are delicious. We are having fun experimenting with different flavours.
I have a confession to make. I have never grown zucchini before. I love eating it – fried, raw, steamed, on a kebab, on a burger… and I hear it is incredibly easy to grow and yields high, but I simply never got around to growing it. With my focus this year being on high yielding plants, I decided to get a good climbing variety, and so far have produced very strong plants with beautiful flowers. We’ve squashed a few cucumber beetles from a neighbouring cucumber plant, and are now ready to watch it deliver!
Nasturtiums, so delicious, so beautiful, so incredibly useful! Not only do they provide shade and cover for good bugs, and attract bees and butterflies, but they are also completely, entirely edible. We use the leaves and flower buds in our salads. I hear you can use the root too, but I haven’t been that adventurous.
And now, on to the flowers and seeds!
Our Thai basil bolted, producing the most beautiful, delicate purple flowers. This basil was grown from seed we collected from last year’s basil.
I love collecting seed – it’s minimal effort for free seeds – gardening is slowly getting cheaper for us. We also have regular sweet basil, which looks as if it’s about to bolt as well. We will be collecting seeds from both.
The poor leaf lettuce that we started in the early spring didn’t stand a chance. We sowed it when it was cool, and a week after they sprouted, we received a surprise heat wave and they bolted immediately. So, sadly, there is no fresh lettuce for us at the moment, but hey, at least we get more seeds!
And I’m just going to leave this picture of a fly on a yellow zinnia here. Happy gardening, everyone!
The green onions we pre-started indoors never came up. I suspect it was an kssue of too much water. Eventually I direct seeded a bunch more, and here they are, three weeks later! Next year I plan to direct seed them early and cover them to avoid such a mishap.
Every year I overplant, to ensure that I get enough plants. And every year, I end up with way more plants than I can squeeze into the garden. So this year I decided to keep track of how many seeds I planted, and how many actually germinated.
Some of my seeds were a few years old, others were brand new; some are organic and others aren’t. Some were purchased from seed companies, some were from seed swaps, and some were collected by myself from last year’s harvest. Unfortunately, this year I was unable to keep track of how old the seeds were, so my data does not account for that.
Below is my germination chart of all pre-starts. I did not keep track of things I direct-seed, such as salad greens, because the seeds are so small that I will continue to plant rows of uncountable seeds in-ground. But I will be using this data to decide how much seed to purchase for next year.
|Peppers, Gypsy Red||5||4||1||80.00%|
|Peppers, Golden Cali Wonder||7||6||1||85.71%|
|Peppers, Romanian Sweet||10||6||4||60.00%|
|Peppers, Sweet Chocolate||5||4||1||80.00%|
|Tomato, Black Cherry||10||9||1||90.00%|
|Tomato, Matt’s Wild Cherry||10||7||3||70.00%|
|Tomatoes, Yellow Large||10||7||3||70.00%|
|Tomatoes, Yellow Mini||6||6||0||100.00%|
I planted the pre-starts out a few weeks ago, but I wanted to give them some time to settle in to their beds before I took pictures. It’s amazing what you can fit into a postage-stamp backyard!
When you have a small space to grow in, you must think vertically. We installed two towers made from plastic coated steel supports with jute twine wrapped around them. These will support our zucchini and cucumber plants. Between them we grow nasturtiums for our salads, and around the outside reside zinnias, sunflowers, and morning glories to attract pollinators.
Of course, there are plenty of vining plants to grow vertically in your garden. My absolute favourite are Blue Lake Pole Beans. Last year we grew 12 plants which produced enough beans to both eat and preserve (with hot peppers) through the summer. I was also able to collect about 300 seeds off the vines at the end of the harvest season. I have been growing these beans for three years now, and the yield is simply amazing!
The cedar hedge at the back of our property leaves us with a long, shady strip of garden, receiving approximately 3-4 hours of sun each day. It is sometimes difficult to decide what to put there. This year we settled on rainbow chard, kale, and green onions. Tasty!
Last year we planted only four tomato plants, each a different variety. This year I grew yellow, yellow mini, black cherry, Matt’s Wild cherry, and Roma. We had planned to only plant four again this year, but as usual, I started way too many plants, so we popped 16 of those suckers into the garden. This is going to require some maintenance throughout the summer, but the yield will be totally worth it when we’re eating homemade pasta sauce on cold winter days. Between the tomatoes I planted hot habanero peppers for pickling and marigolds for pest control.
I never feel that there is enough space in-ground, so we do a little bit of container gardening as well. Our big bins contain our 12 sweet pepper plants and one box of carrots and radishes (interplanted). We also use window boxes for our salad greens – lettuce, chicory, spinach, and a mesclum mix.
You may be wondering about the strange blue things throughout my garden this year. We decided to try underground watering – we buried 2 litre apple juice containers with holes in them. So far they work great in the garden, but not so much in the bins. In the bins they release the water too fast and the excess just comes out of the overfill holes in the bottom. Next year we will try smaller bottles to release the water closer to the middle of the bins.
Oh yes, and we can’t forget the herbs. We actually don’t use a lot of herbs in our house, but I do have chives and about 5 kinds of mint in my perennial garden out front, and some parsley in the garden with the tomatoes. Other than that, we grow basil and thai basil in containers which move around the yard.
I’m quite happy with how full our home garden is. We have a plot over at our local community garden which contains a large amount of carrots and beets for pickling as well. Now that all the work is done, we have time to relax and enjoy watching things grow!
There is a frost warning for Ottawa tonight. Bring in any plants in pots, and cover anything that’s in-ground. You can use anything to cover them – plant pots, garden cloches, even yard waste bags! If you plant anything in bins, they may have come with lids you can pop back on for the night.
It’s also a good idea to water your plants before bedtime. The water will keep the plants a slightly warmer temperature than the air around them.
Here are a few of the ways we covered our plants. The window boxes at the bottom are next to the house to keep them warm. Good luck and stay warm tonight!