Autumn is Here

Autumn is here and with it comes the crisp, cool air that so often threatens winter.  As I stare out into the garden, still alive and somewhat kicking, I think back to the freshness of spring; that feeling of wonder as I watched my little seedlings sprouting under their lamps, the gritty texture of fresh compost running through my fingers, and the scent of growth emanating from our little indoor greenhouse.

Fall brings a feeling of sadness.  All of our hard work, our vines of beans and our patches of greens, are getting ready to be stuffed into yard bags and sent away.  The petals have long fallen from the sunflowers, leaving their bare heads above the garden, watching everything slow and wilt.  All is not finished, though – seeds are being collected, final fruits are being harvested.  Yet still, where spring turns me green, fall makes me blue.

Every year around this time, I have to force myself to look forward and to remember that winter is not a barren period of non-gardening, that it is an opportunity.  A chance to start fresh, to go over our plans for next year, to streamline our efficiency.  A chance to put together our spring planting schedule, prepare for seed swaps, and finalize our new layout.  All is not lost, the garden is not dead.  It is simply resting, decomposing, preparing for its new tenants.

Dracaena Survival


I recently chopped down a 7 foot tall Dracaena because it was getting too tall and spindly for its space.  The cutting was placed in a jar to root, while the original plant pot was set outside temporarily, until I was able to dump it into the composter.  Well I went outside to do some pre-fall tidying around the yard, and wouldn’t you know it, that dracaena is fighting to survive!  These are some of my favourite plants, so robust and beautiful, I will happily welcome this budding old plant back into my home.

The Mighty Nasturtium

The nasturtium comes in a variety of both vibrant and muted colours.

The nasturtium comes in a variety of both vibrant and muted colours.

When it comes to my garden, edibles rule.  I plant flowers less for their beauty and more for their ability to attract the all powerful and important pollinators.  But there is one flower that provides it all:  beauty, density, attractiveness to pollinators, and even nutrition!  And that, my friends, is the mighty Nasturtium.

This sun loving plant will grow in all types of soil, but really excels in a pH of 5.5-7.5, so avoid planting this in a strong alkaline-rich soil.  The leaves have a lovely peppery flavour, as do the broad, round shaped flowers.  Once the flowers fall off, the plant produces three seeds per flower, which develop and fall off the plant once ready.  They are very easy to collect, and dry, for planting the following year.

Nasturtium vines creeping across the garden.

Nasturtium vines creeping across the garden.

Another diverse aspect of this plant is the way it grows.  A long vine with creep across the ground, often growing roots along the stem as it sits on the wet soil.  But if you take the time to train it, it will wrap around and climb trellises, and makes for a gorgeous fence topper.


So if you’re looking for a plant that is beautiful, edible, and beneficial, look no farther than this, the incredible Nasturtium.

West Barrhaven Community Garden

West Barrhaven Community Garden on Jockvale Road

West Barrhaven Community Garden on Jockvale Road

When we bought our house about 4 years ago, before we established our backyard edible gardens, I remember saying to my husband “this small backyard is going to be a challenge.”  At the time, I wasn’t able to look at our neglected, sad excuse for a play / growing area and visualize the paradise we have today.  So I did some research and put my name on the waiting list for our local community garden, the West Barrhaven Community Garden.   Continue reading



I went out to water the garden last night, and came back in with this!  It’s been a beautifully colourful summer.

My Chandelier… More than a Light

This may not seem like a garden-related post, so please bear with me.

When we bought our very modest house a few years ago it had a lot of problems, both big and small.  We initially focused on fixing the big problems first but, like all homeowners, there were some low priority changes we wanted to make as well.  You know, esthetic changes to make it pur own.  One was a 20+ year old chandelier.  As a light source it worked well, but it’s a little too ornate and our tastes are more modern.  Also, it doesn’t take power saving lights (it’s on a dimmer switch), which was a huge negative for us.

As time went on, it became a useful fixture. What I once thought was an eyesore is now a place to hang birthday and holiday decorations, bags of fresh seeds, and hot peppers for drying. It is the perfect out-of-the-way place for such things. I see its value now, and I’m kind of glad we procrastinated on purchasing a new one.


The things that hang from my chandalier

Already Saving Seed / It’s Not Too Late to Plant


An overgrown bean is marked for seeds with a milk tag.

It’s early August and we’re already saving seeds. It all started with a few beans we forgot to pick. I used milk tags to mark them and will let them dry on the vine. Now we’re into nasturtiums, radishes, and zinnias, which have organza bags over them to collect the seeds before they make their way to the ground.


Nasturtium seeds drop from the vines daily.

We also used the fantastic weather this week to replant a few crops – carrots, radishes, salad greens and kale are all seeded for fall. We look forward to pickling our carrots and green beans with various hot peppers that are now beginning to ripen.

How Water Can Save Your Frosted Plants

Row covers are great for preventing frost when your plants are small, but what about the ones that are too big to cover?

Row covers are great for preventing frost when your plants are small, but what about the ones that are too big to cover?

I’m not an expert, and I don’t claim to be – there are still many, many things I have to learn about gardening.  The biggest reason I frequent garden forums and groups is to learn new tricks and techniques.  Most of the people in my life recognize my thirst for ALL THE GARDEN THINGS, and shower me with related articles and blog posts.  So there’s no end to the learning that goes on over on the green side of my life.

My latest lesson came from a book which my daughter and I are reading together.  It’s a classic that you may have read as a child called Farmer Boy, from the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The book focuses on the life of farmboy Almanzo Wilder.  The chapter we just finished is called “Cold Snap”, and tells of how, one spring, Almanzo and his siblings were all woken up in the middle of the night to go out and water the corn because they were experiencing a late frost.   Continue reading

Harvest Monday

I thought I’d just share a couple of quick harvest pics today.


Rainbow Chard, stubby Cukes, Tiny Tim and Black Cherry tomatoes, and two peas from our backyard garden.


Two Dragon carrots, an assortment of tomatoes, ground cherries, and mystery beans (that I didn’t plant) from our community garden plot.

Not Your Average Pea

This chickpea flower looks very familiar...

This chickpea flower looks very familiar…

I love gardening as much as any other gardener, but even I have to admit that sometimes it gets a little bit boring.  Much like the monotonous task of doing laundry, it’s not that I have nothing to do, it’s more that I have the same things to over and over again.  Weeding and watering are zen tasks, they certainly aren’t exciting.

The exciting part is in the planning and, each year, the attempt at something we’ve never grown before.  This year we chose peanuts and chickpeas as our experimental crops.  Both are doing very well in our zone.  And not surprisingly, both are legumes.

... as does this peanut flower.

… as does this peanut flower.

Peanuts, obviously, are most commonly found in peanut butter, or eaten plain as a tasty snack.  There is only one variety of peanut that grows well in our cool Canadian climate, and that is the Valencia peanut.  They are a high source of fat, protein, iron, and magnesium.  Peanuts grow underground, and can be harvested and dried, then roasted for storage or consumption.

Chickpeas growing in fuzzy green pods.

Chickpeas growing in fuzzy green pods.

Chickpeas, or Garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B-6.  Most commonly found in hummus and salads, chickpeas can be either harvested early and eaten like snap beans or harvested late and laid flat to dry until the pods split open.  The seeds can then be harvested and dried.