Harvest Monday

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

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

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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.

You’re Doing it Right

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“You should always prune the suckers on your tomato plants.”
“Compost should be half brown and half green.”
“You should only water early early in the morning.”

Between Facebook groups and garden blogs, I get handed a lot of advice on a daily basis.  You would be surprised to find that, in a world of laid-back gardeners, there are many who think that their way is the only way.  I even read a quote once from somebody who said “if you’re not mulching all of your plants, you’re doing it wrong”.

When seeking gardening advice, it’s important to remember that not everybody is an expert on the subject.  Unless you’re actually going to an expert, chances are the advice being handed to you as nothing more than personal experiences and success stories.  Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with success stories or experiences – we stand to gain far more than we stand to lose from hearing other people’s experiences.  But when somebody tells you that you should be pruning your tomato plants, when not pruning them has worked out perfectly fine for you in the past, then by all means just let them grow.  Take that advice as a suggestion, and do what works for you.

It’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s idea of what the perfect gardener is, how one acts, and what methods one uses.  After all, we come from generations upon generations who have tried to keep up with the Joneses on some level.  Even with gardening, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t enough.  Not organic enough.  Not environmental enough.  Not efficient enough.  Well I’m here to tell you to stop.  That’s right, just stop.

If your plants are growing, stop looking at other people who are doing it differently, and assuming that you’re doing it wrong.  Stop feeling like you aren’t organic enough.  Stop feeling like pulling weeds, or not pulling weeds, is somehow a bad thing. 

Stop being so impossibly hard on yourself.  Just like in the rest of life, every gardener is different, every garden is different, and every challenge is different.  If what you’re doing is working for you, and you’re happy with the results, then please, keep doing it.

The absolute best advice I’ve ever received was at an organic gardening workshop: “there is more than one way to garden.”  I repeat this mantra to myself regularly.  It keeps me sane among the catalogs of advice I see daily. And it makes me feel good about the choices I have made myself.

Dreaming of Luffa Scrubbies

A few years back I successfully grew Luffa gourds on our 20th floor balcony in downtown Ottawa.  We ended up with about 8 good luffa fruit from which we extracted 8 scrub sponges.

I am now attempting these in our backyard garden for the second year.  Last year they barely grew.  This year they’re growing, but the ants are all over them.  Today, however, I discovered this little gem, which gives me hope:

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I’m hoping for flowers soon, because the vines are already reaching the top of their maypole support and I’ve already started cutting the ends.

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I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Next year I’m focusing on less variety and experimental plants, and larger harvests from plants we actually eat from, so this will be my last luffa attempt for a while.

Diverse Tomatoes

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(L-R) 2 Tiny Tims, Roma, Black Cherry

This year we planted a new (to us) variety of tomatoes: Tiny Tim.  These plants produce tiny red cherry tomatoes, so small that they can be tossed into salads after nothing more than a quick wash.  No slicing required.

What we didn’t realize is how small the plant itself is!  In the photo above, the two plants on the left are Tiny Tims, standing at a height of about 2 feet.  On the right, a Roma and a Black Cherry stand 4-5 feet tall (and are still growing!)

So if you’re seeking a small tomato plant that’s easy to care for and fits nicely among other low-growing plants (ours are perfect to have planted in front of our cucumber vines on the fence while still allowing plenty of sunlight to both plants), Tiny Tim may be just what you’re looking for.

Arrival of the Ladybugs

This is what 1000 ladybugs in a bag looks like.

Ah lovely, lovely ladybugs – the best solution for aphid control I’ve ever used.  Each ladybug can eat over 50 aphids in a day!  This year’s shipment of ladybugs was delayed due to a late spring start but, once they arrived, they were promptly relocated to our fridge while we set up their new environment. Continue reading

In Bloom

Things are starting to blossom in the garden!  While we’ve already started harvesting greens, the tomatoes, cukes, and other veggies are not far behind.

Cucumber flowers wait for the bees to arrive.

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Weed, Water, Wait

A small patch of weeds grows in an unreachable part of my garden.

My kid has this Little Critter book that she has loved for years.  It’s called A Green, Green Garden.  Several times in the book they repeat the line “Weed, water, and wait.”

After planting, this has become my mantra.  The watering and waiting part,  I can handle.  But when it comes to the weeding part, I’m a whole other type of gardener.  I become an angry weed-seeking missile, set out to seed and destroy every little thing in my garden that I didn’t plant.   Continue reading

Welcome to our Edible Garden (A Photo Tour)

Our tomatoes:  2 Tiny Tims, 1 Roma, and 1 Black Cherry against a backdrop of Daylilies

Our tomatoes: 2 Tiny Tims, 1 Roma, and 1 Black Cherry against a backdrop of Daylilies

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Our House, in the Middle of Our Street

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One of the things I love about being a suburban gardener is the environment we’re in.  We have low chain link between us and our neighbors on both sides, which makes the yard appear larger than it is.  Continue reading