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

Colour!

image

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.

image

The things that hang from my chandalier

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

“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:

image

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.

image

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.