Garden Bliss

English: Easter egg radishes, just harvested

 radishes, just harvested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the weekend I bought a package of carrot seeds and a package of radish seeds. The garden has been tilled and is almost ready to plant. This year is the year we will take excellent care of our garden. We will pull the weeds as soon as they show up, nurture the carrots, stake the tomatoes, make wonderful salads from the lettuce, freeze some of the tomatoes, enjoy the different variety of peppers I know my son will want to plant, and….

There is a lot of satisfaction in having a garden but I have to take it up a notch and actually take care of the garden after it is planted. I love it when we first plant it—the neat rows staked out in fairly straight lines; the packets on little wooden stakes so we know what we planted where; the healthy little plants so lovingly planted and watered. But I cannot stop there—I have to keep up the momentum, even during those hot and humid summer days in July and August.

The radishes that I bought are called Scarlet Globe—doesn’t that sound like an intriguing character name for a short story or novel? They only take 20-25 days to grow to maturity, so they can be planted several times if the whim hits, and according to the instructions they “may be sown again when weather cools for a fall crop”. Now how cool is that? The package calls this variety a “time honoured favourite”. Once grown they will be olive shaped and about one inch in circumference. Their “dazzling scarlet red skins give way to crisp and crunchy white centres”.

I don’t know about you, but I have never really taken the time to actually read the instructions and descriptions on these little packets of seeds before. They are really quite entertaining besides being instructive. The package says that the variety I purchased will have a delicate flavour (which means pick them before they get woody and hot). If I plant the seeds correctly, I am supposed to end up with a 16’ row—but just to be contrary—I think I will plant two 8’ rows—I am such a rebel. Apparently, should I be up to it, I can make several plantings of these little scarlet and white wonders—the package suggests 10 days apart until the weather becomes warm (which means I better get going here—as it is going to be warm again mid-week). And do you know what else? Radishes like company. “Growing leaf lettuce with radishes will make them more tender.” Who knew?

I love growing leaf lettuce—it is the gift that seems to keep on giving all summer. And I use an old recipe I remember my mom using as a dressing—it involves milk and sugar and vinegar—that is it—and it dresses the leaves just right—giving it some tang and sweetness. It is one of those recipes that you just sort of do without measuring.

So, now if you have not had enough excitement for one day, I am going to reveal some secrets of the carrot—did you know you could freeze and can them? I did not know that—I guess because of all the things my mom froze and canned, carrots were not among them. She canned pickles and beets, plums and peaches, tomatoes (with onions and peppers) but never carrots. I do not can, as it seems to take in a lot of boiling and dealing with hot things—and I am dangerous enough in the kitchen. My thumb is now just healing from an infection I got from a couple of cuts I acquired while producing my famous gourmet (not) meals.

So, the carrots take 65-80 days, which means I best be getting them in the ground pronto. And they are also quite

Carrots of many colors.

Carrots of many colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

social, even more so than the radish. They liked to be planted near beans, peas, tomatoes, onions and leeks. Alrighty then—will do. The carrots we will be planting are Red Cored Danvers, and for best flavour we are supposed to harvest them when their roots are not more than 2” in diameter. Also—I must make note: “uniform soil moisture is critical.” These instructions are a little demanding for my taste—but then again, I am not much of a gardener.

What else will I be growing (not really me, more my eldest son—but I help): tomatoes for sure—probably some cherry, but most definitely the kind you slice and add a little salt and pepper to or a dash of balsamic; leaf lettuce to keep my radishes happy and tender; some onions and the aforementioned tomatoes to keep the carrots’ social life booming; peppers—many of the hot variety as that is what my son loves; maybe peas—though we did not have much luck the one year we tried to grow them. So, wish me luck and perseverance. It is time to get my nails dirty (cause I always forget to put my gloves on.)

What will be in your garden of bliss?

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 5:22 pm  Comments (55)  
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Late Bloomer

Green and red cubanelle peppers

Green and red cubanelle peppers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always been a late bloomer. This may explain why, three-quarters of the way through June, our backyard garden is finally planted and right now being watered by an early summer rain. This year we have opted to grow just tomatoes and peppers, and since I am only the occasional weeder and sometimes waterer of the garden, I am not even sure what varieties have been planted. But I know, as sure as Rudolph has a red nose, that most of the peppers are of the hot, hotter and hottest varieties.

The garden is really my eldest son, Adam’s, and he loves to pick the hot peppers, cut them up,  and enjoy them on his hamburgers, hot dogs, and whatever else can use a bit of out of this world heat. He obviously inherited my mother’s green thumb, as I have no claim to any gardening skills. My Impatiens are still on the front porch, awaiting their day in the sun, or more appropriately for these types of Impatiens, the shade—though I play little heed to the directions on the little plastic sticks stuck in the pots. I do know that if I do not plant them soon, they will go the way of their unfortunate cousins, the pansies who never did get planted in May, and are wilting on their little stems. I may be able to save a few.

The garden had been taken over by chives, which had to be moved and given their own half acre. I think we may have to fence the little devils in to keep them tame. There is also some swiss chard growing from last year—we are not sure if we should eat it, but it is a bit of a novelty. I planted a rose-bush in one corner of our little plot, a gift from Mother’s Day 2011, and it is blooming like crazy with very little attention.

We have learned some lessons over the years of growing vegetables, and number one is not to attempt to grow pumpkins or corn. Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2008 to explain why:

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada.

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No More Pumpkins: 2008

I learn from my mistakes. Eventually. Usually I don’t learn the first or second time, but by the third time I at least get an inkling that I may not be on the right track. I have learned, albeit the hard way, that growing pumpkins in your backyard is not easy. The vines tend to take over. And not only the garden. Last year I had nightmares that they had broken down my back door, and stealthily crept up the stairs to my bedroom to strangle me in my sleep.

So this year, no more pumpkins! I am leaving my favourite orange orbs to the experts. Last year we did realize nine of the lovelies and used them to dress up the front of our house for fall, along with some of the corn stalks we salvaged from the feast the raccoons had in our garden. And to answer a question that was posed a number of times, no, I did not make any pies from the pumpkins. You would not believe the number of people who asked me this question. Obviously this making of pies is not the foreign concept to them as it is to me.

2012

So this year we employed the KISS method—keep it simple stupid. And really, are not tomatoes and peppers two very fine vegetables? (If you want to get technical fruit and vegetable).

Hopefully I will get my bright pink and white Impatiens planted (they are a new colour combo this year—so I am being trendy) soon, and all you real gardeners out there can breathe a sign of relief that they are not going to go the way of my poor pansies!

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 1:11 am  Comments (38)  
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Artistic Licence: Gardening

List of botanical gardens in Australia

List of botanical gardens in Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was originally written in 2011, but as the planting season is almost upon us, I thought it apropos:

“But each spring…a gardening instinct, sore as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground.” ~ Lewis Gannett

As I write this, I am, for the fifth season, a gardener whether I want to be or not. My eldest son, Adam has decided to “tame another little bit of ground” as Gannett so poetically states, and in so doing, I become part and parcel of the package that is our garden.  Do not get me wrong, I love the fact that he takes such an interest in our little piece of land and tills a small chunk to harvest over the summer months and into the Fall.  The process every spring is not easy. Over the winter and early spring the parcel of soil allotted to the gardening plot has become overgrown and in great need of both weeding and the turning of soil. But Adam will attack the task, (with help from anyone he can corral into it) and the plot will once again be revealed and ready for planting.

As usual, we will have a preponderance of peppers– most of them of the hot, hotter, and out of this world variety, but a couple of bell pepper plants will be purchased in a nod to my rather delicate taste buds. We have in the past had great luck with peppers, so we plant what we know. Of course there will be a number of varieties of tomatoes—big ones and little ones for both salad and slicing, and should I get productive, freezing to make into chili and soup over the winter.

We will plant lettuces of purple, bitter, and leaf varieties, and the seeds for carrots and peas. This year we have found a surprise in our garden from last season—onions we knew we had planted but could not find in the fall. Cousins to our chives,  they  have taken the attitude of perennials. We will also plant a fresh crop of onions— thus making our garden ripe for  the creation of a great salsa.

My job when it comes to the garden is to keep it watered. Occasionally I weed, and happily pick whatever is produced and work it into my everyday menu. No great gourmet am I, but fresh vegetables just cry out for a little creativity.  Swiss chard has been a mainstay of our garden, as it grows plush and easily. I have done a little research and found some great recipes to use up this bounty.

According to Louise Beebe Wilder, “In his own garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation.” I like her sensibility about gardening, as it gives one a certain amount of freedom. As we have now been tillers of the soil for a few years, we have learned a few things, but according to the poet, Vita Sackville-West, “The more one gardens, the more one learns; and the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows.”  A universal truth.

English: Vita Sackville-West 1919

English: Vita Sackville-West 1919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My parents had a huge garden when I was a kid. We had strawberries, raspberries, both red and black (I loved the black ones—one of my favourite pastimes as a kid was to pick the black raspberries off the bush and pop the juicy treats into my mouth), as well as every vegetable known to (wo)mankind. I believe there is a satisfaction that comes from producing food for yourself—a feeling of independence in a world so dependent on outside factors. Of course we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, but what we produce is not only “grown close to home” (a claim made by a grocery chain to lure us into their produce aisles), it is actually grown at home.

There is a little bit of magic to growing your own vegetables, something the “unknown gardener” reveals in this pithy observation: “More grows in the garden than the gardener has sown.” Now, I know that “unknown” was not referring to weeds, but I find Reverend Thomas Fuller’s words, uttered in the 17th century comforting:

“A good garden may have some weeds.”