Sunday, 6 October 2013

This blog has moved...

Please visit, my new web domain.

There you'll find the blog, recipes, and other items of interest.

All of the past posts located here at blogger have been migrated over. As of today, I will not be responding to comments posted on this site; only on the new domain.

Thanks for visiting, hope to see you at the new site soon!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Packing up...

Please pardon the lack of current posts on this site.

I'm migrating to a new domain so have temporarily suspended posting.

I'll publish my new url (address) here as soon as the new site is up and running properly.

Thanks for your patience!


Sunday, 22 July 2012

First Tomato of 2012 and Other Vegetable News

One of the happiest days of the year has arrived--the first tomato has ripened in my garden!

It is a Sakharnyi Pudovichok variety that I grew from seed obtained through Tatiana's Tomatobase this spring. She indicates that it is a "Russian commercial variety introduced in 2006 by Russian commercial vendor 'Sibirskiy Sad'."

I probably should have picked it yesterday, as it's a little soft today, with a few holes where some critters took samples.
At 256 grams, it is a BIG tomato.

Not to be outdone, 2011's first tomato of the year, a Mortgage Lifter, grown in a pot at the side of the house, is pulling in a close second. I picked it today so it wouldn't get "sampled" but I probably won't slice it until tomorrow.

It's smaller, 149 grams, but still a good size for a container grown plant. And I know from last year that it will have excellent flavour.

This was the first tomato plant I've ever grown from seeds that I saved myself (as opposed to buying the seeds from someone else.)

The other 14 tomato plants (yes, I did get carried away) are growing like weeds.
Most of them are at least 6' tall now, and some I'm trying to train to grow horizontally (just so I can spend less time on a ladder.)

I mostly grow indeterminate heirloom tomatoes. Indeterminate means that they keep growing and producing tomatoes right up until frost. Determinate tomatoes grow, set a big batch of fruit, and then stop. I like indeterminate because a) I get a kick out of growing oversize plants and b) I like to have fresh tomatoes for as long as possible. If I were interested in canning them I would prefer determinate tomatoes so I would be able to do them all up at once.

The heirloom tomatoes tend to grow bigger than the modern hybrids as well, because the modern hybrids have been bred to grow for ease of commercial production--fields full of 8' tall plants would be unwieldy on a commercial scale.

In other vegetable news, the zucchini are having a rough time. One zucchini plant should be more than enough for all our needs, but I put in three plants because I know I have a problem with striped cucumber beetle (an evil, disease carrying creature.)  Sure enough, two of the plants are on their last legs already, after having produced one mature zucchini each. Hopefully number three will remain resistant long enough for us to have a few nice stirfries...
Zucchini #3 on the left in the top picture and front and centre in the bottom picture. Zucchini #2 on the right, after succumbing to the diseases spread by the evil Striped Cucumber Beetle.
In happier news, the garlic harvest has cured and it's pretty darn fantastic.

Hopefully this will last us for most of the winter. I'll use several heads from this as "seed" in October.

And here are a few shots of the front garden (these don't go with the title of this post, but if I don't put them up now it will suddenly be next weekend before I get to it, and it will all look different.)

The plantings in containers are really coming into their own now. Coleus 'wasabi' (the lime leaves you see in the planter) grows like it's on steroids. It was a new introduction for this year (I first saw it at the Garden Making magazine booth at Canada Blooms) and it's certainly a plant that you gives you your money's worth. I've pinched it back several times to keep it from overwhelming the rest of the garden.
Another new plant for me this season was the "potunia" petunia you see in this picture (the peach/orange flower hanging over the left edge of the pot.) The tag said it would produce mounds of blooms on a compact plant, with no need for deadheading--and it's delivered! I was so impressed with how it started off the season that I purchased 3 more (in purple and red) for the planter on the side of the house. A definite improvement on the old cultivars that would get leggy and require constant deadheading.

The liatris (the purple flower spikes) has been very happy this year. I've had to create a set of stick braces to keep it from reaching out and grabbing passing pedestrians. The bees love it.

There's a lot going on in the front garden...

While the back, home to vegetables in the sunny parts, and more cool foliage plants in the shady parts, is a bit calmer.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Giants in the Garden

There are two show-stopping giant plants in the front yard right now. 
The first, these lilies, are well over 6 feet tall! When I look at them eye to eye, I'm looking at the bottom to middle row of flowers! And each flower is quite substantial.
This is about the fourth year for these plants, which have grown stronger and bigger each year. The red lily beetle has decimated most of my lily collection but this variety has withstood the attack--I think they were so big the beetles were afraid of them! 

I wish I had taken a photo of the emerging growth in the spring--they didn't so much sprout as launch. 

The scent on these is strongest at night, but even during the day that distinctive lily smell is evident from most of the front yard. As these plants are somewhat hidden from the street by a magnolia tree, passers by likely  wonder where the smell is coming from. 

And what kind of lilies are these you ask? I'm very proud of myself for actually having saved the package:
so that I can tell you they're an Oriental x Trumpet Lily (i.e. hybrid) by the name of Conca D'Or. I don't remember the price but it was probably about average ($8). It certainly delivers above average impact!

And if you're wondering, the yellow daisy-like flowers in front of them in the picture are Helianthus 'Lorraine Sunshine'.

The other front yard giant draws bees by the hive, and has caused more than one pedestrian to stop and ask "What's THAT?!"  

It's a bit of a challenge to photograph (because it's big you need to be far away, but because it's so slender, it gets lost in the picture), but look above the purple daylilies and follow the stems up, way up, to the yellow pom-poms flowers. That's Cephalaria gigantea (aka Giant Scabiosa, aka Scabiosa gigantea). It's a conversation piece for pedestirans and certainly THE most popular plant in the entire garden with all the neighbourhood bees right now. I've mentioned it on the blog before, but it's such a cool plant I thought I'd feature it again.
There are 3 or 4 bees on that one flower.
A close up from a day the bees weren't so busy.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

This morning's haul from the Weston Farmer's Market

I visited the Weston Farmer's Market this morning to pick up some eggs and Ontario strawberries. As you can see, I found quite a bit more!

The Gallardia (red and yellow flowers in the top right corner) were only $4, and they're big healthy plants. It took a lot of willpower to only come home with one plant--I wanted one in every colour (I think there were 5 to choose from). A salmon pink geranium, priced to sell at $1, also jumped into my arms. These are the exact same plants you'd find at garden centres--the folks that sell them at the Weston Market also sell to retailers from the Ontario Food Terminal during the week. It's a family run operation and they're nice people. I didn't buy any of their produce this morning, but they have the best corn, leeks, romaine lettuce, and broccoli at the market.

The Egg Man sells all sizes and colours of fresh eggs, along with an excellent selection of cheeses, from a refrigerated trailer. I've been buying from him for years and have not been disappointed.

Asparagus and strawberries have been in my market shopping bag for the past few Saturdays. An assortment of peppers ($3 for the lot), baby cucumbers, and some amazingly sweet nectarines (they had samples, which was really smart, as I was only going to buy a small container until I tasted them. And then I immediately asked for the larger basket!)

Rounding out the haul from this morning is some fresh cilantro (salsa on bean burritos this week!) and a loaf of "Persian bread" (that's what they call it. All I know is that it's made with olive oil and there probably won't be a lot of that loaf left by the time lunch is done today.)

I've noticed some new additions to the market this year: a local coffee roaster (you can buy the beans or a freshly brewed cup), someone selling pies, a second roti seller (the first one was pretty good so they're in for some stiff competition), and a couple selling some amazing looking Greek delights (phyllo wrapped bits of deliciousness!) Besides all of this, there's a vendor selling freshly grilled back bacon on a bun, as well as other vendors selling honey, maple syrup, and I'm probably forgetting a few other things.

There's usually a different busker performing every week. This week it was a  dulcimer player. Early on in the season (when the only produce to be had is asparagus) the buskers don't come, and I really miss them. They add a nice atmosphere.

The market is held every Saturday in the Weston GO parking lot from May to October. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

I Was Inviting Japanese Beetles to Flock to My Garden?

Thankfully, this is not what my roses look like yet. Right now they're glorious--full and smelling like only roses can.

But I'm living in quiet dread, because this IS what my roses looked like a little further on in the season last year. Those shiny brown things in the picture at left? Those are Japanese Beetles.

Notice that not only are there too many to count, at least five pairs of them in the picture are in the process of making more Japanese Beetles. For the past few years I never find just one Japanese Beetle in my garden, I find a plague of them.

Which is why I was so excited to learn that geraniums might be the answer to keeping them under control. I've planted oodles of geraniums in my garden this year in case they do work.

But I'm still worried. The research didn't specify how many geraniums you need per rosebush. Or how close they had to be. And what if the birds in my yard are so full from birdseed or the snails I throw out of the garden for them to find on the road that they aren't interested in eating the beetles?

So my ears still perk up when I hear of anything that might possibly be a proven solution to my plague. On twitter today I saw a post from Fine Gardening Magazine with a link to an article about Japanese Beetles and roses. This piqued my interest greatly, as Fine Gardening is a very reputable publication and the author of the article, Paul Zimmerman, looks to have some pretty serious rose cred ("Paul Zimmerman has grown thousands of roses for over 15 years and for ten of those years in a sustainable manner.") 

From that article I learned two very interesting things:

1.  "Simply shaking [Japanese beetles off your roses] and stomping on them attracts more because when killed, the female emits a pheromone that attracts males. Hardly the desired result."  

Egads, every time I crushed one of those %$@@$ bugs I was sending out a siren call for a bunch more of them to come to the wake! Argh!

2. So is there a solution "...It’s simply a spray made from cedar oil! Preferably Eastern Red Cedar. The principal is the same one used when storing sweaters in a cedar chest to keep moths away. When sprayed on the roses it keeps the beetles away and they fly off to another garden."

Eastern Red Cedar oil! Ooh, where do I get my hands on some of that?!?  (a quick Google search suggests that my neighbourhood natural/health food store is the first place to look.)

This is definitely something I will be trying out as at least some of my roses are bound to have some beetles appear (there was only so much space and budget for geraniums; I can't possibly have bought enough to render 100% coverage, even if they are the miracle cure.) 

And if I hear of any other possible solutions, I'll be sure to let you know.
What my roses look like right now. May they stay this beautiful!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

2012 West Toronto Plant Sale

There's been very little time for blogging lately as EVERYTHING needs to be done in the garden. And all of it right now.

Two weeks ago I set aside the better part of a Saturday to dig up many of my perennials and pot them up for my horticultural society's annual plant sale. Included in the stash are heuchera, 'Twist of Lime' hosta, bachelor's buttons, two types of astilbe, artemesia, anemone, Lysimachia 'Firecracker', rhubarb, rudbeckia, 'Northern Sea Oats' grass, sedge, Sweet Woodruff, lamium, geranium and more.

Tonight, after I printed off 12 pages of labels (plant name, size at maturity, growth habit, whether it prefers sun, shade, etc.) I spent another couple hours fussing over the plants and labeling them. Tomorrow night I have to find some time to price them, and then Saturday...Saturday, May 19th you can come to Eglinton Flats park and buy my perennials, many perennials from other members of our hort society, as well as lots of nursery grown bedding plants, herbs, vegetable seedlings, etc. Oh, and there are also 4 trays of fabulously interesting heirloom tomato plants (grown by my friend Marsha. I still haven't planted mine outside, so I'm not sure which seedlings will be "spares.")

The sale starts at 9 but I have to tell you that if you want to get the interesting plants you will want to arrive by 8:50 and join the lineup (yes, there'll be a ribbon cutting and everything at 9 where we make a fuss and then let you loose on the plants.)

Insider tip: bring a wagon or some boxes/plant trays to cart your plants home in. Also recommended is a spouse, child or friend who is willing to carry your plants while you rummage through the tables looking for more.

You can find the sale in the northwest quadrant of Eglinton Flats Park. It's west of Jane and north of Eglinton. The park entrance is via Emmett Avenue--once you come along Emmett you can't miss the sale. Just follow the signs.

While at the park, you can find the Emmett Avenue Community Garden about 60' past our sale. Stop by to see how great their gardens look already (new fencing this week!)

If you don't have time for breakfast before you leave the house, or all that shopping makes you hungry, the Mount Dennis Social Club will have a hot breakfast available for purchase on site.

And just in case you're wondering what kind of treasures await you, here are a few pictures from 2011's sale (taken during the setup--I was way too busy answering plant questions once the sale started to photograph anything!)

That's a really looong table of perennials. Almost all priced between $1 and $5
Same tables, shot from a different angle.

Vegetable seedlings...

Annual flowers from the Ontario Food Terminal (and a smiling volunteer--anyone wearing one of those orange flowers is happy to answer your questions or help you with your purchase.)

One of several extremely knowledgeable gardeners, ready to answer questions.

The weather forecast for Saturday is fantastic and there will be a whole whack of wonderful plants, priced to sell, at Eglinton Flats park. Will I see you there?