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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

For the first time, I’m trying to grow some potatoes. My general philosophy about food gardening is to stick to growing stuff that either has a very high value or where there is a significant taste/quality difference between what you can grow and what you buy. Also, things that just aren’t available to easily buy. Permaculture is preferred as is ease of growing/care/harvest.

Perennial herbs are the best example of paying for themselves. A few dollars for a pot of something like thyme, lavender or lovage and you have a permanent and constant supply of stuff that can run several dollars or more for a tiny amount, if you can find decent quality at the store. Most herbs are also extremely low-effort too. Put them in and forget about them until you want some!

The small fruit plants like the raspberries, haskap and strawberries are ones where you save your money over the long term. Even in season, raspberries run $2-$3 a pint and we’ll pull 2-6 cups a day off the hedge, often for 1-2 months, and have for years. Aside from some fall clean-up and feeding, they also need very little care. (they taste better too and we know they are pesticide free)

Tomatoes are a case where there are some savings overall in growing them, but the big value is in the quality difference between homegrown and what’s available in market. There are few cases where you can now find some of the more interesting and exotic varieties at some farmers markets, but generally, the best tasting tomatoes are too finicky or fragile to be grown commercially. There’s a reason something like 80% of home veggie gardens include tomatoes!

This has all be a long-winded way of saying that I generally don’t bother with potatoes. They are something that is easy enough to find at the seasonal markets for great prices and good quality so I haven’t been giving them garden space before now. They only went in this year because the bed beside the store is partially shaded and it just doesn’t work out that well for most of our priority crops. Last year, I put in some sunchokes and hope to eventually have them take over about half (the most shaded section) of the total bed. They’re not there yet so I needed to fill the space for this season and found a nice bag of assorted, slightly exotic, seed potatoes. One of the types is a deep, beet level purple and I was wondering if it would be hard to tell which is which, but looking at the plants as they come up, it’s really easy to tell which ones are the purples due to the deep red veining on the leaves. They went in in a random mix and we might end up trying to dig some as early as July, in the hopes of tiny, tasty baby spuds. I’ll update as the experiment continues.

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Last year, I’d taken the pruned bits from my hardy kiwis and potted them up. All the surviving pots were buried in one of the beds for the winter.

This past week I pulled them out and moved all the living ones to new, single pots. They all had good sized root balls so I’m optimistic about the process. I have 12 plants with 11 being female and one male. That ratio isn’t ideal, but the males seem more fragile.

We took pretty heavy damage on the older ones from bunnies this winter. They had been fine the 2 years before but this winter saw 3 eaten back to smaller than they were when I first planted them. A couple more lost 20% to 40% of their branches. One had the bark cleared off the top of most of it’s base but it seems to doing alright so far. The smaller of my 2 males got the worst, but he’s still alive. I don’t know if was due to how cold this past winter was, but clearly, I’ve got to come up with some form of bunny guard, going forward.

The plan now is to keep the babies in their new pots for at least another year then I’ll look at putting them in the ground. It’s still a bit early for me to take a new round of pruning, so I don’t know what this years crop of newborns will be. At the rate things are going, it’ll be a few more years before I’ll have extras to share.

 

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We’ve been continuing to add to the garden, even if I haven’t been all that good about posting the details. One of the major additions was a group of hardy kiwi plants two years ago. They are gendered so we have six females and two males. (one male can pollinate over ten females) All have settled in and are growing, with several doing better than others. They flower and fruit on the second year wood, so we did see a small number of flowers and the berries set in late May. kiwi1

The only problem was that we had no idea when they would ripen or what they would look like when they did. As a result, I spent nearly four months doing regular squeeze checks for ripeness until they turned in mid-September. They were well worth the wait and were sweet and delicious. Easily the best kiwi I’ve ever had.kiwi1kiwi2

They are shade tolerant so we’ve given them the west run of the south fence. The thing with the kiwis is that they are quite vigorous growers and you have to be pretty severe with the pruning, if you want them to maintain a shape. I’d like that fence to be as covered as possible so we attached some support grids to the fence and have been attempting to espalier them along it. It’s going well, but each year I’ve ended up with a chunk of pruned off twigs. Last year, I discovered that the trimmed bits are capable of rooting so this year I made a serious attempt at propagation. I’ve got around 10 survivors in gender marked pots. The plan right now is for me to bury the pots for the winter and we’ll see if any make it. If it works, we’ll finish the west fence and probably add them along the east run as well since the fruits are so tasty. I’m also hoping to be able to share with friends and family.kiwi1

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Last year, one of the bigger garden projects was that we put in four 4’x4′ “squarefoot” gardens. They covered over where the old septic tank used to be and make that space usable for crops. (it was solid clay and gravel so even grass had a hard time surviving in it)

I’m still getting the hang of how to make them work the best way for us but so far, they have been productive, even if I heavily over-planted them last year.

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For this season, I started early and put in the first round of peas in mid April. One batch was our regular sugar snaps and the other was a new one called a grey dwarf that is also supposed to make edible pods. Just this week, both started putting out their flowers and I was pleasantly surprisedĀ  at the pretty flowers from the new pea. All the other edible ones I’ve ever grown just had white flowers but these are right up there with most of the sweet peas for the beauty of the flowers. I’m hopeful that the pods will be tasty, but even if they aren’t, I may let a few go to seed since I wouldn’t mind growing these as an ornamental!

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IMG_6683A few years ago we put in a group of haskap berry bushes. They were sad little sticks when they went in but have done extremely well. We got our first good round of fruit this year and while they are not quite as sweet as blueberries, they can be swapped in for them in any baked good. (the photo is one I took just before picking this spring) Being so happy with them, we had added a few more this spring, but kept the numbers low since they can be a bit expensive. That’s why I was pleased to find a group of them in an end-of-season clearout for a local garden centre. We had been thinking about opening up a new bed for strawberries and finding enough haskaps, at a great price, to finish filling in the row means no more waiting to move them. There were enough to give us a final count of two dozen, and to run the length of the bed to the east of the house. So the strawberries will be shifted to their new bigger home, and we’ll have full rows of both for next year! (and I’ll have to find a few more recipes for using our crop)

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raspThe garden keeps developing and it looks like a few of the longer-term investments are starting to pay off in terms of fruit production. One is the thimbleberries. Unlike our everbearing raspberries, they need to fruit on second year canes and it’s taken a few years for them to spread out enough so we are getting more than just a few to taste. The first year canes also seem to be good eating, as far as the bunnies are concerned, and they all got mowed down to under 2′, over the winter. (which was taller than the years previous where they were mostly eaten right down) That doesn’t seem to have stopped them from producing, so the deeper snow is probably why we’re actually getting a crop this year. This was the early morning haul yesterday and I got almost as much in the late afternoon. The berries are much larger, (most are almost the size of a thimble) a bit sweeter but not quite as tasty as the everbearing, but even so it’s really nice to have a decent run a couple of months before the big flood.

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pink roses

IMG_6700Last year we put in a new flower bed at the end of the path. It was filled with an assortment of different roses collected from other spots on the property. One was an old style high-bush one that had come through the east fence and while surviving, wasn’t doing well in the shade of the large conifers. We weren’t sure that it would make it due to the small amount of root that came out with it, but it got through last summer and showed some growth. This year, it started out strong, set a bunch of buds and has been in constant flower for almost a month. It has pretty, full blooms in a pale pink that are also quite strongly scented. (unlike most of our other roses) Considering how well it is doing and the abundance of flowers after only one year, we’re planning on looking for a support structure for it and the white climbing rose next year.

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