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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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.

dpea4

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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IMG_6541It has been a glorious few days weather -wise. With it suddenly in the high teens and low twenties, the plants are busting out all over! We are always especially impressed by the haskap bushes. In just a few years they have gone from sad little sticks to substantial shrubs. The varieties for this zone have been hybridized from the Siberian species and it shows. They are incredibly early in setting their flowers. It’s just a bit odd to have a shrub in full flower at the same time as the daffodils! It’s not a bad thing, certainly as far as the bees are concerned. At one point today I could see almost a dozen bumblebees darting about among them. Even if we didn’t want the fruit, I’d almost be tempted to keep them around just because they make the pollinators happy, and happy bees are essential to a fruitful garden. That being said, we’re still excited about the potential fruit haul. It looks like they might be big enough this year to provide for at least a crumble or two! (and I really like how they also fruit early enough that the birds aren’t providing for nestfuls of hungry chicks yet, so we won’t have to work too hard on fending them off)

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The raspberries have continued to come in so I’ve rl3 been working through some baking options. Considering how happy we were with the apple fritter loaf recipe from Tess, I thought it was worthwhile to see if it could be adapted to use the raspberries. Since I didn’t want to kill their flavour with the cinnamon, we decided to go with chocolate. Once they are cooked raspberries can be a bit more bitter than apples so I also needed to increase the sugar just a little. What I went with was around a tablespoon of hot chocolate powder and a bit of the ground vanilla in addition to listed sugar. That seemed to give us the chocolate accent we wanted as well as balancing the sweetness a bit better. I also added a teaspoon of corn starch too. The berries were a bit more liquid than apples and the cornstarch thickens them just enough. (sugar, cornstarch and chocolate were mixed together, then added to the fruit) We cooked it around 10 minutes longer and that made sure it was fully done, all the way through. (the parchment paper liner is also pretty necessary) The raspberry flavour came through strong and clear, but they weren’t bitter or overpowering and were a good balance to the vanilla cake that makes up the bulk of the loaf. I did go a bit overboard with the amount of raspberries on the first attempt and had a catastrophic structural failure. (4 cups was too many) At least it tasted good, but staying around or under, 2 cups of the raspberry mixture is needed if you want a loaf instead of a baked pudding. We like lots of raspberry, but sticking to 1 to 11/2 cups of fruit would make the chocolate more noticeable and the loaf much more solid. I also stuck with the vanilla cream glaze, but you could drizzle the top with melted chocolate to increase the chocolate aspect.

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As the temperature dropped this past week, the insects were getting sluggish. mon1 I had a bumblebee get tangled in my hair while raspberry picking and didn’t even notice her until she had warmed up a bit and made some buzzing noises, once we were back in the shop. She was still slow enough that I was able to pop her into a dish and take her back outside without a problem. I also found this Monarch in the new bed around the wellhead. I think it is one of this years crop, since it was so perfect and clean. The older ones I’ve seen look a bit worn. It had come in for one of the flowers and seemed to be trying to warm up a bit before heading off. In the late season insects we also had this extremely pregnant praying mantis pm3 show up in the back garden. She could barely walk and was clearly looking for a place to lay her egg sack. I’m hoping she found a suitable spot on the property since predatory bugs are something we want more of. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a herd of little mantises next spring!

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