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Posts Tagged ‘production 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.

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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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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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It’s been a good year for quite a number of fruits and a local friend fritloaf let us pick a bunch of apples from their feral tree. The tree is huge and probably in the 100 to 150 year range. The apples, while small and with the typical deformations of untreated fruit, are clearly Macintosh’s, or closely related. I chopped up a few for a trial run with them and made this apple fritter loaf. It was a quick and easy recipe and does satisfy the fall apple fritter cravings. I didn’t do much modifying for this, the first attempt, but did add some vanilla bean powder to both the loaf fritslice and the glaze and was happy with the depth it gave to the flavour. I also went with a parchment paper liner and I think it helped the crust as well as making sure the whole thing came cleanly out of the pan. I’d like try it again with a higher quality cinnamon, since I just used the generic stuff we have on hand.

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While the fall supply of raspberries is always a thrill, rasp we have been a bit frustrated the last couple of years with the pest problems associated with them. Last year there were huge numbers of ladybugs that we had to fight with over them. This year the picnic beetles were just being awful. We’ve always had a few of them around but this year, even with my going for a complete no tolerance policy on them, (any that are found are killed, not just brushed off) they were still causing a lot of damage but seem to have stopped almost completely as soon as the temperature dropped. Even better, they didn’t reappear during the warm stretch! Now we’re just losing a few to the earwigs and birds but we’ve still got quite a bit coming in. It does look like we should get our biggest haul yet. With the warm weather this past week it’s been close to 2-4 cups a day! There are enough that mother is even letting some get used in baked goods, but not many. I’m amused by how many fresh raspberries she can manage to consume!

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