Some early greenery

On the left, some absolutely wonderful onions, who sprouted within days. On the right, potatoes that were planted at varying depths by an overzealous toddler, so only three shallow ones have made a substantial appearance. The raspberry has been truly enjoying our unpredictable (mostly awful) May weather.

This is also likely the first blogged-about picture of the raised bed that my mom and I built in the summer of '09. It was a fun, gruelling, awesome project. Beyond the bed are my half-hidden buckets of supplies; the large one is compost (manure), so locked-up because the ants go nuts for it. The other buckets are wood mulch, and there might be some drainage stones hanging around, too.

Today I was able to weed along the front of the house, where we have a huge project planned. The rotten railroad ties are coming out, and beautiful stacking stones will be arriving next Monday. My only issue is the removal of the perennials I've been cultivating in the area since moving in. There are two peonies that have always lived there, plus a barberry, day lilies, and lamium, and I am really hoping I can save them all. Also to be saved are my daffodils, tulips and irises that don't worry me as much, since they were a bunched-up disaster anyway, and not performing very well at all.

A long time growing

Well, since my last update, I've sprouted two children, and my gardening efforts were greatly curtailed... the same must be said of my blogging efforts! But today my almost-six-month-old sat blithely in her stroller while my almost-three-year-old helped me plant a raised bed of potatoes and onions. This particular plot has always been a disaster, but I'm crossing my fingers really hard this time. Last year all it yielded was a handful of pea pods, and prior to that, a few beans. This time around I gave up on the traditional North American three sisters, and returned to my Eastern European roots.

There is still one antagonist in the mix, this time: a raspberry that didn't die over winter. Potatoes + raspberries = no-no, but I was impulsive and didn't thoroughly research the companions before running outside. So now, I'll just wait and see...

Autumn observations

My favourite tree is this spectacular mountain ash. It is thriving in the back yard, so full and tall. I like to sit in the grass beneath it, lookup up to the undersides of the berries. The berries are the most aesthetically pleasing part of this overall beautiful tree. I've learned that they can be used for jellies or wine, but don't have the ambition this year.

The first carrot I harvested had the same diameter at the crown as my fist. I'm so proud of my babies! I attempted to pull a parsnip at the same time, but it was rooted so strongly I merely snapped off the greens. *Must not forget to head back out there to dig it out.

The final observation of this lovely autumn week was a slight tragedy: the majority of the piddly yet productive corn stalks had been broken off at the ground, husks pulled back, and a few kernels nibbled from each comically petite cob. Considering each plant was less than a foot tall, any number of common pests could be the culprit. Based on the casual nibbling, I suspect something that isn't usually a big fan of corn.

In addition to observing, I put in some sweat equity, too: rearranging the iris corms for a more evenly distributed garden next year; this included some splitting, so I am left with extras and not even a vague notion of where they want to be planted. After that, I finally got around to beautifying my frontage, which consists of large bushes flanked by spruce trees, beneath which the weeds have been flourishing like nobody's business. After tearing out the largest, I put down weed barrier, and covered the lot with decorative stones supplanted from their temporary home where a patio more properly belongs, and hopefully soon will be.

Tomatoes: the plant that keeps on giving

My first tomato was ready to eat in late July; it probably could have been earlier with more sun and more fertilizer, but I'm not complaining. A couple of succulent, dainty tomatoes per day for last month is more than I could have hoped for. The first was yellow, but since then there have been red, orange, and pink, too. The seed packets said nothing of orange, so I'm going to assume those have occurred due to cross-pollenation. All in all, my opinion of the tomatoes is along the lines of "A+++ will plant again!"

Hopefully this doesn't get me hooked on heirlooms, because I prefer to think of gardening as a frugal hobby...

After a terrible wind storm earlier this August, the neighbour's enormous poplar tree lost a huge limb (on to my yard and driveway, of course) and the following evening as I was harvesting the day's tomatoes, it caught my eye that they had hired a tree service to take the whole thing down. Although it was sad to see such a majestic tree go, the lost branch destroyed the integrity of the whole tree, and it was poised to fall on my garage.

So, armed with a handful of fresh picked tomatoes, I got to watch an amazing acrobatic chainsaw show from the comfort of my own driveway. The only way the evening could have been better? If the wind wasn't blowing the sawdust into my face. What a great evening's entertainment.

As a bonus, with that tree gone, most of the shade over my vegetable bed has disappeared, so should I choose to try corn again next year, it might actually succeed. In reality, with the shade gone, I can plant whatever the heck I fancy in that bed... except for the leafy greens that I had been thinking about since learning the lesson that corn don't grow in shade.

Comfrey, before & after

Each year, the comfrey has fallen over in a gust of wind. Each year, the fallen comfrey has massacred the patch of grass upon which it fell. Maybe next year I will devise a plan to prevent this tragedy from recurring. Perhaps it will involve stakes, or rope. Anything to prevent the hours of torment resulting from this year's snarling mess. At least the plant has its redeeming qualities...

Hydrangeas! The size of my head!

The title really says it all. This spring I looked into the border along the north-west of the house and decided I didn't like hydrangeas very much. I decided to try amending the soil's pH to get some interestingly coloured flowers, to give them another chance. I even began casting about at work to see if anyone would be interested in them. But in the end, they have redeemed themselves with an impressive showing. It doesn't hurt that the individual flowers remind of stephanotis, either, since those are some of my favourites.

And, here is the proof.

Beans for the masses!

I finally realized that many beans on my bean bushes were ready to pluck, so I feasted well on a one-bean salad. But one type was plenty. Unfortunately, I was a few days early to include cherry tomatoes in the salad, but at least I will have plenty of foodstuffery fodder for the forseeable future.

Odd juxtaposition

This garden has no sympathies from me. Who would plant the tropical, vibrant day lily next to the muted, formal lamb's ear? I haven't ravaged the area yet because only my neighbours can see it. Although I dislike the look of lamb's ear, I admire its tenacity. And it's hard to rip out a perennial.

Unexpected visitors

This summer has brought some interesting surprises. For one, Mr. Red Petunia, who popped up out of nowhere between the stones on one patio. My only explanation for this phenomenon is the migration of seeds from red petunias that resided nearby in a hanging basket last year. For no good reason, I always thought petunias would be unable to propagate; something about them is so manufactured, I just assumed they were sterile.

My second visitor is much harder to spot, but looking closely into the second picture should reveal a beady little eye, perky ears, and a lot of speckled brown fur poking out from between the weeds. Since this can describe a number of different creatures, I'm talking about a baby bunny! While weeding on one brutally hot day last week, I was honing in on the base of a thistle when rustling sounds reached my ears. Thinking it might be a new chipmunk foe, I followed the noise, and there it was, a wee little bunny, frozen amid the flowers and weeds. I left it alone, but it was scared deep under a spruce tree by me, opening up a garbage bag for the weeds.* The photo op was from the second time I ran across the bunny, later that week. It has been seen a few times since, but today I was back to the weed pulling, keeping an eye out, and there was no one to be found.

*As a note: weeds from this household are sent for municipal composting, and must be placed in clear plastic bags. My composts only get "the good stuff." I now say, plural, composts, because I added a new bin. The old cube is now being left to mellow, and I suspect it will become a receptacle for a major amount of leaves in the fall.

Garden guest

Last week I had a helper in my garden. My dad's dog, Sammy, came to visit. I had taken a week of vacation, and had the opportunity to puppy-sit, so we spent a couple of days in the great outdoors. He, napping in the shade, me, pulling weeds in the half-moon garden, potting up the smaller few cherry tomato plants, and other random tasks. We had a wonderful time, until some workers arrived next door and he made a valiant effort to protect me from them. The barking was too much, and Sam had to go back inside. He is a very well-behaved, snoozy little guy, and was a welcome addition to my yard.

There is finally the beginnings of a female flower on one of my pumpkins, so now begins the race against time. By the time I get home from work each day, the male flowers are already closed, and when I leave in the morning they aren't yet open. I'm incredibly nervous and excited to watch the progress this week. The photo doesn't do this plant justice, but I wanted to preserve my handiwok of training the vine in the same wave shape as the garden's edge, and then into the forest of sunflower stalks, which it absolutely loves, as it's been tendril-ing like crazy.