Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It ain't over yet! ....

Summer has been quite hectic. That little heat wave we had kept me on my toes. I was watering the small clay pots of herbs,flowers and salad greens daily and the very large pots more than the usual once a week. It is worth the effort however, because it is even more effort trying to help your garden recuperate. Even more drastic, replacing the plants entirely.

So now that is over and my hosta tells me, as its leaves die off one by one, fall is around the corner, I feel myself relaxing. However, there is more to come.
Think of fall as the flipside to spring. Remember spring vegetables? The selection of veggies that prefer cool weather? salad greens, lettuce, radishes, asian greens etc. You can have another go around with them. The conditions are not quite the same as the light and temperature are decreasing rather than building, so vitality is diminished.

Some seedlings such as things you hope to overwinter should have been started mid June/beginning July. Things like the cole family ... kales, brussel sprouts, broccoli raab. They need to be well established seedlings by now if they are to make it though the winter.

If you missed starting seedling end of June beginning of July, for fall/winter this year, never mind, make a note in your calendar for next year. While you are at it, remind yourself to buy the seeds you will need for fall plantings at the beginning of the year. Lettuces such as Continuity, Rouge d'Hiver and Winter Density also Winter Mesclun Blend. The shop may be out if you think of doing this in fall.

Perhaps you can still grab the opportunity and find a source of healthy fall seedlings to buy and you can still try your hand at fall plantings. Start some salad greens, asian greens and lettuce.

I started some scallions, kales, broccoli rab, bulbing fennel and planted some of it in yesterday. The lettuces I started a few weeks ago, seeding straight into a large clay pot as mesclun and transplanted individual plants into other pots.

I am still waiting for some of the bins to be vacated by the tomatoes, which are taking their own sweet time to ripen up. While the fall/winter plants wait their turn in the large containers I have potted up the seedlings to larger seedling containers so as to support their continued healthy growth.

Of course we are talking about overwintering on a balcony so quantity is out of the question.

I have jammed the scallions in cheek by jowl and hope for the best and have been a little more generous to the bulbing fennel. The one kale plant I planted has a bin all to itself. Kale plants survive winter and can get very large and produce lustily. I expect good returns on my investment.

So ... take a breather ... take time to chill with a friend ... enjoy the fruits of your labour ... and then get back at it ... try your hand at extending the season.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ah! Summer ...

I was very conscientious this year. I tried hard to be committed as a garden caretaker. Between my consistent efforts and the amazing warm and mostly dry weather we have enjoyed this summer, I am very satisfied with the results.

The bounty of summer ... a gardener's pleasure and reward.

Sweet Peas from my Community Garden

I made a decision in spring that this year I would not bother with sugar snap peas in my community garden ... instead I would indulge lavishly in sweet peas! Those saturated colours and glorious fragrance. I am greedy and indulgent when it comes to bringing this natural and free beauty into my surroundings. I pick a large bunch of sweet peas for my bedside table weekly.

Beans ... Beans ... good for your heart

Bean plants are most generous. They spit out beans by the bushel full. Beans started pouring in from my community garden and the urban agricultre gardens. There is only so much beans you can eat so you begin wondering how can you put all this plenty to good use. I decided to tackle the situation in two ways: make pickles and blanch and freeze. I wanted to prepare the beans in ways that we would be sure to use them. I remebered that my girls enjoyed the pickled beans that are served in Milestone's Bloody Marys so I figured that was a safe bet.

I pickled the beans in apple cider. I figured that might be a healthier option as a vinegar. I flavoured with garlic cloves and hot chilies.

To blanch you drop the cleaned and trimmed beans into boiling water for a quick minute and fish them out and drop them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain them and pack them in freezer bags and store in the freezer. Pull them out on a wet and gloomy day and make a wonderful minestrone flavoured with basil pesto.

Basil and Tomatoes

This was the year for those two buddies ... Basil and Tomato.

I picked the right year to dedicate to tomatoes. Up until this year I felt we are rather silly to try and push the boundries in this Pacific Northwest climate by growing tomatoes. Well, the act of faith paid off, all conditions aligned in favour of tomatoes and basil in 2009 summer.
The ones that did best were the large varieties that I grew in my neighbour's driveway. The bushes were not prolific but turned them out one by one and with five bushes, it has been just enough for us. My husband and myself.

At the height of production I ended up with a tray full of tomatoes (some from my community garden) and I made a litre bottle of tomato sauce and put it away.

Harvesting my Favorite Herb

I have grown quite fond of Summer Savory ... not a herb you hear of much.
It is particularly good in egg and cheese dishes.
This year I started three seedlings in a bulb pot. They grew as well as they could manage under the confined conditions and as they began to bloom I cut them off at the base and stuffed them into a brown paper bag to dry. When the leaves dry and begin to fall off I will rub off the stems, still in the bag and empty the fragrant leaves into my specially labeled dollar store bottle, which is presently empty as last year's harvest has been all used up.

Enjoying the Bounty

You know ... you don't need much to feel totally wealthy. A bowl of free cukes picked straight from your balcony vine ... we found three fat ones this weekend .. right when the girls were visiting ... and beautiful, full, ripe tomatoes plucked from your own bushes you have been tending carefully, seasoned with olive oil and fresh picked basil leaves. Sitting in the sunshine, relaxing, surrounded by folk your love, eating, enjoying and chatting! Bliss.
Ahhhhh! .... summer!