Category Archives: Bumbling Gardener

Good Bug or Bad Bug?

Big Brown BugI opened the vegetable drawer in my fridge yesterday and found this fellow feebly waving his legs, going nowhere fast. I think he traveled home with me in a bag full of freshly harvested kale and broccoli leaves. My first reaction was to slam shut the drawer, despite his slow moving efforts.

Have I mentioned that I do not have any warm, fuzzy sentiments for bugs whatsoever?!

With some fear and trepidation lest he be a quick recovering, flying big brown bug — yes, I am fully aware of our difference in size, thank you — I grabbed my phone camera and snapped this pic. THEN I slammed shut the drawer.

Can you tell me, is he a good bug or a bad bug? If the former, I will put on a couple of pairs of gloves and attempt a capture and release like I do with spiders (but only because they eat nasty bugs). Otherwise, he’s there till he dies at which time I will put on a couple of pairs of gloves and attempt a capture and flush.

Mutant Radishes a Bust

Radish HarvestThe mutant radishes were a bit of a bust. They sprouted like crazy, then started going to seed, but hadn’t turned any shade of pink let alone red.

I pulled one really big round one, but the rest were pretty thin and many had been attacked by worms that left trails (and poo, I think) throughout. Overall, not a great harvest.

Radish DamageI’ve now pulled out the whole lot and re-seeded. Before I put the seeds in, I added some manure, blended it in with the existing soil and then topped that with some new topsoil. I’m hoping that will encourage the little blighters to grow like the picture on the package this time.

Hey, maybe that’s why people sometimes put the seed packet at the end of the row, so the seeds know what they are supposed to look like when they grow up!

Not sure what, if anything, I can do about the worms.

Fresh Kale for Dinner

I had my first ever, fresh, homegrown kale for dinner and it was delicious! Okay, I’m a little over-excited, I’ll admit. But I didn’t expect it to taste so good.

Fresh KaleI’ve only ever had kale once before, at a restaurant, and it was slightly bitter. I didn’t dare tell the Scientist, who has a severe aversion to anything that might have even a remote chance of being bitter.

The kale was so easy, I can’t believe I’ve never cooked it before. I went to my garden, cut a few big leaves, trimmed out the stalks, rinsed, chopped. I sautéed sliced garlic in butter, tossed in the kale, added salt, sautéed till just softened, then served. It took about 5 minutes. And did I mention it was delicious?!

When I decided that maybe there was a little too much salt, I added a squeeze of fresh lemon. Even better.

In fact, I assured my table mates that I wouldn’t be offended if they didn’t want to any more than try it (because I could happily have eaten the whole thing myself).

For the skeptics, let me tell you, the Scientist even ate some and didn’t hate it.

Busy Weekend in the Urban Garden

Oh, the bumbling gardener’s adventure never ends…

Last weekend was a busy one in the garden. I spent about 5 hours weeding my 3 plots, pretty much all on my hands and knees with a tiny weeding tool. Thank heavens for the foam knee pad is all I can say. Well, that and the gardening gloves.

And then there were all the other must-do’s to keep on top of the jungle-in-progress. Funny, it didn’t really feel like work, though. I know, I know, I’m still a newbie at this gardening thing and I’m sure the bloom wears off. There was a lot to do, but all of it provides a tangible outcome, a noticeable difference, that is rather rewarding.

Netting No. 3For example, I set up the third and final netting in “Plot C”. That was the last spot to get a row of peas and beans planted, so I had some breathing room, but the snow peas were now starting to topple so it was time. For the first two, I used limbs trimmed from the hazelnut tree in the yard, but I’d run out of branches long enough so I picked up some 6′ bamboo at the local hardware store and bought some more netting. Ahh, looks good.

I transplanted the bell peppers. When I originally planted the seedlings from the nursery, I thought they’d grow taller than the broccoli so I planted them behind. Oops. The broccoli shot up leaving the bell peppers in the shade, but the poor things need sunlight to thrive. I had to transplant the three of them to new various spots closer to the front of the garden. Yup, that looks good too.

The far end of Plot C slopes and tends to have water pooling after a rain or good soaking. Not good. I dug up the two bean plants that actually sprouted (I thought these things were easy to grow?), added some manure and topsoil to build it up, dug out some large stones while I was at it, then re-planted the beans. Job well done and clearly an improvement.

<b>Look closely to see the tomato support thingeys</b>

Tomato Support Thingeys

The tomatoes hadn’t been closely inspected in a while. They (a) needed to be supported, and (b) have the “sucker” sprouts trimmed. I’m not sure that’s the technical term, but those are the little branches that sprout up between the main branches. A successful gardener once told me they suck out all the energy that should be going to grow and ripen fruit, so it’s best to nip those off. For support, I used the four round, wire tomato support thingeys someone so kindly left by the dumpster last winter with the price tags still on, which I rescued and stored for future use. Check one more project off the list.

The herbs needed some attention, too. The parsley hasn’t come up for reasons unknown, so I added some topsoil and reseeded in the same place. I hope that works. I moved the basil bits closer together in a designated corner at the front of Plot B — good thing I know what that looks like now, from watching it grow on my balcony, or it might have been “weeded”. And, I finally got around to filling a small pot with a touch of manure and good soil, and planting the chives whose seed packet has been sitting on my microwave for what may have been months.

<b>Kale, Lightly Mulched</b>

Kale, Lightly Mulched

It felt like it was about time to turn the compost bin contents, as well. I soaked some of the straw, broke it apart from its flattened bale form, and tossed it in. Then I grabbed the rake and twisted everything around. Well, it was more like kneading, actually. Pull from the bottom in one corner to the top of the one opposite. I’d added some shredded paper a few weeks ago, as well as all the various cuttings, veggie tops and tips, and usual roughage, so it was easy to tell when it was good and blended. (I didn’t touch the cuttings compost bin, as this is the Scientists’ domain.)

And last but not least, I topped up the straw quotient in my mulching efforts. The weeds didn’t seem to be terribly deterred by my first, light mulching efforts, so I stepped it up and added a whole lot more, including around the edges of the garden where the weeds are encroaching. I’d have kept going if the rain hadn’t started.

All in all, a very productive weekend. I wonder what I’ll find to do next weekend…

A Reva Garden Update

Reva's Garden 09JunBack when I started this Bumbling Gardener adventure, one of my early posts inspired another fledgling gardener to start her own garden. And I’m happy to report, she’s come along way, baby!

What was once an uninhabitable empty plot full of small stones — even weeds wouldn’t grow there — has become a thriving garden. In the back there are a couple of kinds of corn, onions, lettuce, and spinach, as well as edemame, celery, broccoli, strawberries and an assortment of herbs.

Reva's Garden 09Jun 2In the front, a multitude of raspberry plants (enough to make the Scientist jealous) are interspersed with beans and peas.

Reva reports that the kids have gotten very engaged in the process, which has been a wonderful and unexpected bonus to the whole adventure.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to a dinner invitation in a few months time…

Garden Update Mid-June

After 10 days away from my garden, I was keen to check in and see how things are coming along.

Garden Update Jun17In a nutshell, stuff is growing! This in itself is a wonderful thing, which I don’t take for granted. I mean, if it were up to my expertise, the seeds I planted would be sunk. Fortunately, they know what to do without much help from me.

The broccoli is growing like crazy without much to show for it. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m supposed to be clipping off the lower leaves to help the plant focus on bearing fruit, so to speak. I’ll have to check into that. In the meantime, after dinner I did discover one floret which will be eaten soon. The book I checked recommended harvesting to encourage more growth, and that’s all the encouragement I need.

A few weeks back I mulched the garden via a couple of found bales of straw. As far as I can tell, the mulch isn’t doing much to keep the weeds out, but I think that may be because it’s not laid out thickly enough. This I can remedy.

<b> Radishes Gone Wild</b>

Radishes Gone Wild

My mutant radishes keep wanting to go to seed. I’ve never seen such huge radish leaves in my life! I’ve chopped off countless seed stalks but they just keep coming. A couple of weeks ago I tested one of the radishes, which was long, thin, white (no hint of red in sight) and very sharp and peppery. Yum! But I’m not sure they are “ripe” since they do not resemble any of the pictures on the packages of 3 kinds of radishes I thought I planted. (Adding to the confusion is that the Scientist, in a fit of spring cleaning, seems to have tossed out my lovely, meticulously, handwritten garden map. Oops!)

The kale is coming along nicely, now I just need to find a recipe and try and figure out how to get the Scientist to try some. He’s not really a veggie kind of guy…unless there is butter or sugar slathered on for disguise. He has, however and thanks to my efforts, discovered that he quite likes asparagus as well as grilled bell peppers of all colours. This is progress!

<b>Happy Snow Peas</b>

Happy Snow Peas

The snow peas are climbing like crazy, and it’s clear I need to get the climber mesh up at the end of plot C before the last ones planted start to topple. The green beans in the far corner, on the other hand, don’t seem to happy. I may need to move them out of that low lying area and into a new spot. Or add some dirt and replant them there?

And finally the bell peppers. Those poor guys have been completely eclipsed by the broccoli and are now completely shaded. When I originally planted, the plan was to keep the smaller stuff in back. Note to self: broccoli grows big, fast. Peppers, not so much.

Straw in the City

Here’s a cool story. I’d read that straw is great for mulching the garden, and keeps moisture in while keeping weeds out. Sounds like a good plan, so I began my quest. Where does one find straw in the middle of the city…

Straw BalesI mentioned my quest to a friend who, it turns out, has a sister-in-law with horses. She offered to get me a couple of bales next time she was out that way, in a few weeks time. In the meantime, I was out and about one sunny hot day about lunchtime, and pulled over to eat my sandwich in a shady spot.

Lo and behold, in my shady spot next to a small park behind a strip mall were a few bales of hay behind one of the stores. They were near, but not next to the dumpster. Hmmm. I couldn’t just take them, even though they looked like they might be garbage, so after my sandwich was done I went around to what I calculated was the correct store.

Turns out, someone had put the bales in the dumpster, the city garbage collectors wouldn’t take them (Why? They compost really well.), and now it was the responsibility of the store owner to get rid of them. They were going to arrange to truck them down to someone’s farm in Surrey to burn them. Would they mind if I took them?! No, they would love if I did, take as many as I want, it would be less hassle for them!

I called the Scientist, who happens to have a vehicle big enough to haul a couple of bales and he duly picked them up that night. They were thrilled, I was thrilled. Not only did I get the straw I needed, it was within a 2 minute drive from the garden (not miles and miles to the farm), and I was able to use something that was destined for the landfill and would have been completely wasted by burning.

That feels good on a lot of levels.

And, in the end, my friend wasn’t able to get the bales she promised anyway. How cool is that?

Soaker Hose Saves Water

The Bumbling Gardener’s garden has recently been outfitted with a sleek set of soaker hoses. As a complement to the rain barrel, which does not provide enough pressure to reach to the end of the soaker hose, we’ll water on a weekly basis and supplement with the rain barrel, on the assumption that we’ll get enough rain during the season to do so.

new-soaker-hose(I now actually hope for the occasional rainy, summer day. This is VERY odd.)

A quick search of the Internet turned up numerous sites that explain how to use a soaker hose, most making it much more complicated that it needs to be, with timers and pressure gauges, etc. In a nutshell:

  • Wrap the hoses around your garden
  • Feel free to cover them with dirt or mulch
  • They have about a 12″ – 18″ reach
  • Soak less frequently for longer so the water goes deep and so do the plant roots

My favourite thing is, you save about 70% of the water you’d use if you watered with a sprinkler and none of it evaporates into the air. I thought the claims were a bit far-fetched, but site after site says the same thing — and what do I know, anyway?

A few notes…

The first hose I bought promptly cracked at the nozzle end, but it came with a 4 year guarantee and the store happily exchanged it.

When I first laid out the hose it was pretty stiff and unwieldy, so I held it in place with lengths of trimmed tree branches from the compost pile, sunk into the soil. Now that it’s had water run through it a few times, it’s fully pliable and I’ve been able to remove the sticks and reposition as necessary for optimal coverage.

Radishes Gone Wild

One of the very first things to sprout in the new garden, despite — or maybe because of — my planting them in mid-April, were the radishes.

radishes-gone-wildWhen I arrived at the garden in the middle of last week I discovered that the radishes were not only growing like crazy, they were getting ready to seed. I quickly trimmed off all of the large stalks to ensure that doesn’t happen. I’ve never seen radish greens get so large. Is this normal?

It seems like if they were getting ready to seed, they’d be ready to eat, but the radishes are still white, even though the package shows then red when ripe. Hmmm. This calls for a taste test…

I pulled one of the larger, white radishes and took a bite. Wow, that thing has zip! I didn’t think it was going to be a horseradish, people! I think I’ll wait a few weeks to see if they get red. Either way, they’ll make a nice shredded addition to salads and/or my next stir fry.