Tag Archives: Bumbling Gardener

Garden Update June 2010

I’ve been out to the garden a fair bit but consistently forget to bring my camera with me. I did however, snap these  pictures, the first on June 2nd, the most recent on June 20th. Here’s what’s new since the last update:

  • The snow peas have begun their happy ascent up the “teepee” (back right).
  • Two different kinds of beets have sprouted and are flourishing thus far, largely because slugs do not appear to like them — they are in good company (bottom left).
  • The carrots have sprouted (spot them front middle-ish).
  • The poor, sad garlic has been denuded of it’s leaves and rust has taken over the remaining stalks. Scapes are in evidence (see if you can find them, mid-plot left side; use top photo showing healthy garlic as guide).
  • The kohlrabi, two rows next to the beets, has not made an appearance. Not a single little sprout. Okay, no great loss.
  • The dwarf tomato (front centre of plot where the kohlrabi was planted) appears none the worse for wear despite having been transplanted twice, however, it’s not thriving either. It may be hesitating to set down roots for fear of being roused once more, poor thing. I made an unfortunate choice — or two — of locations, both of which ended up being too shady. Note to self!
  • Only a couple of the bush beans I seeded popped out and all of them are looking pretty sickly. Near as I can figure, it’s a mix of slugs and aphids, but I’ve caught only a few of each in the act.
  • The two red cabbages I swapped with my neighbours D&D for 3 cauliflower are taking nicely to being transplanted.
  • The spinach is just beginning to show itself (next to the rusty garlic).
  • One kind of kale I seeded is happily growing away, while another kind is less enthusiastic about it’s emergence into daylight (here and there).  We’ll have to keep an eye on that.

And last but not least:

  • The sprouted brassicas I bought and added are taking hold nicely: 3 Brussels sprouts, 3 broccoli and 2 cauliflower (mixed throughout).

Now if we could just get some sunshine instead of continuous clouds, cold and rain, we might see some real action!

Escape to the Organic Farm

Have you ever wanted to just chuck it all and escape back to the land? I’ve harboured that fantasy every once in a while when the rush of urban life seems too much. Yes, even though the thought of actually getting my hands dirty grosses me out. (Hey, I’ve never claimed to be more than a bumbling gardener at best!)

I’ve recently come across an organization that has me seriously considering an escape. Okay, not quite to the far reaches of the Sub-Sahara, but certainly to spots somewhat closer to civilization. Like maybe a berg in the Maritimes or a homestead just up the river from Dawson City, Yukon. (It’s beautiful up there, I’ve been twice.)

Apple Press, WWOOF Australia

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an international network of organizations that offers access to organic farms throughout the world where volunteers can learn about farming and contribute to the running of the farm in exchange for room and board.

The criteria are simple. Volunteers must:

  • Have a genuine interest in learning about organic growing, country living or ecologically sound lifestyles.
  • Help their hosts with daily tasks for an agreed number of hours.

Hosts are required to:

  • Grow organically, are in conversion, or use ecologically sound methods on their land.
  • Provide hands-on experience of organic growing and other learning opportunities where possible.
  • Provide clean dry accommodation and adequate food for their volunteers.

Other than that, the specifics vary from host to host, with summaries posted online. For a $20 annual fee you can read the full details and contact the host whose project interests you, literally across the globe.

In checking out the site I was astonished at the wide variety of locations and job descriptions, and quickly became lost in time as I contemplated how wonderful it would be to escape to a far away place and get back in touch with the land in a very tangible way. Working with livestock, building, clearing land, planting, harvesting, you name it.

Even me, with my loathing of dirt and distaste of bugs, could find a spot that suits me, and allows me to contribute. Hmmm, I’ve always wanted to explore Newfoundland, and go back to Spain, and explore New Zealand…

Broccoli Bonanza

<b>Broccoli head</b>

First Broccoli Head

The harvest has begun! I’m very excited to report that the 2009 Bumbling Gardener urban gardening quest has at last resulted in some significant edibles. Patience pays off with these things, as does keeping a close eye on bugs and squishing them at every opportunity. (I’ve also been known to spray soapy water as insecticide.)

I think I’m the most pleased to have grown broccoli, which was never something we grew in our garden when I was a kid so has always seemed an exotic thing to find in a backyard garden. Some gardening books classify it as hard to grow too, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

<b>Broccoli Bonanza</b>

Broccoli Bonanza

I hadn’t realized how tall the broccoli would get, and how quickly, so at one point I had to move the pepper plants out from behind the monsters. After a few more weeks, it seemed like all the plant’s efforts were going into producing huge leaves, but no fruit was apparent. That’s when I did a significant amount of pruning, cutting all the lower leaves off — this also gave the squash I’d planted nearby a fighting chance at getting some sunlight.

<b>Broccoli Harvest</b>

Broccoli Harvest

After a few weeks a single broccoli bud appeared at the very centre of one of the plants. My friend Babs had warned me to cut the first one that appeared so that more would grow, so I did — with some doubts. I mean, I’ve never seen a broccoli plant in full “bloom” so I didn’t really know how they grew. I thought each plant grew a single head of broccoli, like a cabbage — one plant, one head. What I discovered actually happens is that little heads sprouts from each “joint in the stalk where a leaf sprouts out. Then you keep trimming them and harvesting tender mini heads.

I’m not sure if it was the pruning, cutting that first bud, or just the fabulous stretch of sunshine and heat in June, but last weekend I harvested a huge bowl full of broccoli! I’ve used it in several stir fry dinners along with cabbage, kale, snow peas and a variety of herbs from the balcony garden.

Verdict: Delicious!

Seedlings Experiment a Bust

Squash Before

Squash Before

So, the thing of it is, I’m not really a nurturer by nature. Let me just start there.

It started out so well. I watered, I babied, I fussed, I coddled. I tried sprouting leeks, but the tips all dried out and they toppled over. I tried cauliflower and lettuce, same thing. I tried a variety of beans, but most of the seeds rotted right in the peat pucks.

(On the beans front, I think that may be because I inoculated them. Maybe beans are supposed to go straight into the ground when you inoculate. Inoculant is a powder you toss on moistened bean seeds and is meant to help them draw nitrogen from the ground and grow better. We’ll never know if that works.)

In my defense I don’t have a greenhouse for these needy little sprouts, I just have a seed starter tray and a reasonably warm apartment where I regulate the heat by opening/closing the windows. It wasn’t enough.

Squash After

Squash After

Some of those little seedlings I sprouted actually made it from my care into the ground, I’m proud to say. I had lots of squash: zucchini, acorn and spaghetti. And there were a couple of each all long and green and happy when I planted them.

But sadly, it was too early to transplant. We had a few cold days. They died.

Lesson: Direct seed into the ground and the seeds will come up when they are darn good and ready. Works for me!