Montreal Melon

This week’s most exciting garden development: the melon is making melons.

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A friend gave me some seeds for Montreal Melon last year; it was too late to start them, so I designated them this year’s project.  I had never considered growing melons.  I grow all my veg in containers, and pack the containers fairly close together to maximize my tiny yard space; I wasn’t sure a melon plant would be happy under such conditions, as they require a lot of room.  I decided to partly address the problem by growing my melon on a tomato cage, so it could grow up instead of out.

melon cage

The plan is to create little hammocks, out of old tights, for the fruit as they get heavier.  Not sure what I’ll do about the raccoons, but so far they haven’t been a major nuisance this year; I will consider constructing a cage as the melons mature, but I might just take my chances.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Montreal Melon was a hugely popular garden fruit and considered an exquisite delicacy.  However, it was labourious to grow and did not ship well, and so all but disappeared until recently, when, starting with a few forgotten seeds in an American seed bank, one intrepid gardener managed to grow a plant and harvest the seeds.  Since then, local supporters of the melon have made a project of bringing it back.  You can read a detailed history of the Montreal Melon here.

June 23, 2014: The State of the Garden

Not a lot of dramatic developments in the garden this week; things are just chugging along.  A few highlights:

The first cucumber is almost ready to eat.

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We have peas!  We harvested a few on the weekend and made a tiny salad.

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Because I uprooted all the mature basil in a panic about downy mildew, and because the basil seeds I planted in May are growing very slowly, I treated myself to a new basil plant.

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Otherwise, stuff is just growing.  The zucchinis keep coming, the little green tomatoes are appearing, and – at the risk of jinxing – no major infestations have appeared.  (Frantically knocking wood.)  The weather for the last week has been wonderful.  It’s not too hot, it’s not too wet, and the sun is making its way through our newly pruned trees. My plants seem happy! So I’m happy too.

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June 16, 2014: The State of the Garden

This week’s most exciting development: the peas are flowering!  I thought I’d planted them too late, but here they are.

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I had also given the strawberry plant up for dead, but the few sad little sprouts seem to be hanging in there, so maybe I’ll get a few berries out of it after all.

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I’m pretty chuffed about the beans.

beans

The raspberries have done flowering and the berries are on their way.

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The cucumber looks great, but does not seem to be fertilizing itself; the little cukes are not growing up.  I have tried to help it along by hand-pollinating it with cotton swabs, but so far, no luck.

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The little zucchinis are popping up just fine, although I’ve already had to start battling powdery mildew.

zukes

The peppers and tomatoes are flowering nicely, and are looking bushy and beautiful!

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I’ve seen the first slugs, and the standoff with the leaf miners continues – they lay eggs, I remove leaves with eggs, they lay more eggs, nobody’s happy – but I’m loving the way the greenery is filling the yard and the first flowers and fruit are peeking through.

The horrible winter now seems like last night’s dream.  (I almost wrote “a distant dream,” but that would be untrue.  It feels shadowy, but very, very close behind me.)  In Montreal, if we get to experience “late spring,” at all, it usually lasts only a day or two, so I’m trying to enjoy every second of this surprisingly long reprieve: it feels like summer, but you can go for  a run in the morning without risking heat stroke, and you can vacillate about whether it’s time to install the air conditioner.  The garden likes it.  Me too.

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June 9, 2014: The State of the Garden

A few garden developments over the weekend:

1. My newest acquisition: a pineapple sage.

pineapplesage

2. The first calendula flower has arrived.

calendula

3. The first zucchini will soon be ready to eat!

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4. The new batch of carrots has germinated…

carrot seedlings

5. …as have the scallions.  All my onions, including my scallions, failed last year, but I’m giving these one more go.

scallions

6. I’m a bit worried about one of my poor decisions.  I took some basil inside for the winter, and was very proud that it made it all the way to spring in my kitchen window.  Then in April, I started noticing brown spots on the leaves, and some research suggested that it might, among other things, be downy mildew. Some trimming of the plants seemed to solve the problem, and I was so pleased that they were surviving that I moved them outside, although I kept them far from the other basil plants just in case.

This weekend, I started noticing brown patches on the sorrel in the box next to the basil.  This morning, I discovered some pale spots on the beautiful Swiss chard also in the vicinity.

sorrelspots

sorrelspots2

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In a panic, I pulled up and trashed the basil plants (keeping the undamaged leaves for tonight’s pesto.)  Then I calmed down a bit and did some more research.  I’m now inclined to think that the problem here might not be downy mildew, but leaf miners.  A pest, but maybe a bit less serious.  I will spend today removing damaged leaves and will have to monitor closely.  I am NOT PLEASED.  My chard was looking so wonderful!

chard

7. In all, the challenges of planting are mostly over and the challenges of insects and warm weather have begun.  I keep reminding myself that gardening is a hobby and a pleasure, not a chore, and my livelihood doesn’t depend on the whims of leaf miners: if I lose a plant or a whole crop, it’s all part of learning.

In the meantime, today I get chard-and-basil pesto! So it’s all good.

The State of the Garden: “Spring” 2014

It’s been the longest, nastiest winter in my memory. It finally seems to be lifting, but even now, after four days of above-zero temperatures, the yards are covered with a thick cobbler of ice and mushy snow.  Once this ice and snow melts, it will leave brick and mortar scree all over our front lawn and garden, residue from our February window replacement.  Needless to say, nothing is growing.  At least, not outside.

The only blessing of this wintry hell (and yes, it’s really gotten me down.  I used to like winter.  Not anymore) is the intensification of my pleasure at 1. watching things grow indoors and 2. anticipating the day they can go outside.  For example, here are my collard greens.

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I started them in February, and they’re happily humming along in the sunny mudroom.  I’m hoping they’ll have time to get outside and grow big and strong before it gets hot around here.

Also in the mudroom, some alyssum and rapini…

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…and the arugula, which I feared was lost when the overnight temperatures dropped to -15 (the mudroom isn’t much warmer than the outdoors).  But no!

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Our new windows have nice wide sills.  The cats and the plants appreciate this.  Here, Cat A stands guard over some thyme, dill, calendula and lovage.

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I managed to coddle some herbs through the winter.  I’m especially proud of the basil, which was quite spindly when it came inside in October.  Look at it now! The marjoram is also hanging in there.

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In the basement, I’ve set up a new grow-light system, and the results have been fabulous. I still have the old purple-bulb-lamps-and-shelf setup for emergency transfers when the main system gets too crowded, but the difference a real adjustable starter light makes is remarkable.  I’ve also bought a couple of heat mats so that the peppers and later the tomatoes can stay toasty.

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We’re expecting more rain today, so I’m hoping that the peas can go in their raised bed tomorrow or Monday, and then I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they can produce before summer descends on us.  I’m very interested to see what this season has in store, as Nature seems to be hellbent on proving that we’re not the boss of her.  (Note to humankind: Could you please stop trying to prove that you’re the boss of Nature, and maybe appease her with some nice new rainforests or virgin sacrifices or something?)