July 5, 2013: The State of the Garden

Summer has been both exciting and frustrating in the garden.  There was much too much cold rain for a while, and now it’s very hot.  There are aphids to combat, and the squirrels have become my mortal enemies.  Nevertheless, there are some fun things happening!


The summer peas are doing wonderfully.  These are shelling peas, and it’s taken me all season to figure out how long to wait before picking them, so I’ve depleted my harvest by picking them too small.  That said, they are perfect right now, and are unbelievably delicious – I feel like I’ve never tasted a pea before.  I pluck them daily, shell them, and scatter them over my lunch salad.  I’m torn as to whether to grow these again next year or switch to a snap pea, as I do like to eat peas whole.


Here’s our first poblano pepper.  The bell peppers are doing poorly – the plants are yellowish and spindly and the leaves are like eyelet – but the poblanos look to be thriving.  The joints are a bit blackened but the internet assures me this is normal.


The cucumbers are coming!  They’re about half the size of my little finger at the moment, but considering I wasn’t expecting them to make it through the premature sortie and cold spring, I’m VERY proud of them and their efforts.


And today, the first nasturtium.  The calendula look about ready to pop, too.

In sadder news, the strawberry plant has been troubled.  For one thing, the squirrels discovered it.


(How insulting is it that they take a single bite and leave the rest behind?  And that they pull the green ones off too, when they can’t possibly want them?  And they leave the evidence in a pot of marigolds that they dug up the night before?  I know we should respect the ways of nature, but this all feels like spite to me.)

My attempt at defense is to stick lots of bamboo skewers out of the soil to discourage digging, and drape the whole basket with an elaborate web of netting.


I know squirrels can chew through plastic, so we’ll see how this goes.  What’s more, some of the berries have been developing brown spots as they ripen, which may be a fungus – damn all the rain! – so I’ve been picking open the netting to prune and it’s all a big pain in the butt.  I have yet to taste a delicious ripe strawberry from this plant.  Next year I may just pass in favour of more herbs.

Also: the rapini grew just a few inches and then flowered.  Pretty, but no longer edible, I don’t think.


Other catastrophes?  I placed a friend’s chair too close to the lettuce box and the box went over the deck railing.  (It wasn’t growing well anyhow, even though it was still cool outside.)  None of the spinach I planted three weeks ago has germinated; now I’ll need to wait until fall.  The arborist won’t return our calls – we’ve been waiting since May for him to come take care of our sick birch and our bolting maple.  And the marjoram and savoury plants we ordered from our CSA arrived mouldy, although the savoury seems to be recovering.

But the cherry tomatoes are growing like mad!

tomatoes1 tomatoes2

And the green beans!  Holy cannoli!


And how about those zucchini!


In an effort to keep on top of the zukes and their delicious blossoms, I’ve been experimenting with refrigerator pickles – also a good way to make use of CSA basket leftovers at the end of the week.  Amanda Cohen’s great cookbook/graphic novel Dirt Candy has been very helpful with this.

pickledzukes pickledradishes

I’m learning many things.  Among them:

1. A single pan-fried zucchini blossom makes it worth it to grow your own veg.

2. Growing most herbs from seed is too much trouble.

3. You have no idea what a real salad is until you’ve plucked most of it out of your own garden.

4. It’s very difficult to grow enough peas.  I feel like I need a whole garden just for peas.

5. Finally, early morning garden inspection makes the cats very happy.




My seeds are here!  My seeds are here!


To-do list:

1. Create a seed-starting and sowing chart: did this yesterday.  I based it loosely around the seed-starting chart Gayla Trail provides on her website.  Here’s what the first page of mine looks like.

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 2.58.34 PMThe second page lists dates to direct-sow seeds that don’t need to be started indoors.  This was a very fun way to spend a frigid Boxing Day afternoon: dreaming and planning for veggies, herbs and flowers!

2. Buy some shoplights and growlights. The plan for now is to start the seeds in the basement, where it’s warm, and install some fluorescent and full-spectrum lights under a shelf to coddle them.


We’ll see how this goes over with the cats, and whether my precious seedlings become a kitty salad bar.

And speaking of cats…

3. Figure out what to do with the catnip. I had this idea: I was going to grow a cat garden – catnip, lemongrass, wheat grass, catmint, etc. – and maybe then the cats would play in their own garden and leave mine alone.  However, given that my neighbourhood is the #1 Stray Cat Ghetto in Montreal, I soon realized that this is not a good idea unless I want more turf wars on my lawn and more scarred cat corneas.  (Although if I grow enough catnip, maybe they’ll just all get along, man.)  So I’m not sure what to do with my packet of catnip seeds.  Maybe I’ll grow a little pot (heh heh – pot, get it?) of them indoors and keep it out of reach unless they deserve a special treat.

3. Buy, build or scavenge an adjustable shelf setup to put under the grow lights so the pots can be shifted away from the grow lights as the seedlings grow taller.

4. Buy, build or scavenge planters.  We have poor clay soil, much of which is used by the kitty residents, strays, and wildlife (including a monstrous family of raccoons) as a litter box.  I also have no idea what will come up in the garden in the spring except that it will include armies of gooseneck loosestrife (love!)  So for this year, and perhaps permanently, my vegetable garden will be in containers.

5. Buy protective structures.  See “kitty residents,” “strays” and “monstrous family of raccoons,” above.  Add “squirrels” and “swarms of Hitchcockian birds.”  At the very least, chicken wire will be necessary.

6. Buy seed-starting soil, potting soil, various organic fertilizers, and maybe a wheelbarrow.  No one said this gardening racket was cheap.

7. Continue to collect seed-starting containers.

8. Pray for an early spring (one that has nothing to do with global warming, of course.)

Am I forgetting anything?