Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Fall Roses and Horse Manure

There is one last rose still blooming in the front yard. Any surprise that it’s the English Rose “Summer Song”? I saw it on my way in the front door after work. It called me over to take one last sniff I think. I can't describe how vibrantly it glowed against everything else that’s browning and falling. Unfortunately, with our shorter days, there wasn’t enough light for a decent photo by the time I reached my camera. Kind of fitting though—the rest of the garden flowers are quickly turning into memories only as well.

The photo I do have to share with you is really the opposite of the rose. Although I suppose it does lead to roses.

You see, I’ve been on a hunt for horse manure for the garden. In Toronto, this is a little challenging to find. But a resourceful older gardening friend told me where to find it. Two tries later (we drove right past it the first time) I had two (sealed) containers full in the back of the car.

Since it took some effort to find, I’ll share the location with you (if you’re reading this blog I’m going to guess you’re the kind of gardener who might be interested in this sort of thing). It’s on Jane Street, north of Highway 7, on the east side of the street, past the little cemetery, and past the Wal-mart (which is on the west side of Jane.)   

You’ll be looking for a sign like this:

If you hadn't seen the photo I bet you'd have driven past it too. Note that this is a "shovel it yourself" operation if you're looking for small quantities. If you want it by the cubic yard they'll deliver. For a small home garden bring your own containers. Pricing is by the bushel--I brought along a green garbage can (with a lid!) that they priced as two bushels. They may be set up for credit cards for larger quantities, but bring cash if you only want a few bushels. There were several mountains of horse manure, in various states of composting. What I bought (from the oldest pile) was quite well composted with very little odour.

I'll let you know next year, whether it was worth the drive (hopefully after I fight my way past the giant tomatoes...)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Vegetable variety

As the days and nights are cooling down, my vegetable garden is slowing down, at least in the tomato department. There are lots of green ones, so I'm hoping for another month of tomato-friendly weather!

Earlier in September, the horticultural society I belong to held our fall flower show. My entry, pictured at left, won in the vegetable category. It includes zucchini (the climbing 'Trombetta' and a yellow variety), eggplant, pole beans (rattlesnake and purple), ground cherries, garlic, arugula and tomatoes ('mortgage lifter' and 'bloody butcher'.) I was quite pleased to be able to come up with this kind of selection out of a rather tiny space.  Of course I'm already planning to make it even more productive next year...

I was also delighted to win 'best flower' for a spray of miniature roses.

I didn't do much in the design categories this time around, mostly due to lack of time. The entry I was happiest with was this arrangement of 'Limelight' hydrangeas in a bright blue watering can. It just looked happy to me!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Zucchini Bread Recipe I Couldn't Find

My garden has entered that late summer stage where, as far as flowers go, it's all about the dahlias and the rudbeckias. Rudbeckia Triloba has self seeded in several places (not all of which are convenient, but I let it go anyway) and it certainly must be one of the cheeriest flowers on the planet.

And as far as the vegetable garden, it's all about the tomatoes (yum and yay!) and zucchini. This year I tried out 'Trombeta di Albenga' a climbing heirloom Italian variety from Renee's Garden. To say that it is a vigorous grower would be an understatement--I think the vine is somewhere between 12 and 15 metres long now. And the zucchini! Well, take a look...


If you grow the more conventional zucchinis (the smaller green or yellow ones) you might think I've left this on the vine far too long, but I consulted with a friend whose family has grown these, and she assures me that they are indeed supposed to be allowed to get this big. In fact, I received a little talking to when I picked one too young.


The first mature one that I grated (in order to bake with it) measured in at over 7 cups! Time to get baking!

So I went in search of a good zucchini bread recipe.

I tested several (on my coworkers and my husband ,and even on my husband's coworkers) and found that they were either too oily, or too cakey, or just not the right bread-like consistency I was going for.

I wanted something with a texture like banana bread, not coffee cake. So I took the closest recipe to that out of my collection and started playing...

...and I came up with something that's pretty much exactly what I had in mind (I love it when that happens! Too bad it doesn't occur more often.) If you're looking for something similar, I'll share it with you: 

Zucchini Orange Oat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

4 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups orange juice
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
1 cup chopped nuts (preferably toasted)

Heat oven to 350’. Place a piece of parchment paper crossways in the bottom of each of two non-stick 8 x 4” loaf pans. 

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon coloured; gradually beat in sugar. Add in oil, orange juice, vanilla extract, and zucchini. In separate bowl place all dry ingredients, combine with a whisk, and then stir by hand into wet mixture until everything is well mixed. 

Pour batter into pans.  Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Use a flat spatula to release loaf from ends of pan; lift loaf out by lifting on edges of parchment paper. Store in a sealed container. Freezes well.

And if you have as much zucchini as I do...repeat all of the above!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

First tomato of 2011!

Tonight I picked the first tomato out of the garden. The colour of a ripe Pineapple tomato is a bit more orange than traditional tomato red. I am going to wait until tomorrow to slice into it--it's just barely ripe now, by tomorrow evening it should be perfect.

I almost left it in the garden until tomorrow. But then I thought about how the raccoons have been using the raspberry bushes (laden with almost ripe raspberries one day) as a dance floor (no more ripe raspberries). How they seem to be having food fights with the baby peppers. And even (eww) how, in recent nights, they've been DRINKING the plastic container of soapy water and drowned japanese beetles I keep handy near my rosebushes. 

And I picked my almost perfectly ripe tomato. It's safely on the kitchen windowsill until tomorrow.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Garden snapshots - July 2011

Helianthus "Lorraine Sunshine"
The thing about a garden blog is that in spring, when there's lots of activity to blog about, you're too busy gardening to sit down at your computer! Here we are in July and I haven't posted anything since May. Oops!

So, without further ado, here's a little tour of what the garden looks like now.

Front yard, July 9, 2011

View from the driveway

Rosa "The Fairy" is blooming it's heart out...

The tall scabiosa-like yellow flowers that I can never remember the name of are towering over everything... I'm sure passers-by wonder why on earth I planted them at the front of the garden and not the back. I kind of like how you can look through them into the garden.
Cephalaria gigantea

And Echinacea "Hot Papaya" is proving to be worth every cent I paid for it. I first saw it during Garden Walk Buffalo last year and had to have it (I can resist a lot of beautiful plants, but every once in a while I see one that sends me directly to PlantWorld with credit card in hand.)
Echinace "Hot Papaya"

I love shasta daisies, too bad their bloom time is so short.

Some of the clematis have started to put on a show.

I've done quite a few containers in the front yard this year.
Coleus sets off this container pair.

Trailing begonia. I planted the corms a little late but they're taking off now.

Wait until the cannas bloom!

A hanging basket of fuschias on the front porch frame my view as I look out on the garden.
English Rose "Constance Spry"

At the side of the house I have a pretty  way of capturing the water that comes out of our air conditioning unit:
Self-watering planter

There's LOTS more going on in the back yard but I think this blog site will shut down if I put any more pictures in one post (it's been complaining over the last 3) so I'll just show you the most exciting thing happening in the back yard right now...
"Pineapple" tomato

The slowest thing ever to ripen is the first tomato of summer. I have some toasted bread and mayo waiting for this one...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Our Annual Plant Sale is This Weekend!

I'm heavily involved with Roselands Horticultural Society, so when it's time for our annual plant sale, that means a whole lot of digging, dividing, potting, labeling, and lugging. Which is what I've been doing for the past three weeks.

The weather around here has been pretty miserable--cold and wet, or just wet--so it hasn't exactly been conducive to all of the above activities. I've spent about 6 hours last weekend locked away in the garage (it was slightly warmer out of the wind, and definitely drier than outside!) with all my plants, some packing tape, and a whole bunch of printed plant descriptions, ensuring that even new gardeners would have some idea of what plant they were buying and whether it was appropriate for the site they had in mind.

I expect that many of our Society's other members were engaged in similar activities on the weekend (we're a wild and crazy bunch, I tell you!)

Several years before I joined Roselands I discovered hort society plant sales and I was hooked--where else can you buy a couple full boxes of interesting perennials for $20 or $30? As a new homeowner with a lot of garden to plant (well, after I ripped out all the grass,) I certainly made the rounds of several society's sales!

And now that I have an established garden there are lots of things that can be divided up and shared. Here's some of what I potted up for this year:
Lamium, Hens & Chicks, and on the top right, you can see the stems of some Ostrich Ferns.   

A tray of Clematis 'Radar Love' that I grew from seed (I think they're kind of cute, all tied to their little skewers), and more lamium (it's always popular so I potted up LOTS of it)

Now providing they survive until Saturday (and the way the temperature dipped today I'm not sure what's going to happen), I'm planning to have some Ground Cherries (physalis) at the sale. 

Hiding in the cold frame, are my 'Mortgage Lifter' tomatoes. If I was a tomato today I'd be hiding in there too--and saying shut the door, it's cold out there! Again, providing they survive, some of these will be at the sale.
I've potted up a Slender Deutzia and three of her little offspring--it's the same plant (just growing in a different spot) as the white flowered beauty you see above. Note that this picture was taken at this time last year; this year there are just little buds on the deutzia and other things aren't nearly as far along.
So that's some of what I'm contributing.  Last year we had about 10 tables of perennials:
That's a LOT of perennials..
And then we have trays and trays of commercially grown annuals, vegetables, and herbs...
So, if you're in the Toronto area this weekend here are the details:

Roselands Horitcultural Society Plant Sale
Saturday, May 21, 2011
9 am until noon (arrive at 9:00 for best selection. There won't be anything left by noon, and probably not much interesting by 10:00)
Northwest quadrant of Eglinton Flats Park (west of Jane, turn on Emmett Avenue, from Eglinton. Just google "Eglinton Flats Park" and the red marker will be almost where we are).

There will be yellow signs on Eglinton directing you in to the sale. It's rain or shine (and I'm praying for shine!). Cash sales only.

The Mount Dennis Social Club will have a BBQ breakfast available for purchase on site and the Emmett Avenue Community Garden (located a few steps away from the plant sale) will be having their kick-off.

Hope you can join us!

One thing leads to another

It all started out simply enough. I decided to plant two kinds of pole beans this year instead of one. “Where are you going to plant them?” my father asked. Well, they’ll go right in this spot, oh, except no, they can’t go there because they’ll shade the zucchini. Well, then maybe over…well, hmm, good question Dad.

I thought on it for a few weeks and then decided that a small space, previously unused because it had a large tree stump on it could work, if I just created a bit of a raised bed. Well, maybe raised quite a bit, like two feet.  Hmm.

A flash of inspiration, a trip to the Habitat Restore for a $5 wooden door, two trips to the city compost depot, one old garbage can, two old recyling bins, and most of a day of grunting and groaning and…I finally have a place to plant my second kind of pole beans! Along with enough room for quite a few other plants (probably edible).  It kind of looks like something you’d stumble on in a back alley behind a convenience store, but it’s largely hidden from the neighbours and I don’t think the raccoons will mind.

But boy, I have to admit that was a lot of work for a place to plant some beans!

The back (by the door that's on it's side) is the future site of my 'Rattlesnake' and 'Purple' pole beans. Tomatoes, cucumbers, ground cherries, herbs, and maybe potatoes will fill in some of the other spaces. There's already a rose bush on the right.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Garden snapshots - April 2011

It stopped raining long enough this weekend for me to finally be able to take a few photos of what's coming up in the garden.

I've been liberally planting bluebells the past couple years, as they remind me of walking through the streets of the Annex area of Toronto--every decent front garden there seems to have bluebells in the spring. Here, they're paired fortuitously with some mini daffodils (I think it was a pot I bought last year to brighten my desk, and then let the foliage mature, and then put the bulbs in the garden in the fall). I don't remember planning to put these together but they match nicely in scale and it's a combination I'd do again!

And here we have a rather purple hellebore (I know it looks more red in the photo), that my neighbour Elizabeth gifted me with a few years ago. It is always the first substantial bloom in the garden. I stumbled on a deal on hellebores on the weekend (Northland Nursery near Hamilton--all of their plants are $5.99) and picked up a white one to put behind this one. This one always blooms like crazy but because it's so dark you really have to look to see it. I think it will stand out nicely against a white version of itself.

This is a white & pink hellebore, with a charming garden cat I won at our last horticultural society penny raffle.

I was very pleased to see that the lone trillium I planted last year came back...and brought a friend!

The peonies are coming up. This one is an Itoh peony that I grew from a small seedling. John Simkins, founder of the Canadian Peony Society, had come out to speak at our horticultural society in 2005, and brought along some seedlings to sell. They were mystery peonies, as he'd been crossing all sorts of peonies, and, as he explained, you never knew what you'd get until it bloomed 3 years or so later. Well, I carefully tended my seedling and yes, 3 years later it bloomed, on my wedding day!  It's a very robust plant, and gets bigger every year. The flowers are large, single, and sort of peach.

Here is another cheery combination of species tulips (sorry, can't remember the variety and that info is out in the potting shed--it's raining and it's dark, and I'm not going out to look), bluebells, and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). 

I planted these species tulips (I think they're Tulipa "Turkestanica") several years ago, along the front sidewalk, and they just keep multiplying. They're not a loud tulip, kind of subtle, but as they're the first tulips to bloom (and before the daffodils too) they're very noticeable.

In the vegetable garden it's very exciting to see all the garlic planted in the fall coming up. We have "Hungarian" garlic on the left and "Red Russian" on the right.

And here, we have the cold frame my father put together for me on his latest visit. It's pretty simple construction (as requested) but hopefully it does the trick. Out of desperation, I put two trays of my monster tomato seedlings out there this afternoon. We're not forecast to go below freezing so hopefully they'll acclimatize quickly. It's a bit of baptism by fire (I'm sure it's better to put them out for a few hours at a time and gradually build up to overnight) but hopefully they'll pull through. 

So those are a few highlights of what's coming up in the garden. It's getting pretty exciting out there now (at least from my perspective)!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Seed Starting Update

My little seed-starting experiment is humming along nicely. Maybe a bit too well, actually. I started my first batch of tomatoes ("Mortgage Lifter") on March 12th. Let's just say they've been enthusiastic growers...

Tomato "Mortgage Lifter"

These tomatoes are close to a foot high. Today is April 19th. I don't think I have to wait until the Victoria Day weekend to plant them out, but given the fact that we had snow squalls here on Saturday, it's not going to be any too soon. Thankfully, my father was kind enough to build me a cold frame a couple weeks ago, so I should be able to transfer them out there shortly.

Even though they're pretty huge, all of the tomatoes are healthy looking, and seem to be developing good strong stems. I usually put an oscillating fan on them for an hour or more every day, to help develop strength in the stems (apparently the motion of bending back and forth in the wind stimulates them so that they grow sturdier stalks.)

Here's a shot of my entire operation:

 The reason the light stand is encased in snow fencing?

Pepper aka Plant-eating-cat

Her name is Pepper. She thinks plants of all kinds are delicious.

Snow fencing seemed like a good idea, and so far it's working. A little bit of a pain every night when I water and check in on everything, but at least the plants are all in tact.

I have another variety of tomato growing--Bloody Butcher--which I started on March 19th. They're a little more manageable in size.

Tomato "Bloody Butcher"

My Aunt Mollys' Ground Cherries (or Physalis  pruinosa) is coming along ok. They're supposed to (according to the websites I read) grow like tomatoes, but I'm finding that they're a lot slower growing. I planted them on March 19th, just like the Bloody Butcher tomatoes, and they're so much smaller I haven't even transplanted them up to individual pots yet.

'Physalis pruinosa'  or Ground Cherries

And lastly, I have some Clematis 'Radar Love' going, along with some Turkey Grass.

Clematis 'Radar Love' on the left, Turkey Grasson the right.

I had a bit of excitement the other night when one of the shop lights I had just purchased (to replace one of the original set that my friend gave me with the light stand) started smoking. I quickly unplugged it, check to see that the light tube was in properly, and plugged it in again. This time it started smoking from the other end! So that one's going back to Home Depot (sorry HD, I keep trying your lighting products and I keep having problems--smoke coming out of a fixture freaks me out.) I picked up another shop light at Lowe's the other night and it seems to be doing much better (looks to be built a bit sturdier too.)

I bought new flourescent tubes too, after reading what Ken Brown had to say about which kinds were best (hint: cheap works just fine, thank you). 

The other interesting thing I learned was that playing with tomato plants doesn't agree with my skin. I couldn't figure out why the backs of my hands were so itchy and had little bumps on them, until I did my nightly watering & check-up and figured it out.

It's a small price to pay for the fun of watching things grow (and it's a good thing I have this to play with inside, as someone seems to have forgotten to tell mother nature to knock off the snow!)