kitchen garden

lazy potato harvest

home grown potatoes

You may recall the lazy potato post, where I described my not-yet-tried method of growing potatoes in a box with some straw. It was something new to try, since I had been gifted some potatoes and wasn’t sure where to put them. I also hadn’t rototilled this year, so my soil was not very fluffy. Any root veggie should have the fluffiest soil possible (along with good nutrition of course) and so I didn’t want to just dig a hole and bury them.

So I have a few comments for myself for next year, and I thought I would share them with you as well.

1. Plant earlier (right after last spring frost date), so they have more time to grow larger. Mine were on the small side.

2. Maybe add a bit of soil/compost in with the straw, to help retain moisture. This summer was very dry in parts and I mostly forgot about watering them.

3. Water them when it’s dry out; potatoes like even moisture.

4. Try again next year, using this method as well as a few others, just to compare.

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I know some people mentioned that they might try this….. do you have any comments to add?

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what to do with too much swiss chard

This year, I don’t have this problem. Past years, though, the garden would fill with Swiss Chard as my husband and children watched in trepidation. Since I’m the only Chard lover in this house, I didn’t plant much this year. Then what little I did have was eaten by rabbits. So, I won’t get to try this recipe this season. I thought I’d pass it on, though, in case someone else was blessed with an overabundance of Swiss Chard. If you try it, please let me know how it goes!

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

You’ll want to use older larger leaves for this recipe, about 2 cups of them when roughly chopped. Put them in a blender with hot water to fill the blender, and whizz away. Strain out the leafy bits and put them around the base of your plants. Then wait for the liquid to cool and use that to water any plants that look like they could use a pick-me-up.

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This recipe is adapted from ‘Great Garden Formulas’, a super awesome book that is available at the Kitchener Public Library for anyone who is interested in more concoctions for the garden.

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p.s. Thanks Akilah for the Chard photo above!!

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how to grow garlic

hardneck garlic bulbs

Hardneck garlic is the most winter-hardy type, so if you’re a garlic-growing beginner, you’ll most likely want to start with some variety of this type. Basically, the short garlic-growing story goes like this:

planting garlic

In October or November, break apart the bulbs and plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart in rows about a foot apart, 2-3 inches deep.

garlic shoot

Watch for them in spring – they’ll be first out of the soil!

garlic plants

Keep them weeded so the bulbs have room to grow as large as they can. Be watching for scapes, the long curly seed heads.

garlic scapes

When you see the scapes, cut them off and eat them. This will allow the bulbs to grow larger as well.

curing garlic

When the tops dry out, dig up the bulbs and put them somewhere hot and dry for two weeks. This curing will allow the bulbs to be stored for a longer period of time.

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Enjoy your garlic! And don’t forget to save some of your very own homegrown garlic bulbs for planting the next batch!

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I’ve put together a more detailed and informative pdf file with garlic growing instructions, if you’d like to take a look the link is below.

Growing Garlic SKG

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tour of the garden

I figured it was about time to take more photos to document the progress of the garden!
Here they are:
ripe tomatoes

The first ripe tomatoes – Sungold. These are a hybrid variety, so they will likely be taken off the list for next year since I want to focus on the heirloom varieties.

leaves

Here you can see three different plant types mixing together: watermelon (the really lobed ones), blue pumpkin (the largest ones), and cantaloupe (the in-betweenies).

wee watermelon

A small watermelon! EEP! Can’t wait.

blue pumpkin baby

The beginnings of a blue pumpkin.

cantaloupe

I found three cantaloupes under all those leaves! Crossing every possible digit that these babies make it ok. We love cantaloupe.

volunteer pumpkin

Volunteer plants are so much fun. I noticed a squash vine growing in my garden where none was planted, and thought I’d let it grow and see what it was. Looks like it will be a pumpkin! Also notice another volunteer in the background – this is purslane, an edible weed.  Yum!

dead zucchini plant

The zucchini has given up the ghost. Not a great year for zucchini. Too little rain.

tomatillos

My two tomatillo plants are sprawling and loaded with fruit. I can hardly believe it, after thinking when I planted them out that they were so small and wondering if they had enough time to catch up!

lamb's quarters

Another volunteer/edible weed: lamb’s quarters.

chinese ornamental hot pepper

Chinese ornamental hot pepper. So many flowers! I can’t wait to see this when all the peppers are red.

super chili

Super chili hot peppers! They’re larger than I expected them to be.

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Well. That’s it for now. How is your garden growing?

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garlic harvest

garlic harvest

The weather has been so incredibly dry this year, that my garlic has almost cured itself already in the ground. I dug it up on Tuesday evening, in the dark, because the weather forecast was calling for more rain and I was afraid it might rot, being already cured and not really much alive. The photo was taken the next morning. See how dry it is? The only green stuff is the bindweed.

I’ll still leave it in the greenhouse to dry out more, to be sure it’s cured before storing it.

I have to say, I’m happy with how it turned out, even if it is being harvested a bit early. I thought it would stay in the ground until fall, but I think this crazy heat and lack of rain has sped up the process a bit. Some of the bulbs are a good size, and some are small.

I will definitely grow it again. I’d like to try a few varieties, too – see if I can distinguish flavours of garlic! There are many to choose from, if you look in the right places.

If you want to grow garlic, you should be thinking about it in the next few months. Garlic is planted in the fall – October or November – and stays dormant during the winter. In the spring it’s one of the first things to poke through the soil in the garden, and grows well during the summer. When the scapes start to form, they should be cut off in order to encourage a larger bulb growth. I actually left the scapes on a few bulbs, to see what would happen.

garlic scape, close to mature

Looks like it formed a mix of bulbils and flower buds. The bulbils will be genetically identical to the garlic bulbs I planted, while the flowers provide opportunity for some genetic variation, should there be opportunity to cross with other garlic plants. We’ll see if this plant survives long enough to produce seed. But if it doesn’t, I’ll save the bulbils for sure.

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If anyone wants seed garlic, the small bulbs are $1 and the larger ones are $1.50. Limited supply, though, because I want to eat some of these beauties too! Let me know! They were grown organically by me in my herb garden. They have a good strong flavour. White/cream flesh with a few purple streaks in the skin.

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gardening for the future

I want to share this video of my daughter planting apple seeds: it’s completely unscripted, I just pointed the iPhone at her and told her to tell me what she was doing. Very spontaneous, it says a lot about who she is and how she sees the world. I apologize for the low sound… you’ll probably have to crank your volume.

Planting Apple Seeds for the Future

She is a constant reminder to me that kids hear what we tell them – but also what we don’t tell them. She loves to follow me around in the garden, plant her own seeds and tomatoes, and do whatever I happen to be doing. Especially if it involves the watering can.

It is so important for children to see where real food comes from, and to know that not everything in the grocery store claiming to be food is actually food. Just because you can eat something doesn’t mean your body knows what to do with it. I really love what my friend Elin is doing in Toronto: she is a garden educator who has two school gardens in operation this year. She is the coordinator, and teaches children about where their food comes from and how to grow it. She has a list of great books on her blog that you might want to consider sharing with a young person near you.

My daughter knows that she won’t be eating her own planted apples until she’s a teenager, but she plants them anyway. She looks forward to the day when she can enjoy them, rather than dreading the wait. She is such an inspiration to me.

planting apple seeds

garden tour

carrot seedlings

Carrot seedlings have sprouted in their boxes!

sugar ann peas

Sugar Ann Peas – a dwarf variety of sugar snap. (edible pod)

strawberry

Tiny strawberry plant. We’ll see how these do. I’ve got two varieties on the go. One with bright pink flowers!

freckled romaine

Romaine variety called “Freckles”. Appropriate, no?

beans

Bush beans. I think they’re green.

garlic

The garlic is coming along nicely. And I love the green between my stepping stone path.

morning glory

Morning Glory seedlings in the garden – such unique leaves! Not edible.

sage bud

The Sage buds are spreading out but not open yet.

horseradish flower

This surprised me: Horseradish flowers have the most beautiful fragrance!

grandma's lavender

Lavender. I pinched some seeds from the plant at my grandma’s house, and this is the only one that has survived.

chives

Chives, mauled by children. I love it.

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I’d love to see pics of your garden too! You can upload to the SKG facebook page, or leave a link in the comments if you blog or have a flickr account.

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lazy potatoes

I was gifted some organic seed potatoes this past weekend, so I thought I’d try a technique that I remember reading about awhile back. I didn’t do any additional research because my days are crazy this time of year. I just went out and dumped them onto the ground where last year’s garden was:

potatoes

Added some compost:

potatoes and compost

Opened up a banana box and placed it around them (plus took out a few big weeds):

potatoes and compost in a box

Added a bit of soil dug from the garden:

potatoes and compost and soil in a box

Took some straw and filled the box to 2/3 of capacity:

potatoes and compost and soil and straw in a box

And now, I’m waiting to see what happens. I’ve heard this makes it easy to harvest them. And, I think I’m supposed to add more straw around them as they grow taller. For now I need to just wait for the greens and we’ll take it from there!

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This year I’m also experimenting with using boxes for carrots:

potting soil and compost and carrot seeds in boxes

I generally don’t have much luck with carrots. This is probably due to the fact that I’m not super great at making my soil nice and fluffy. So – here’s a whole lotta fluffy in boxes, we’ll see how these two varieties of carrot enjoy the potting soil. I’m trying Amsterdam Maxi and Danvers 125.

How is your garden growing?

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love apples

love apple

Tomatoes were not always as well-loved as they are today; for a time they were considered poison. They were grown as a conversation piece in a garden, but not for eating. Oh the waste!! What a fantastic fruit. I’ve been reading The Tomato Handbook by Jennifer Bennett, so much of the information in this post can be attributed to her. Historical information, that sort of thing.

I learned that the Latin scientific name, Lycopersicon esculentum, can be translated literally as ‘wolf peach edible’. Apples were called wolf peaches in the time when they were thought to be poisonous, because they are in the same family as deadly nightshade and other poisonous plants. One of these is called monkshood, which they sometimes called wolfsbane because it was so deadly it killed even the strongest and most vilified predator they knew. So that’s where the ‘wolf’ handle came from. It’s pretty obvious that the shape would give it the ‘peach’ portion of the name. And ‘edible’ is to reassure people that tomatoes are, in fact, not going to kill them. Contrary to everything they had been taught.

Fascinating stuff.

And the name ‘love apples’? Well, apparently tomatoes were thought to be an aphrodisiac. Hm…. well, I do have a hubby who cooks a mean pasta sauce… but is it the tomatoes that turn me on, or the fact that he’s cooking supper? Hard to tell. Jury’s still out on that one.

So, what about the useful information for today’s gardens?

Well, there are some basic qualities you should be aware of when you’re picking out love apples for your edible garden.

1. Hybrid vs. Open Pollinated

If you grow open pollinated tomato plants, you will be able to save the seeds and rest assured that you will get daughter plants that are like their parent. The tomato will breed with itself to produce the same kind of tomato. If you grow a hybrid, though, you will likely not get the same type of daughter plant from the seeds you may collect from the fruit. This is because a hybrid is a cross between two specific kinds of tomato in order to produce a tomato with exacting qualities. The genetics are a jumble, so you don’t know what you’ll get when you plant the seeds. There are many good qualities to recommend hybrid tomatoes. AND being hybrid does NOT mean the tomato is GMO. You can make your own hybrid with two varieties in your backyard if you want. However, if you want reliable seeds for saving you’ll want to make sure you’re growing open pollinated tomatoes.

2. Determinate vs. Indeterminate

Generally speaking, indeterminate tomatoes grow on the large, gangly plants that keep producing tomatoes a few at a time all throughout the summer until frost kills them. They need to be staked, and sometimes pruned. They are used in greenhouse production because they can be strung on twine and grow to 20 feet tall, and keep producing tomatoes. Determinate tomato plants tend to be small and bushy and compact. They flower and produce all their fruit at once, and then they’re done.  They don’t need pruning; in fact, you should not prune them because they need all their leaves for energy production. What type you get will depend on how much room you have in your garden, and how you want your plants to grow. Do you want to stake them? Do you want them to ripen all at once? That’s a great quality in a paste tomato used for preserving sauce, but maybe not so much for a salad tomato. Or, maybe you want both. Totally up to you. There are lots of good varieties on both sides.

3. Disease resistance

If you’re looking through catalogues you’ll often see letters in the descriptions of tomato plants, that stand for various diseases that those tomatoes have bred resistance to. This is another useful thing to consider, especially if you have a part-shade garden. Most diseases can grab hold more easily when tomatoes are grown in more damp conditions. So, if you have a less-than-ideal garden situation, consider the tomatoes with more letters after their name.

4. Days to Maturity

You might want to grow a few different kinds of tomatoes, but you don’t want them all ripe at once. Take a look at the days to maturity, and choose varieties that have longer and shorter seasons so it spreads out the harvest a bit.

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Best of luck with your tomatoes! Do you have any favourite varieties already? Have you found some new ones this year that you’re going to try? I’d love to hear about them, and it would be great to share with other readers too. Thanks!

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eat flowers

rd article

Reader’s Digest has quite a few articles about growing food this month! I was pleasantly surprised to see a page about edible flowers, one of my favourite things. It often comes as a surprise to people that they can eat the violets that grow in their lawn (if they are lucky enough to have such a thing). Pansies are also edible, and Johnny Jump-Ups, which is why I’m growing them, along with Nasturtiums and Sunflowers and Calendula and Bergamot.

Something I didn’t know, that the article taught me, is that the older rugosa varieties of roses are more tasty than the newer hybrids. I’ve been wondering about rosehips, too, and I have a feeling that if the older types are better tasting they probably also have better rosehips. So I’ll be checking out rugosa varieties, if it ever comes to the point where I’m planting a rosebush!

Because landscaping should be as edible as possible.

In another article Sara Alway writes about ‘Soil Mates’, beneficial pairings of veggies and herbs. I’d heard of growing Tomatoes and Basil together, but it wasn’t actually mentioned here. Some odder pairings were mentioned, like Spinach and Pepper, Brussels Sprouts and Thyme, and, in keeping with the edible flowers theme, Zucchini and Nasturtiums.

The article is actually condensed from her book, which looks like a fun and informative read. I might have to get me a copy, or see if the library has it.

It’s definitely starting to get way more exciting around here, with all the seedlings taking over the place and ruling my life! Today is moving day for quite a few of them. More peppers have sprouted, so I need to make space under the grow lights upstairs, so the seedlings that have finished germinating and are more hardy will be moved out to the greenhouse. I’m sure I’ll be taking photos, for those who love the baby pics.

Happy sunny day today!

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