Almost enough garden.

December 9th, 2016

Lately I’ve been looking at my garden and thinking how small it is. Even while acknowledging that this is an affliction that hits me every now and then, especially in the winter and early spring, I walk around looking for expansion space on my property. But then I will be reminded of how hard I work to process all the produce and herbs that do come from my existing garden. Like tonight we had our evening plans cancelled-which included supper out-because of the snow, so we quickly settled on a pasta meal.  That meant into the pantry to pull a jar of tomato sauce from the shelf along with an onion and a garlic from last summer’s garden. Then from the spice drawer, dehydrated oregano and parsley also from the garden.  Allowed to simmer for a bit, it became a great sauce with that still fresh tomato flavour and I thought of the 200 pounds of tomatoes I had skinned, cut, drained, simmered for an hour or so then froze or canned. That was a lot of work. And that was just the tomatoes. More space would mean I would plant more. But what I have keeps me very busy. It is enough garden.

Well, almost enough.

lemon & poppy seeds

After supper I set about making some muffins for the next day. I really wanted bran muffins but we were out of honey, so I thought of the poppy seed I had finally got around to sifting earlier in the day. I also knew that one of my lemon bushes had some beautiful lemons on it. So it was going to be lemon and poppy seed muffins. I grabbed the flashlight and set out in the snow for the greenhouse and returned to the kitchen with a plump lemon. An hour later I had a rack of delicious smelling muffins.

lemon & poppy seed muffins



We’re Back!

December 3rd, 2016

I’m glad november is done as it’s a hard month for me, especially when the rain never seems to end. The studio helps me get through the first of the three dark months. Even on the dullest day, I can easily spend hours working with glass, pulling pieces from my bins, cutting and fitting and be completely oblivious to what’s going on outside my studio window. Now it’s december and I will continue to work in my studio but already I am feeling more up as the big day in December creeps closer–which for me is the 21st.

And a few days ago, something else happened that cheered me up. I got Potagerway back from the hackers. I won’t go into details except that I did not expect to see it again but thanks to the generous efforts of someone, my website was restored. To scroll through the web postings and pictures of the garden makes me excited to start planning for 2017.

So not much is happening in the garden right now but once again I will post a picture of Lavendula multifidia which thrives in the PNW fall. This picture was taken a month ago but the lavender was still going strong when I dug it up two days ago, as we are expecting a cold spell.  Although it is a tender plant, it handles being dug up, potted up and placed in the cool greenhouse for the winter.  After the last spring frost, a light prune and then back into the ground.  Lavendula multifidia does not have a pleasant scent and some may think it’s a bit unruly-although I like that-but the flowers are a bright blue and an interesting shape, and are plentiful.Lavendula multifidia

Planting Dates

May 6th, 2016

I love spring when everything suddenly comes back to life.

I love spring when everything suddenly comes back to life.

Several weeks ago I was planting carrots. Using my favourite tool – I don’t know what it is called – I dragged it down the carrot bed multiple times. Had my carrot name stakes all made up and started filling the rows with seeds then I reigned myself in. It was still march and maybe I should stop at just a few rows and in a couple of weeks do another few and another few a couple of weeks after that. It is so easy to barrel ahead in the spring when the first bit of warm weather arrives. And I almost always push my planting dates but I do know that spring weather is inclined to be fickle.

In early April I had two separate conversations with newbie veggie gardeners. They had both planted their squash and cucumbers in march and our conversations went something like “What are you going to do with them? It’s a bit cold yet to put them out.” “Well, I’ll just keep them in their pots for now.” “Um, I don’t think they will be very happy in their pots for a month or so.” “A month?” “They like it warm. Really warm.” “Well, I’ll probably plant them soon.” “OK. But there’s a good chance you’ll have to replant them.” “Replant?” “Well, maybe you’ll get lucky; it might be a warm spring.” And so it is.

Too warm actually. And already bone dry here on the island. I haven’t put my squash out yet, but I have planted bush beans outside earlier than ever before. Tomatoes are almost all in the ground and, again, never this early. Everything is just way too ahead. And while I love the sun, I miss the cool spring rains. I’m actually a little sad because the heat is stealing the freshness from spring.

These tomatoes will very quickly outgrow their barn cloches.

These tomatoes will very quickly outgrow their barn cloches.

Winter Colour

January 13th, 2016

I thought I would have a lot of time this winter and hoped to spend some of that time working on my website but I don’t know what happened. Time is just flying by and now my head is seriously into the seed catalogues. I did take pictures on the solstice recording all of the flowers that were still in bloom; this in spite of a quite cold week in november. However, recently, several days of hard frost did do in a few of those plants.

A little raggedy, but not bad for the end of December.

A little raggedy, but not bad for the end of December.

One plant I was very pleased with this fall is the tender Lavendula Multifida. I grow and propagate this species to sell but never even offer it to my customers as, I’ve noticed, people think of lavenders as hardy perennials and as soon as you mention that a lavender plant may succumb to a cold, wet winter, people are disinclined to purchase. This is too bad because there are several lavenders that, with a little care or consideration to planting location, will survive most winters here.

These lavenders just kept putting out their bright blue flowers all through the fall.

These lavenders just kept putting out their bright blue flowers all through the fall.

Anyway, in the late summer when a bit of rain was starting again, I wanted some colour in the garden and planted out a dozen gallon sized multifidas. And they thrived. Now these lavenders are anything but aromatic and they do not look like a common lavender but they bloom all summer and into the fall. They may get a bit untidy but a light prune and they are soon back to blooming. They bloomed all through the fall and even on the solstice were putting out new flowers but the subsequent hard frost was too much for them. I am going to leave them and see if they grow back from their roots in the spring. I did dig up a couple of the multifida before the frost and unceremoniously dropped them into 3 gallon pots and then into the greenhouse. They are still blooming. So if you are looking for something a little different, but hard working, take a chance on some of the tender lavenders.

And finally, as is our tradition now, I went out to the cold greenhouse on Jan 1st and picked a couple of lemons for our New Year’s mousse. Mmm, so yummy.

Lemons under fleece in the cold greenhouse.

Lemons under fleece in the cold greenhouse.

The Chicken Pen Composter

November 11th, 2015

Yup, they are already loving it!

Chicken Pen Composter

Garden Stakes

July 8th, 2015

Every year we seem to get hotter here. And drier. Recently our area has been declared to be in a category four drought, which is the highest drought category we have. And, on this dry island, it’s evident when you look at the underbrush, at the blackberries : (, or the cedars. I notice even many of the fir trees in my neighbourhood are browning significantly. So I’ve been watering, not just the veggie garden, but the rhodos, japanese maples, fruit trees and perennials, even the lavenders and grasses need a bit of water because they can’t draw anything from this shallow soil. Nothing is thriving, but they are hanging in there. So, when I get tired of watering and of thinking of how I could be doing things differently, I retreat to my studio. One of my projects there is making fused glass herb stakes and after a few failed attempts, I think I am getting closer to something I am happy with. The herbs might all shrivel up, but at least I will still be able to identify them if they have a stake!

These bright fused glass herb stakes add some fun to a garden.

These bright fused glass herb stakes add some fun to a garden.

Where’s the dog?

July 8th, 2015

Lately, whenever I can’t find my dog, I go and look by the beans. He lays there looking at the beans hanging from the bush and is ever hopeful they will fall off. He also Knows that if I happen to walk by, there’s a good chance I will pick one for him.

Kappi by the beans.  You never know; they might fall off.

Kappi by the beans. You never know; they might fall off.

Lavender in Bloom #1

May 28th, 2015

L. stoechas Helmsdale is one of the darkest and its flowers contrasts beautifully with its mid green foliage.  Helmsdale seems to stand up to our winters ok,  whereas the Madrid White is not quite as hardy.

L. stoechas Helmsdale is one of the darkest and its flowers contrasts beautifully with its mid green foliage. Helmsdale seems to stand up to our winters ok, whereas the Madrid White is not quite as hardy.

Over the next month I am going to post pictures of what lavender is currently blooming. The important thing is not so much when it they are blooming because that is so weather dependent, but, instead the order in which they bloom. Even that is not a sure thing because areas within gardens or between gardens can differ in terms of sun, exposure, etc, but still, it’s a guide. Lavendula stoechas (often referred to as spanish lavender or butterfly lavender) is pretty much the first to bloom and they will continue to bloom although more lightly for a good part of the summer. There are many new varieties on the market but I propagate some older varieties that provide good contrast to one another and seem to survive most winters. The spanish lavenders are particularly robust when it comes to heat and limited watering which is a good thing here on Gabriola.

This is a big old lavender that i really should pull up, but it still puts on a good show and, once flush with new foliage, continues to look good.

This is a big, old lavender that I really should pull up, but it still puts on a good show and, once flush with new foliage, continues to look good.

Bed Envy

May 27th, 2015

Bed Envy

You might be thinking I am going to talk about the demands of work in the spring garden and the battle between getting enough sleep and getting enough work done. And it’s true, those days exist, but bed envy is not about sleeping, it’s about coveting larger gardens. Recently I visited some friends who are building a timber frame house. They still have another year to go on their house, but the garden is already in and fenced and starting its second year. So, of course, I had to check out their garden too. I looked at the 150 foot garden beds and thought of all the fruits and vegetables I could grow in this kind of space and it made me nostalgic for the five acres we gave up 10 years ago. We talked about the harvest and how storage was a bit tricky – the challenges of living in a wet winter climate where sometimes it can get very cold – relatively speaking – and I left thinking been there and don’t want to go back, but I was still a little jealous.

Left over seed potatoes were planted up in chicken feed bags in which i cut small drainage holes.  Growing great so far.

Left over seed potatoes were planted up in chicken feed bags in which i cut small drainage holes. Growing great so far.

A few days later I drove past a small permaculture farm where the early evening sun still filled the fields, I thought I had to stop and see if the owner – someone I knew – was there and would let me just walk among the beds. I love this farm with its organic shaped, mounded beds, where fruit trees, herbs and vegetables all jostled for space in the deep, rich soil. There are also ducks and a pond, chickens and a cob oven, creative structures and projects galore in an unfinished state. It’s a garden full of chaos & harmony and briefly I wished I had a garden like it. But the paths just rolled one into the other and it became apparent that even with the benefits of permaculture design, a lot of work was required to fill the csa boxes this farm supplied.

I returned home to my small, tidy garden beds where the strawberries and spinach and lettuce already filled their spaces. And the tomatoes and potatoes were growing strong. Every pocket of space was filled with something even if only a head of lettuce. I don’t need to grow 100 pounds of carrots because I can’t store that much. I grow 30 pounds and they keep until December and that’s ok. I want to grow 100 pounds of potatoes but don’t have the space, so I try to grow at least 50 (those six planted up feed bags might add another 10) and, if successful, they will last at least 8 months. And so it goes. Actually, I harvest alot from my modest garden and small allotment at the commons. And what I don’t grow, I can purchase from the many farmers on the island. What I do end up with is time to be creative in my garden and to keep it well planted. And then time to sit on the deck with a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset.

Sunset on Gabriola

Strawberry Beds

March 8th, 2015

For the last month I have been taking advantage of our mild winter weather here on the westcoast, and have reconstructed several garden beds. Uppermost in my mind, was which bed to designate as the new strawberry bed. Every third year I have two beds for strawberries-the new crop and the final year of the old crop. I am already challenged for space so having two strawberry beds puts a squeeze on the demand for beds.  Anyway, for months now I have been looking online at examples of alternative ways to grow strawberries. While I like the idea of growing strawberries in gutters or long narrow raised boxes, I just don’t see how the plant can grow vigorously that way without a lot of inputs and frequent watering. Also, how do you net them?  Not netting is not an option here. I was also quite drawn to the tiered style of growing strawberries. There are some great ideas out there but I struggled to think how I could fit a tiered bed into my garden.   I looked at the two remaining beds that were on my ‘reconstruct’ list. These beds are snugged up against a stone embankment and I thought,  maybe.

After dismantling one of the raised beds and part of the adjoining one, I built the main level of the new strawberry bed with stones, which I am increasingly using for my beds as we have an abundance of them. Then I constructed two additional levels made out of 2 x 8 lumber. I love it! I think the bed is going to work just great. There’s tons of soil and compost in the bed and it’s not too high so hopefully won’t dry out too quickly. I do only grow june bearing strawberries because the spring rains are generally reliable and when the rains stop, the strawberries’ water needs are also greatly reduced. Admittedly, this bed will probably only hold 40 plants which is not quite enough to put 25 pounds of berries into the freezer,  so in the fall I will take one of my smaller beds, tier it as well and plant it up then.  So off to the nursery now to get some strawberry starts.tiered strawberry bed1, gabriola

tiered strawberry bed2, gabriola

tiered strawberry bed3, gabriola