Posts Tagged ‘garden’

April Gardening

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Spring is in full swing here, with its mix of very hot and very cool days.  All of my April planting is finished, including a bed of mixed salad greens, some radishes, and peas.  I also planted a flat with spinach, green onions, beets, endive, and lettuce that I started in late March.  All of this is under a section of floating row cover – this is a light almost interfacing like fabric that I rock down over my wide beds.  The plants grow up underneath it and it allows 80% of the light through, all of the rain, and adds 4C of warmth to the bed.  Since soil temperature is the biggest factor in growth rates in the spring, it does make a huge difference.  I would say it speeds up the maturity of all that I plant in April by two to three weeks.  The cover is available through many seed catalogues but there are many different weights so you have to be a bit careful – you want a weight that does not need hoop support.   I found that Stokes Seeds had the cover that I wanted in 50′ sections and a width that works for my four foot wide beds.

For anyone who really wants to grow their own food, it is nice if the work can be done quickly and efficiently.  Keeping your garden to a manageable size is really important – I would recommend nothing bigger than 500 square feet to start.  Another time saving idea is to dig your pea seeds in, rather than making trenches and seeding by hand.  It is a random seeding but it works.  I count out about 10 pea seeds for every square foot of garden that I want to plant and then scatter them evenly over my bed.  I then take my garden fork and quickly turn the soil- some seeds end up a bit deep, some too close to the surface, and the rest come up nicely.  This really does save a great deal of time.

I like to work with transplants if possible, I find it easier to start seedlings indoors on a monthly basis and then plant them out into the garden when they are three to four weeks old.  For my May bed I have started a flat with spinach, lettuce, green onions, fennel, and Swiss chard.  I also have a flat with tomatoes and peppers that I started in March.  Both of these I keep outside in a small mini-type greenhouse that I made with 2 x 4’s and second hand glass.  It works very well and means I don’t have to use my light table any longer.

Eating in April

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

I  am working hard to be creative these days, finishing the last of the vegetables in my root cellar and making lots of sprouts.  I find it amazing that the carrots that I bring up are still of the highest quality, crispy and sweet.  They should remain that way well into May.  The cabbages are looking somewhat worse for wear, but I peel off the outer layers and then store them in the fridge for the next few weeks.

I am trying to eat a meal or two with Jerusalem artichokes every week.  I think I have finally found my favourite way to cook them. Basically I just scrub them well – this is much easier if you eat them on the same day that you harvest them.  Then I cut them in 1″ cubes, with the skin still on, removing any parts that look sketchy.  I parboil the cubes for about 5-10 minutes, drain them and then saute them in oil with some salt and pepper.  They go nice and crispy and brown, just like fried potatoes.

I will soon begin to scrounge my garden.  There is kale and green onions that have survived the winter, as well as some garlic that seems to have naturalized itself on the south side of my house.  All of it is big enough to eat.  Also I see that the sorrel leaves are poking their heads up and should be big enough to pick in a week or two.  My chives are also about a week away from being ready to pick.  Sometimes it feels like these little bits of food don’t add up to much, but I am always surprised by how much food there is when I go to harvest something.  And now that I can get my bicycle out, I should take a trip down the road to my little patch of fiddleheads and see how they are doing.  All in all, there is much more to April than meets the eye!

Moving My Transplants

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

After a few days of cold, wintry weather, spring has returned to southern Ontario.  I did plant some salad greens last week and I am sure that they survived the small bit of snow that we got and will start to germinate this week.  I have covered them with a double row of floating row cover as an experiment to see if the extra warmth results in an earlier harvest.  I am hoping to eat my first salad before the end of this month.  Will keep you posted!

I set up my little mini greenhouse today and moved my spinach, lettuce, green onion, beet and endive transplants outside.  The greenhouse is made of 2 x 4’s and four second hand windows, its about 2 feet tall and 6 feet long and has glass on the top and the front.  I made it 2′ tall so that it could hold my tomato transplants that will go out in late April or early May.  The flats I moved out today are already 3 weeks old and will have to go in the garden within a week or two.  They are all hardy vegetables and can survive a few cold nights, though if the forecast calls for several degrees below freezing, I will probably bring them in for the night.  It feels good to get them outside and the natural light will help them to toughen up a bit before they go in the garden.

In the Garden

Monday, March 16th, 2009

It is really beginning to feel like spring is just around the corner here in southern Ontario. I just sent off my seed order and am excited to start some transplants. This year I ordered the bulk of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine. They really do have some of the best quality seeds that I have ever used and they make a real commitment to supplying untreated and organic seeds and supplies. There is no duty when you order seeds from the United States, which helps to keep them affordable. I also rediscovered a yellow bush bean called ‘Dandy Gold’ that I have not been able to find for several years. It is a flat podded Roma bean and it is probably the best tasting, butteriest, yellow bean I have ever grown. T & T Seeds in Winnipeg, Manitoba is the only seed company that I know of that carries ‘Dandy Gold’.

For all of you planning a garden for this year, it is time to make a garden plan and to order some seeds. You can buy small seed packets from local grocery stores or gardening supply centers, but seed catalogues really have a much greater selection – both in terms of varieties and packet sizes. Also you are much more likely to find seed that has been organically grown. There are many medium sized Canadian seed companies that offer good quality conventional and organic seeds as well as an ever increasing number of smaller companies that specialize in heirloom varieties of seeds that are organically grown. There is a seed company called Aimers from Hamilton, Ontario that sells packets of organically grown seeds at a local Kingston gardening center, but for the most part I would recommend that you go online and order yourself a few seed catalogues (most of them are free) and do some winter browsing.

At the same time, try to make a realistic garden plan because it is just too easy to buy way more seeds than you really need! Decide on a size for your garden – if it’s a summer garden designed to give you fresh eating vegetables from May to November, I would recommend between 350 and 500 square feet. That is a very manageable size for a family of 4-6. In From Seed to Table, I give several sample garden plans, these are useful to get some idea of how much to plant and when to plant. If you look at the plans, you will see that I plant in 4 foot wide beds and that I plant small amounts every month from April until September – yes you can plant salad greens in September for a very successful fall harvest. If you would like to grow some vegetables for winter storage, you will need a larger garden and a bigger commitment in terms of time and energy. Plan for between 500 and 1000 square feet for a winter storage garden.

March is the time to start some transplants for both gardens. I will talk more about that later, but if you want to grow leeks and onions from seed, you really need to be starting them now. Both have a long growing season and will not grow to maturity in our climate unless started indoors. You can also buy onion sets – these are onions that have been grown for about two months last year, then harvested and stored for the winter. You plant the small, 1-2” onions straight into your garden in April, and they save you from having to make transplants. I always preferred the transplants, because I could find varieties of onions that are better for storage and also because I found them to be more successful in terms of growing to a good size. I would recommend about 400 onion seedlings and 100 leek seedlings for winter storage for a family of four that does a reasonable amount of home cooking – and that likes onions and leeks!

Seed catalogue links

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Winslow, Maine

William Dam Seeds, Dundas, Ontario

Vesey’s Seeds, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Dominion Seed House, Georgetown, Ontario

Greta’s Organic Gardens, Gloucester, Ontario

Terra Edibles, Foxboro, Ontario

Salt Spring Seeds, Ganges, B.C.

T & T Seeds, Winnipeg, Manitoba