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Posts Tagged ‘cottage garden’

When I harvested my last spuds on Canada Day (July 1st) I had a few sugar pumpkin seedlings in pots so I jammed them in the fallow potato plot – where they did very little in the 3 weeks that I remained a vigilant guardian.

Then I went away from late July until early October, camping and visiting family members and friends in limited and responsible pandemic friendly terms.

I was pretty excited, on my return to Gibsons, as to what success I might have had with them. Short answer: Very Limited.

I could see where many small tender gourds had been nipped off neatly by the deer that roam the neighbourhood. And even in October there were dozens of flowers that would never produce fruit. But there were 4 lovely pumpkins that had managed to get beyond the size deer could consume. One got stem rot and one fell to a sharp toothed small varmint and finally there were 2.

Disappointing. But then considering the complete lack of care and attention they received…bonus! Here is the story in photos

A promising beginning. The deer love them at this size!
But they did not find this one
Enthusiastic vines showed no respect for garden walkways.
Halved and cleaned
Oiled and roasted
Scooped and weighed: 1.7 kilos
Pureed in batches and divided for scones, pie and the freezer
Pumpkin scones!

So was it worth all that trouble?

Truthfully, I’m not sorry I don’t have 20 ripe sugar pumpkins. That would be a lot of work and result in more than I could use. I would have been looking for someone to take most of them off my hands.

But it was fun to grow something from a single seed and then take it through its whole lifecycle to something I can eat. It gives me a real appreciation for my ancestors, who would have had this much of their own effort invested in most of their food…and also for modern food supply chains that mean I can open a can of pumpkin puree without – until now – giving it a second thought.

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When the plants flowered and started to wilt it was time to harvest.
The no hill method worked well, i didnt need to dig very much and the harvest was about 2 lbs per plant. Not great but not bad either.
Not a massive harvest, but very satisfying all the same. There was no evidence of wire worm damage, as was foretold by a worker at the nursery.
The potatoes are very flavourful, cook quickly and are beautiful to look at – at least, I think so.

There were almost as many nuggets as there were full sized specimens. I found a wonderful recipe for these. Quick, simple and delicious:

GRILLED MARINATED BABY POTATOES

Scrub and then fully cook nugget potatoes in salted water. Do not overcook. Plunge in cold water when done to stop cooking. Halve each potato after cooking, not before.

Mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup dijon mustard in a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes. Add 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste and whisk it into a creamy sauce. Sprinkle in some fresh thyme or rosemary if you have it.

Add cooled cooked potatoes to bowl, stir gently to coat and then cover and refridgerate until 1 hour before serving. Allow them to warm a bit at room temperature. When your meat comes off the grill to rest, have these ready to go right on!

To finish: Place them on a well sprayed hot grill, and do not turn until they are beginning to char. Turn each piece once only and grill quickly. Remove to a serving platter and watch them disappear.

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In between bigger projects, we spent half a morning making some fast improvements:

Swapped out last years worn and faded-to-pink flag with a fresh one from the dollar store. $2.50
Set up a new laundry line in a sunnier spot. PVC coated cable, 2 clamps, 1 turnbuckle and some hooks $21.
Installed a magnetic mesh screen on our seldom used “front” door for better air flow.
Installs in minutes and the only tool required is scissors. Great value at $16
These herb (and cucumber) planters looked messy sitting directly on the deck and attracted a lot of debris, woodbugs, etc.
Getting them up on wheeled planter caddies looks neater and the deck stays cleaner. $27 for 3.

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Its so interesting to me to look at photos I have taken of the garden over the past few months, so posting some here to make them easily accessible. The first three were taken in the exact same spot. This is a flower garden that has tomato, rhubarb and strawberries co-planted.

April
May
June

And then there is my lower veg garden that was previously full of gladiolus and some shrubs.

Snap peas left. Beets in the middle and carrots to the right. Back row is sugar baby melon territory and a newly planted asparagus patch that should bear next year.
Plus bush beans front and centre. Melons doing nothing weeks later.
Snow peas and snap peas starting to flower. Melons still nothing. Its too cool this June and they are only getting about 6 hours sun in this location when there is sun at all. So next year either no melons or find a better spot. Snuck a second carrot planting into the barren melon patch as consolation
Neighbours Derek and Natalie gave me some sunflowers!

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Garden is in better shape than any previous year.
Social distancing enforced in the garden, before the big growth explosion next month
Soldiers and Sailors, a gift from my old neighbour Elaine.
Just learned that primroses need to be divided from time to time. Oops!
Trilliums. A protected flower in BC.

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What was under that deck? Lots of ferns, salal and blackberries…and some flat land!

A peek up at the former deck, from cottage level.

Quick, lets plant something!. I had 8 seed potatoes left, so in they went. Since big, bold deer are frequent visitors from the adjoining park, it will be tricky to fend them off.

Looking in the window.

For a start, I’m mulching my plants heavily with seaweed from the nearby beach. When I go for a walk with the dog, I take a 5 gallon pail and selectively fill it, being careful to not take too much from any one area of the beach, as it is an important part of the ecosystem.

A quick rinse and into the garden.

Opinions are split as to whether the seaweed needs rinsing or not. I give it one quick fresh water rinse to take off the surface salt. I have read that deer don’t like to eat seaweed. But I also know they love salt…Stand by for my report in the months ahead.

Rand picked up a faucet splitter that allows us to run a hose up to the new garden area. This will also allow me to keep the composter wetted. Big improvement.

There are 8 potatoes under those piles of seaweed. that mess in the background is the “door to Narnia” before I attacked it.

Behind the new spud patch, there is an area that was a hole in the now-demolished deck. My kids called it the door to Narnia.

And Rand used to sweep leaves into the hole. So now, under a stump, more blackberries and ivy vines, what do I discover but about 12 inches of dark rich compost!. So I spent the whole afternoon with a heavy maddock, chopping out huge roots.

Rand came up and sawed down an acacia (weed) tree that would impact the light. And I hauled a half ton of debris down to the utility trailer for next weeks trip to the Green Waste.

Nasty blackberry roots.
The door to Narnia is ready to plant.

I will keep collecting, rinsing and distributing seaweed, both up top, and as a mulch for the lower garden. Here are some advantages:

Its free, and plentiful

It has dozens of trace minerals and is touted as a perfect, balanced fertilizer.

It rehydrates with each rain fall or watering, and delivers its goodness to the roots by leaching seaweed ‘tea’.

It prevents evaporation of water by shielding the ground surrounding plants.

It is attractive to helpful critters like worms and pillbugs.

But slugs don’t like it because it has sharp edges when it dries, and is a bit salty.

It doesn’t contain seeds or other plant bits that can take hold in your garden. Other mulches can hide surprises like…foxtails!

Like peat moss, it aerates the soil. Unlike manure, it doesnt need to decompose before using. Pile it on, 4-6 inches deep. Or more. This stuff is gold.

The only question is, will the deer scarf it up as quickly as I can lay it down?

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Our lives are distilled to two realms: Inside the cottage or outside to work on projects and go for walks. Its all so simple. No need to keep track of the date, no need to plan days and movements around social events or the numerous groups we each belong to. So we go out whenever weather permits, and when we are tired, cold or wet – back in. Some other things going in and out:

The old sheds and deck went out.
And loads of new lumber came in.
Piles of weeds and other green waste went out…
And a fresh load of clean crush came in to be spread about.
This pine tree, which was getting a bit big for its britches, came out…
And a new deep planter for growing potatoes went in.

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Day lilies

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Phlox

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Gladiolas

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Coreopsis

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Statice, I think

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Crocisima and wild geranium

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Bee balm

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Mexican grass and annuals

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So satisfying to pick one sad corner of the garden and do some spring cleaning.
That’s what I did last Friday while waiting for the honey wagon to come and pump out the septic tank.

Before

Before

and After

and After

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When I arrived at the cottage two days ago, I found a Steller’s Jay – the provincial bird of British Columbia – resting on my deck. She fluttered to the railing and watched as I ferried multiple loads from the car to the cottage.  Her feather’s were puffed up and she was hunched over. She looked at me as if she knew help had arrived.

I quickly put out some bird seed and my new Valu Village find – a bird bath.  She had a few bites and drank a considerable amount of water, then hopped down and strolled towards my shed.  Her mate took over her spot at the feeder.

Not a very happy bird

“This bird can’t fly,” thought I.  So I called the Gibsons Wildlife Rehab Centre.  This volunteer- run organization sent Barbara Lee Fraser along within an hour, by which time Stella had made her way into a tree. We lured her down with peanuts and suet, and Barbara proceeded to herd that bird through the front garden and into the wilderness that is my backyard, waiting for the right moment to drop her net.

Before long Stella was safe in her arms and then in a transport cage on her way to Rehab.

I called this morning for an update, and it seems she has some puncture wounds under her wing, and they are cleaning them  frequently to prevent dried blood from gumming up her feathers. She can’t fly yet, but they are hopeful she will.

The volunteers at the Centre are also concerned about the colour of her feet, and are conducting tests today to see if she has a fungus problem.  It seems she is receiving very good care.

When she is ready to be released, she will be returned to Keats View Cottage to rejoin her mate, who is staying very close. I bought a bag of peanuts on the theory that males of many species can be distracted from their troubles by food. It seems to be working.

I don’t know for certain that Stella is a gal. The folks at the rehab centre tell me it is difficult to determine gender of a Steller’s Jay, but they are calling the bird Lisa in my honour.  It’s very sweet, but when she comes home it will get darn confusing if there are two of us with the same name, so Stella it shall be.

Please keep your cats inside and consider making a donation to the Gibsons Wildlife Rehab Centre to help them continue on with their excellent work.  I know I will.

Stanley Kowalski is staying clean and fit in anticipation of Stella’s return

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