Sunday, August 29, 2010


Lots of cucumbers coming out of the hoop house these days. Homegrown cukes are so tender, crisp and sweet. These are 'Diva'. They're my favourites right now for cucumber salad. No need to peel these babies.

These are an english cucumber that I tried for the first time this's ok but not good enough to do again...divas are better for fresh eating, in my opinion. So many different types of cucumbers to try (next year) but for now, divas are a keeper....

The cold June this year made it really challenging to get the cucumbers they are on the right, it was already July in this photo when they finally looked like they were getting stronger. They like it hot.

And here they are again, on the left, a couple weeks later. Nowadays, they're filling up the pathway....many folks trellis their cukes and this would be a good idea here in the use the space more efficiently. Trellising also encourages the cucumbers to grow straighter.

Once the cukes get to this size, they get big fast! Daily picking keeps them all at a nice size. It amazes me how much they can grow in one day.

Here they are getting bagged up in 1 lb. bags for sale at Happy Tides Health Foods.

My favourite thing to do with homegrown cucumbers: a simple salad with red onion and freshly picked chopped up dill and basil, a little olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and sometimes a dollop of mayo, tossed...delicious summertime taste....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

carrot problemas

So for every lovely long tapered carrot like the ones on the left, the garden is producing another troubling specimen like the ones on the right. Most gardening how-to books say this happens to carrots when there's too much nitrogen in the soil or when there are big clods of clay or rock in the that I've looked at says it could also be because of over-watering or overcrowding.
Since I knew that it was a no-no to plant carrots on freshly manured or newly fertilized soil, I planted in a bed that hadn't received compost, manure or complete organic fertilizer since the last crop it grew. But still...I have a problem this year....I know I didn't over-water and it's not because of overcrowding so perhaps I needed to till the soil more carefully in the spring before I planted...maybe still too many small rocks or maybe my soil is still too fertile? It isn't making much sense to me right now....

So my weekly Homegrown Basket customers are receiving the tidier roots while CJR and I are feasting on the others, some of which are good for a few laughs like Mister and Missus, above. Sometimes, I'll include one or two fun ones for my customers if I think they'll appreciate it!

Unfortunaately, this one isn't even funny......grrrr......

I hear that those packaged baby carrots that we can buy in the grocery stores are actually not baby carrots but the mis-shapened ones like these that are whittled away by a machine and made to look like what we expect carrots to look like. That seems like a good way to reduce the wasting of a lot of carrots....but I'm not sure that it's true since I have seen how many carrots are left lying in the big-production fields after the harvester has gone through.

To ease my carrot disappointment of 2010, I went back to last year's photos to remind myself that it is possible to grow beautiful carrots in my garden. Last year I had a gorgeous crop of orange, purple, red and yellow carrots. Purple and orange are my favourites!
Here's a link to a most amazing site all about carrots. Who knew there was so much to learn about carrot. (don't miss the carrot clarinet!)

Some beautiful carrots in all different colours that I saw last fall at the greenmarket in NYC. To grow some just like these for next year's Homegrown Baskets is something for me to aspire to!

Friday, August 13, 2010

island flowers

Sometimes when I'm doing lots of flower arrangement projects or if there's a lull in the flower blooming in my garden, I like to get flowers from other farms and gardens on Mayne Island. This week, I was lucky enough to get lots of beautiful roses, zinnias and sunflowers from Brian and Michelle at Raylia Farm. Here's their farmstand at the end of Montrose Road. So sweet. Lots of yummy veggies and beautiful flowers here.

A lovely little table centerpiece I made with some of their beautiful roses and some of my lady's mantle.

and I used those same roses, zinnias, grasses, grapevine and fennel flowers to create this wildly beautiful garden arrangement. What a joy.

can't stop admiring those amazing roses!

and here's a natural and untamed late summer arrangement with Raylia sunflowers and my grapevine, fennel, grasses....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

wedding flowers

Today I did a few table arrangements and a bridal bouquet for a small intimate wedding at the Mayne Island Resort. It was a fun little job...sometimes the small ones are the most fun. The table arrangements were an island gardeny combination of beautiful Stargazer lilies, pink and reddy/orange roses, grasses, lady's mantle, grapevine, rosemary and lemon verbena sprigs and flowers, marigolds....

When making the bridal bouquet, I always like to hold it in the mirror to make sure that it looks the way I want it to when it's being held in hand. This bride requested a creamy white palette with touches of chartreuse and pink and she liked the idea of white this bouquet is made of white roses, pink roses, limelight hydrangea, golden hops vine, some feverfew and copper coloured grass sprigs.
A plate of grape vine, roses and hollyhock flowers waiting to be delivered to the Sunny Mayne Bakery for wedding cake decoration.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

basil in the garden

I'm harvesting lots and lots of genovese basil from the garden these days!

In this photo, such healthy looking transplants were waiting for me in the greenhouse this May.
I start a lot of these in the spring. They're a favourite at the Farmer's Market and I sell tons of transplants to folks like me who want to grow their own basil and fulfill their dreams of lots of delicious summer-time pesto.

Here I am transplanting some of those baby basils from their pots into the outdoor growing bed in my garden. I start the seeds in trays and then transplant them to their own pots when they have their first true leaves and are about an inch tall. They grow on in these pots in the seed starting greenhouse until it's warm enough to plant them outside.

When I have all the little plants transferred from their greenhouse pots to the soil, I give them some good waterings with a kelp tea. I water them with kelp tea occasionally all summer really seems to make them grow faster and greener. At planting time I also add some complete organic fertilizer that I mix up myself (for basil, I add more seed meal for nitrogen and less bone meal). It's the same mix I use for spinach because I'm wanting to encourage the green growth with nitrogen and want to discourage flowering (and since the bone meal's phosphorous content encourages flowering, I want to give less of that to the basil)......for more on complete organic fertilizer, see: this post

Looking lovely, all planted, topped up with compost and hoops covered with plastic to try to make our springtime this year a little warmer for Basil, who likes it hot.

....but....not only was the beginning of June too cold in my garden for outdoor grown basil, the earwigs got to it and munched away on the tender new growth... check it out: basil heartbreak! Yellowy from the cold (because I was impatient and thought I could take the plastic off before it was really time)...and sad and ragged from earwig munching....
and this...hrrrummph, not very appetizing at all! So I decided to put the plastic back on the hoops and just wait and see.....

....and my hope-fullness was rewarded! It finally warmed up and the earwigs just...went away! I did nothing. I wonder what happened in the basil patch that I don't know about that made my hopes and dreams come true. Sometimes it's all such a mystery.
So now the plastic is off for easy access when harvesting and it's happily growing like crazy!I just can't get enough of the look of these beautiful green basil tips...
This photo above shows where the tip has already been harvested a couple weeks ago (brown stubby thing) and where I'm harvesting another tip and where the new shoot is beginning to develop, for harvesting in a couple weeks! basil plants get gloriously bushy if I continue to pinch the tips like this...long ago, when I first grew basil, I didn't understand how important it is for production to keep pinching the tips. I've since learned that it inspires the plant to grow more green shoots as it tries to produce seed (it's ultimate goal)...but we want the green so...never let it do what it's doing below....sending out a flower shoot!! oh. oh. Well...some in the garden are ok, I suppose, since the bees love them but I want the plants to make more leaves so I can make more pesto...and also, the bigger flower buds give the basil a bitter taste (don't want that!).....Below, some basil all bagged up in 2 oz. bags waiting to be delivered to Happy Tides Health Food store so some of the folks who live here and aren't growing their own can make some pesto too.....yum yum!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

another lily bouquet

This lily is called "Scheherazade". I wonder how it got it's name? Perhaps to give people like me the idea that we shouldn't cut it? ooops....but it's such a beautiful flower and makes a gorgeous wildly natural looking bouquet. I made this one a couple days ago. Perhaps next year I shall leave them alone, let them bloom on and see what story they have to tell :-)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tumbler tomatoes in containers, part 2

This is the time of summer when container grown tomato plants will start to go yellow and look really sad if they aren't getting enough of the nutrients and minerals they need to be healthy and produce delicious fruit. Folks who grow the Tumbler tomato plants I sell in the spring ask me about what I do to provide the plants with the nourishment they need, so......'s what I do:
I start by mixing up a potting soil (in my wheelbarrow) that's made of SeaSoil potting mix (from Home Hardware on Mayne Island) some of my compost and some shredded coco coir (for water retention). I fill my growing container with the potting soil mix and then I add about a cup full of complete organic fertilizer and mix it all up and moisten. Then I make a hole and plant the seedling in the hole with some earthworm up with potting soil and lightly press down the soil...that will give the little plant a good start!

The greenhouse Tumblers, just after planting up in their summer growing pots, end of April/beginning of May. I wait 'til end of May/beginning of June to plant my outdoor pots.

Complete organic fertilizer is a mixture of natural ingredients that supply a combination of nitrogen, phosporous and potassium, plus a few other goodies that plants like. I buy these ingredients in bulk and store them in metal bins in the garden. In this photo: bags of alfalfa meal, kelp meal, soft rock phosphate. If you live on Mayne Island and go into Victoria from time to time, 2 good sources of ingredients are Buckerfield's on Keating Cross and Borden Mercantile near Quadra and Mackenzie. Many farm supply stores carry these ingredients.

These are the metal garbage cans I use for storing my complete organic fertilizer ingredients and the finished mix.

The basic recipe I follow:
for nitrogen: 4 parts seed meal (canola, alfalfa)
for phosphorous: 1/2 part soft rock phosphate or bone meal
for potassium: 1/2 part kelp meal or sometimes a mix of kelp meal and greensand
for calcium: 1/2 part dolomite lime and wood ash combined
I often add a little extra bone meal to the mix when making this for tomatoes because I read somewhere that phosphorous encourages the plant to produce more flowers and so therefore more fruit...and I've noticed, it really seems to work!

I find that the complete organic fertilizer breaks down in time to continue providing nourishment to the plant after the compost in the pot has been depleted, usually beginning of July. As the plant starts to set and ripen lots of fruit, sometime in July, I like to start watering it with a seaweed tea. This has worked wonderfully for me and my tumbler tomato plants produce loads and loads of delicious red jewels.

There are liquid seaweed concentrates available to buy and I basically make a tea with them by mixing a small amount with water in a watering can....these are 2 that I use....Home Hardware's garden centre on Mayne is now carrying some of these.
But eventually, I'd like to make my own concentrates for watering and feeding.

These are some old wine barrels we've set up to collect rain water from a shed roof. I'm planning to steep all sorts of good things in them to create some lovely homemade feeds for my container plants while I water them....I hope to make concentrates of nettles, comfrey, seaweed, horsetail, manure, compost, etc...but that is another story for another I must be off to water my Tumblers with kelp infusion and harvest some more for dinner!