Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The garlic is looking good these days.  A little later than some years, but it seems like it has enjoyed the cooler wetter spring...maybe that'll mean some nice big bulbs this year.  Above is the garlic crop at the beginning of April and below is what it looks like now.  It grew a lot....over 3 feet tall now!

Soon the scapes will be out and it'll be time for garlic scape pesto!!  Yum, can't wait!

Monday, May 30, 2011

fragrant clematis

As I worked on through the afternoon and into the evening yesterday, the early evening sun shone on the clematis blooms, encouraging them to release more and more of their sweet perfume...a remarkable fragrance filled the entire garden.  The bees were busy.  So beautiful!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

getting wwoof ready

Yesterday we got the outdoor shower at the garden house working and I'm really happy about it.  Hot water for the shower and the garden kitchen sink too!  It has taken what seems like forever but we're slowly inching our way towards being a wwoof host.  So much fun!  If you don't know what wwoof is and you're curious, go to the wwoof canada website for lots of good info.  
I hope to create a special spot for someone to live, work and learn.  Someone who'd like to experience quiet, peaceful days living in the forest by the sea while contributing a few hours of good hard work gardening and learning about growing food and flowers.

Here's Chris showing me a part of his soldered pipe creation.  Ready to hook it up in the shower!

This is the back of the shower building where there's a little closet-like cabinet that houses the tankless water heater.  The water heater uses propane to heat the water on demand.  Originally, we were going to keep the propane tanks inside the cupboard on the floor but we found out that wasn't to code (fire hazard) so we had to dig a trench at least 10 feet long and find a new place for the propane tanks...beside one of the posts of the garden house, which happily just happened to be ten feet away.  Eventually, we'll build something to cover that all up....it'll probably incorporate a little deck or platform for  our outdoor bathtub....

Around the corner from the water heater cabinet is the entrance.....the shower area is built right under a cedar tree by Pat Hennebery of Cobworks.  He used Mayne Island milled wood and Mayne Island sandstone rock.....

A little further and there's the mirror and sink....

A little further and tadaaa!  We tried it out and it works beautifully!!  I still have a few things to do...clean it up a bit more after the winter, add some hooks and towel racks and a screen for the entrance and I think I'd like to plant some ferns in the planter....but it's almost all finished and I'm so pleased......it's going to be a very sweet place to take a shower in the summertime.

So in the meantime, I won't fuss too much over the mess in this area of the garden.  Look at all those dandelions going to seed!!  Out of control.  The forest wastes no time trying to reclaim it's land...there are little fir and cedar trees sprouting up all over the place! I'm just going to have to wait 'til I have some help.....

And eeek!  Another example of how I need a willing worker to work with!  So next step: finishing the kitchen and the sleeping loft.  The kitchen is almost ready, just need to tile a small counter area.  And the sleeping loft is almost wwoof ready too!  Photos soon :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

arugula microgreens

I took some of these micro arugula greens to the stores on Mayne Island today.  

It has been almost two weeks since I've delivered shoots and microgreens to my customers because of a nasty little greenhouse catastrophe.  One day a little over two weeks ago when I was away from my greenhouse for a couple hours, the sun came out bright and strong after quite a chilly time and in just over an hour, it overheated all my little plants.

....actually, luckily not all of them but especially these tender and sensitive little cool season pea shoots....they sauteed in their trays!....very disappointing :-(   oh well,  I'm over that now, getting back on track.

 Micro arugula has become one of my true favorites to grow and to eat.  They are so simply deeelicious on a sandwich with tomato and feta....mmmmm, yum.

A few first tries at growing them in trays in my greenhouse this past winter got me convinced that it was an idea to follow and I knew I'd want to be doing this for a while.  I was convinced enough to buy a ten pound bag of certified organic arugula seed.  Even for a person like me who's growing lots of these trays, that's still an awful lot of arugula seed!  yikes!

A few folks have asked me about how I grow these so here's a little bit about what I do.  These days, I try to get 5-6 trays of  arugula planted at least once a week and sometimes 2 times a week.  I plant them on Sea Soil potting mix.

I don't cover the tiny seed with heavy soil...instead, I cover it with a paper towel and wet it thoroughly to keep the seed moist while it's germinating and setting roots into the soil.  

After a couple days, my curiosity has me pulling back the wet paper towel to see what's going on under there!

They grow quite quickly....this is about 4 days after planting.  Look at all those fuzzy little root hairs!

At about 5-7 days after planting, depending on weather conditions, it's time to take the paper towels off the growing green trays...they're now ready to grow on without moist cover.

Happy little plants, standing at attention.

I like to try for a few true leaves in my micro arugula and have learned that the higher the ph of the soil, the harder that is to achieve and moisture seems to effect it too....so I'm still experimenting....

Cut.  Weighed.  Bagged.  Just a few weeks ago, I realized I needed to label the bags now that I'm beginning to do so many different little microgreens...was beginning to worry that folks would pick up some sunflower shoots thinking they were peashoots  or some arugula, thinking it was radish!

A couple boxes, earlier today, waiting to be delivered to Happy Tides and to the Farm Gate Store.

On the shelf at Farm Gate.

An amazingly beautiful lettuce from Deacon Vale Farm's greenhouse I saw on the shelf at Farm Gate today.  I wish I was a better photographer....it was so gorgeous in real life!

Monday, May 23, 2011

sunny days

When did this little maple tree get all it's leaves?!!  There's so much happening in the garden these days that I don't notice it all when it's happening.  A couple days ago, I walked by this spot and was struck by how lovely this potted tree looked in the dappled light against the cob wall, so I had to stop and snap a photo.  Such beautiful new red leaves....

Last week Mother Nature gave us a gift of blue skies for three sunny warm days in a row!  Spring.  I finally saw the first dragonflies of the season and butterflies too.  The latest apple trees were just opening up into blossom and they were buzzing with pollinators.  What a lovely sound at this time of year.  
This little guy is making sure we will have apples this year.  Phew!  Thank goodness!
oh. oh.  The spring sun and warmth also encourages the the tent caterpillars to appear on the apple trees.  Gotta get this one cut off soon while they're still small, especially since this is one of our favorite Spartan trees.  These apples are so crispy and delicious right off the tree in October.  Folks have been saying this is the big year for  the caterpillars here on Mayne Island (they have seven year cycles) so I better check my trees carefully.  They can strip a tree of all it's green growth in a flash.

The lilac is blooming now too.  The breezy air so full of the beautiful scent of lilac and the sound of buzzing bees is a divine in-the-moment experience.
Just like how when the forsythia blooms in the early spring, it's telling us to sow our cool season veggies and plant potatoes, when the lilac blooms now in late spring, it's a message that the climate's right to do some other things in the garden...like plant out tomatoes, warm season veggies and tender annual flowers.
The scientific word for watching for seasonal plant, insect and animal life cycle events and being aware of how we're all related and influenced by climate is "phenology".  It has become a big part of my garden work experience.  The natural world indicators are endless.  It seems that if I keep looking for them, I keep finding them.  It's a joy to live and work in a way that allows for such interconnectedness with the cycles of the natural world around me.  Poetic, mystical and practical all at the same time.
mmmmm.....wish you could smell the beautiful fragrance.....better get outside and plant my tomatoes!

I can't go without making some bouquets of lilac in the springtime.  I made a few of these aromatic little bundles for the first Saturday Farmer's Market of the season this weekend and they all walked away to bring spring fragrance to other island homes for the long weekend.  What fun!  I added a little bundle of lemon balm too...it grows like a weed here and is especially nice for flower bouquets in the springtime.
I didn't get to take photos at the market on Saturday....I was preoccupied with chatting and selling lots of plants.  This weekend was especially lively because it was our island's May Day celebration too.  If you're interested, there's a link to some beautiful and colourful photos that capture the spirit of the  day's festivities at MayneNews.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

plants for sale!!

I really have been very patient about the weather...hardly complaining at all but today I've lost my resolve to not complain about the weather anymore.  After a torrential downpour all night long, a foggy mist that looks more like end-of-October (or even January) has lasted all day long.  I don't really mind the rain right now.  It's good for us here where we get long summer droughts...what's upsetting me is the lack of sunshiny breaks and warmer temps in between the showers.  What's going on?  My plants and I are all freezing to death and we think drying off in some sunny spring time weather for at least two days in a row would be nice....

These little black tuscan kales don't mind the weather so much...cool is ok with them.  They'll be for sale at the first Mayne Island Farmer's Market of the season next weekend.  I've tried something a little different to me this year with the seedlings that I start for sale.  Little trays with 6-10 plants in them for $3. each.  They're less work for me and offer up more plants to the customer for less dollars.  They just don't look as big and beautiful as the singles I've been doing in the past...but with a little care from the gardener who takes them home they'll flourish!

This is what it looked like this morning when I looked out into the forest.  Misty with soaking rain falling....geeez!

These little trays of sensation cosmos will also be available at the Farmer's Market next weekend.  It's just warming up enough to start hardening them off for the great outdoors....

Cardoons don't mind the cool weather too much. These new little plants are looking good.

The basil is shivering.  It sure can't venture outside the greenhouse yet.  These trays are packed full of little plants.  They're $3./tray and if you take a tray home with you, you'll need to prick each plant out (chopsticks work well) and transplant it into a larger container (yogurt containers with holes in the bottom are useful) so they can grow on inside for a while.  Hopefully by June it will be warm enough to plant them outside!!

Visions of summertime pesto dance in our heads.

Purple basil is wonderful to have in the garden, not only for the colour and flavour in the kitchen but for the lovely flowers and foliage in flower bouquets too.

Tumbler tomato plants!  Still too cold to put these little guys outside.  I've been starting and offering up these plants to Mayne Islanders for about 5 years now and everyone seems to love them!  I've started just over 200 this year and am getting calls everyday from folks asking me to set some aside for them.  They really are amazing little producers.  If you want to be sure to get some this year, give me a call and get on the list or come early on market day next Saturday.
They're a bit smaller at this year's May long weekend...everything's a bit later in my garden this time and I didn't want to have to heat the greenhouse too much to get my tomatoes as big as I could....goin' with the flow and I hope folks who're used to these being big and beautiful with flowers and green fruit won't be too disappointed....they will catch up and be just as awesome as in past years when it warms up....
I posted about them last summer....for more info on Tumblers go here: Tumblers, Part 1  and here:  Tumblers, Part 2

Some nice little dills ready to go out into their garden beds....

The parsley's looking great.  It doesn't mind the cool temps.  I'll have Italian Flat Leaf and Curly Moss at the market.

This peppermint is looking beautiful.  It also appreciates the long cool drinks of rain it has been enjoying lately.  The spearmint is looking lovely too.

I'll be bringing some trays planted with 1/2 peashoots, 1/2 sunflower shoots for home harvests.  They'll be planted so they'll mature over the following week and be good for salads at dinner time...just place the tray on a countertop or table and cut the shoots with scissors and serve!  Delicious, nutritious and oh so fresh!

A little bit of colour on a very gray day.  Looks like spring really is happening here and there along the way.  An arrangement I got to make yesterday for a Mayne Islander...tulips, azalea, viburnum, hops vine, grasses...I sure do love pink and orange together.  And the viburnum smells amazing!

We're all hoping for some dry and sunshine next Saturday for a fun first Farmer's Market Day of the season and for  Mayne Island's May Day celebrations too.  Maybe I'll see you there : )

Sunday, May 1, 2011

appreciating lettuce

It's time to clean up the hoophouse beds for this summer's tomato crop and because I didn't grow any winter/early spring greens in the hoophouse this year, I ignored the beds (too busy with pea shoot and sunflower shoot greens production in the glass greenhouse).....'til now.  Sadly, the hoophouse beds have been growing weeds.  And some volunteer lettuce plants from last years sowing too!  One of the simple joys of gardening: volunteer food plants that take care of themselves completely!  So of course, before tilling, I pulled the lovely lettuce plants and took them to the kitchen.  They look beautiful stuck in a wide mouth mason and since they still have their roots, they stay very fresh there too.


After I was finally finished admiring it's beauty and appreciating the gift of no-work homegrown lettuce, we ate it all up in a big salad for dinner, mixed with pea and sun shoot greens, of course!