Saturday, March 31, 2012

thinking about cherry tomatoes

A basket full of super-sweet "Sungold" cherry tomatoes, from two summers ago.

Earlier this month, it was tomato seed starting time in the greenhouse.  All those shriveled up, almost microscopic seeds make me uneasy.  Every spring at seed starting time, moments of  anxious doubt creep into the picture as I plant those sad looking dried out things. I've been doing this long enough now to know better but still, I just can't help it...while I enjoy happy dreamy visions of piles of produce coming out of the garden in the summertime, it also seems like such an unbelievable miracle.

How is it that we plant these tiny little dots and expect bountiful crops?  But we do, every year....well I do, anyway, and I'm full of doubt too, every year, in the springtime...

 What am I thinking?....all this work, time and cash invested and no guarantee....I mean, seriously, can this really work?

oh look!!

it does!!  every year.  phew!!

With each newly germinated seed, Mother Nature has once again proved it to me that it's safe to believe.  One of the many therapeutic aspects of working in the dirt and growing things.

And the little plants just keep on getting bigger and better.  And so does my gardener's heart!  Amazing.

By the time my little seedlings are ready to plant in the hoophouse, I'm well on my way to believing that this idea just might work out after all.

Some "Tumbler" plants last spring, hardened off and ready for market.
Now that I'm growing for market,  I produce lots of tomato plants to sell to home gardeners on Mayne Island and to some in Vancouver and Victoria too.  There are so many folks who love the "Tumbler" cherry tomato plants that I offer up every year.  Some who started out buying one or two a few years ago are now buying ten at once.  I love the growing enthusiasm!

They're such a fabulous and prolific plant for patio containers and hanging baskets too since they are a "determinate" or bush (not a vining) variety.  No staking and pinching required!  The first to ripen every year.  So nice and easy for both beginner and seasoned tomato gardeners who have great tomato growing aspirations!  Around here, they do well even in our cool summers and that really builds tomato grower confidence.  It gives a sense of fulfillment too and we all  feel much better with lots of that!
This year I've started over 500 tumbler plants. Along with the other cherry varieties and the larger tomatoes I grow just for us (CJR likes to be able to use our own slicing tomatoes for the summer burgers and sandwiches he's so good at making) I've started over 750 plants this year. (nervous chuckle) That's going to be a lot of potting up for me to do in April/May (not to mention all the other seedlings) yikes.....I hope I can do it!  Anyone wanna help?

These are some "Sungold" plants last year, waiting to go to market.

I decided a couple years ago to focus on cherry tomatoes for both my tomato plant sales and my tomato fruit production for market.  So while most of the plants I grow for plant sales are the Tumblers, I've also started "Black Cherry", "Snow White", "Sun Gold", "Green Doctors" and "Isis Candy" for their fruit and I'll likely have a few of these plants for sale too.  A combo of heritage and hybrid varieties.  I'm really looking forward to enjoying all the different tomato colours in  cherry tomato salads this summer.  We simply cut them in half, add some fresh herbs, maybe some sliced onion from the garden, maybe some feta, a little olive oil....yum!...a favourite summertime staple!

Once the plants I grow for fruit get in the ground, they grow fast!

If I were growing larger tomatoes, I'd probably tie the hoophose vines up with string but since I grow cherries, these remesh cages are the best!
While the larger tomato production benefits from removing the side shoots, I've found that all those side shoots on the cherry plants produce lots of fruit that actually have a chance of ripening before winter.   And since I grow them in the sheltered hoophouse, I only begin removing branches of green fruit in September and by that time, there are just too many side branches to keep tame by tying so these tall home-made cages really do the trick.

Every busy springtime, I find it helpful to look at photos of past years to get a good look at what I'm working towards.  Very helpful!

The Sungolds look like sparkly little ornaments decorating the hoophouse vines.  I use these babies in my floral arrangements too because they just look so darned happy and good tucked in there with the sunflowers, nasturtium and amaranth!  Sometimes you can have your floral arrangement and eat it too.

Time to get picking!

Beautiful red Tumbler jewels.

Hope springs eternal! ~Alexander Pope

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy Spring!!

The red flowering currant is starting to bloom at the edge of the forest near the garden and you know what that means:  Mr and Ms Rufous are back!  
They love this flower and every year around this time, its bloom signals the return of the  rufous hummingbird.  
No wearing my red jacket in the garden anymore.  They're attracted to red.  The sudden buzz of these little winged creatures approaching from all sides is so startling!  Wearing red is good for getting a closeup look of the feisty little darlings in action tho'!  You might want to try it sometime  : )

Thursday, March 22, 2012

a new garden gate

Work on the new garden gate was completed this week and I love it!

My island neighbour, Mike Nadeau did a beautiful job, don't you think?   It's such a joy to arrive at the garden every day for work and get to look at this first thing..I don't think I'll ever get tired of it!  

On a blustery day, Mike headed on down to Bennett Bay hoping to find a nice cedar log and he did!  He had to wade into the cold water to pull it out so he could finally get it into his trailer and get it back to his place where he began splitting it into lovely pieces that he could use for the gate.

I sure do like how the hand split pieces are all wavy and knotted as they follow along the grain of the wood.  No working against the grain here!  Beautiful cedar.

Mike uses this tool to hand split the logs he gathers at the beach.  It's called a froe and is quite an old-fashioned tool.  He uses it with yew wood mallets (that he makes every couple years as they wear out from use) to split these lovely logs into stakes, shakes, planks and wavy bits that he uses to make lovely things.  A froe sure is an important tool to help take advantage of some of this wood's awesome creative potential.  A saw just would not do!

Isn't this wood gorgeous?  It looks so buttery soft.  There's so much to learn about wood.

above photos from Mike Nadeau
These are the pieces for the gate frames.  Mike has drawn a knife along all the edges to soften them up and make them look even  more beautiful.  Look at all those shavings!

After all that work was done, he delivered the pieces to the garden and got down to work again.

Starting to put it all together.

The big curvy pieces used to make the arch are from  a cedar tree found in the forest.  Our west coast forest seems to produce so many of these.  They sure are nice for creative building projects!  The tree was cut in half to create the symmetrical arch.  As well as being an important visual element of the overall design, it acts as a strong brace to keep the gate frame together and make sure it doesn't shift and sag.  Great design by Mike.  He's sanding the round side here.

Adding the rising and setting sun.  I've decided that in the morning, it's rising and in the evening it's setting and during the day, it just is.'s really starting to take shape!  

Those beautiful wavy knotted pieces sure do make some perfect sun rays!

Time to stand back and take a look.  Now where does the next piece need to go so we're sure to keep those hungry deer outta' there?'s really looking like the design drawing now!!

The one in pencil is the one we chose.

Beautifully done rustic details.

I love this latch.  An ideal combo of elements: simple and straight forward design, easy to use, strong and pleasing to the eye.   

Isn't it remarkable how some of the most beautiful things can be made entirely of found pieces?  So it is with this gate. (except for the metal hinges and bolts) ....altho' sometimes, even the hardware can be reclaimed and used.....

These big honkin' staples were taken from a driftwood log (and they're very strong!) and the rebar was found at the recycling depot.  This handmade cane bolt for the back gate made of reused pieces is just perfect for someone like me. (I love rusty metal!)

A store bought version.

This is the gate that was there before...done as a temporary gate a couple years ago when we expanded the fence line.  Expanding the fence line around the deer-proof protected garden area meant we needed to include a drive-thru area with a gate in the front and one in the back so a big truck or an excavator could get through if it needed to, and that meant we needed 2 big wide gates.

We used the old gate frame from the front and moved it to the back through-way near the pond.  Mike improved upon it by taking out the remesh panels and replacing them with some of those beautiful split cedar pieces. (now I can use the old remesh panels as a cucumber trellis) This gate isn't seen or used much, so we kept it really simple and I love how it blends in with the forest scenery back there.

A happy artisan and his dog.  A beautiful creation and a job successfully done!  
This photo reminds me again of how the process is as important as the finished product and perhaps even determines how successful the finished product is.  At least that's how it is in my little world.
If you live on Mayne Island and are thinking you'd like a new gate, large or small or another decorative and practical element in your yard and garden, like maybe a trellis?...a decorative fence area?....a chicken coop? awesome doghouse?....the ideas are endless.....and if you like this gate,  I think you need to know about Mike!  
He loves doing this kind of work, he's really earnest about doing a good job and I think he'd probably be happy to consider helping you with your project.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

a week ago

We drove down the road to Portland last week and while we were there a big ol' windstorm hit our neck of the woods.  We came home to a few trees like this one down in our little corner of the forest.  Our long driveway was completely green in some places, covered with fallen branches and the power was out.  Once again, I feel very lucky that nothing damaged the buildings.

Portland people love to garden!  Daffodils and new spring artichoke leaves are a beautiful spring-time combo.  I have to remember this!  These were planted along a sidewalk.  They'd look great together in a vase too...I wonder if the sap of the daff would bother the arti leaves like it does tulips and other flowers....

A lot of folks in Portland also like building with cob so there's lots of cob in Portland and I love cob, oH YES, I do!!  So I was really happy to see some. 

A beautiful cob sculpture/wall and seating area at The Rebuilding Center on Mississippi Avenue.  It really successfully evokes a forest scene in a town setting, don't you think?....with the tall straight fir tree trunks and the benches looking like the earth and roots.

Look up and the tree tops are branches of cob with fabricated metal leaves and flowers in different colours....beautiful.

A dramatic entrance from the street....and I could spend hours in there looking through all the  great stuff...endless reclaimed windows and doors and I saw an old sink in excellent condition that I just can't get off my mind....C and I might have to take a big van down there one day when we're building our house.

I missed the Farmer's Markets.  Portland has many good ones but it's not quite the season yet.   There are a couple winter markets but our days there didn't coincide with market days : (   too bad....because I do love browsing a good farmer's market.
I did get to see these in the produce cooler at Alberta Co-op Grocery, tho'.  Beautiful.  Pea Shoots, Broccoli microgreens, Sunflower Shoots,   China Rose Radish microgreens and Wheatgrass.  I grow all of these.
I'd love to sell what I grow like this.  I have little rectangle containers, just like these and I tried it last summer at the Farmer's Market on Mayne didn't really take off (people liked the cut and bagged better)....I was going to let go of that idea, but now after seeing this in a few stores, I can't give up on it yet. Guess I'll give it a try again this summer.

Nice little laminated info card displayed with the shoots and microgreens...really good idea that I've been meaning to do for a while.  Better get on it!

Some lovely cob at People's Food Co-op.  And check out those nettles in the front garden!

Here's a closer look.  I love the idea of growing nettles as a kind of spring green mulch in a city garden around a rose and fruit tree, like this....stinging nettles are at their best at my place right now too and I just picked some....a simple nettle soup is a must-have every year at this time and I'll soon make some nettle frittatas too, yum yum!

A little ornamental winter food garden street-side at People's.  With fescues and sedums and brassicas and hardy salad greens...beautiful and practical too!!  
Portland is well-known for it's food trucks like this one at the People's entrance...I sure would love it if someone on Mayne Island would do this for the summer time. I think we need one!!

A close-up of the winter veggies growing.  I hope a doggie doesn't come along and peeeee on the purple sprouting broccoleeee.

I really enjoyed browsing the lovely and inspiring Pistil's Nursery.     We bought 2 good books.         
photo from  Country Living Magazine
View from the backyard where the chickens are.

Sweet little urban chicken coop, eh?!  When I finally get my chickens I'm going to take some ideas from this lovely and practical design.  Love the living roof too!  Mine will have moss and ferns growing on it.

The decorative wire mesh is a nice idea...there's a bit of an urban chicken keeping revolution going on in Portland these days so there are lots of creative coop ideas and an unbelievable number of books on the subject in all the garden shops and bookstores too....aren't those some lovely looking city chicks.

Every store and restaurant had beautiful flower arrangements.  This simply dramatic bundle of flowering magnolia and cherry branches at The Woodsman Tavern was stunning.  They were done by  Fieldwork Floral who also care for the fab little flower cart at the lovely little market next to the tavern.

Amazing salts at The Meadow on Mississippi  Ave.
Salt. Chocolate. Wine.  Flowers.  What an interesting combination around which to create a shop!  Four of my favourite things : )  Really love it!  Unique and inspiring products too.

A table packed with flowers and a wall full of many types of chocolates I have never seen before.

As well as wine, The Meadow stocks an interesting selection of bitters and syrups too.  I love how they're displayed on big blocks of pink himalayan salt.

Spring has sprung in Portland!