Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Wow, it's the first day of fall.  
Apple abundance is always a part of this transition time of year in the garden.
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards hangs out around here,  I'm sure I feel her presence.  I read somewhere that the pruning knife was her sacred tool!

This year the apples are flourishing again, ready for harvesting and we've been eating lots.

These are one of my favourites, Spartans. They're just now ready to harvest and eat and store.

This is a Gravenstein and we've been munching on them since the end of August.  We like them sun-kissed, right off the tree.  Such a treat, so crisp and sweet.  Gravensteins and Spartans are a nice combo to have growing in a garden because of their different ripening times, flavours and characteristics.

oh.oh.  Looks like  I'll work on finding my inner Pomona today.  This is what happens when an apple tree gets overly ambitious and produces too much fruit for it's own good.  We had some lovely sunny warm days when this tree was flowering so the bees were able to do a very good pollination job and the tree is heavy with apples.  I need to remember to be more careful about thinning and helping the fruit trees, just like Pomona would do....

Autumn in the garden, a time for me to appreciate the abundant harvests, a time to take stock of what was and contemplate what will be.  A time to regroup and organize, to reclaim some balance in life after the busy spring and summer.  A time to weed, clean and tidy up and prepare the beds for fall plantings (garlic!) and next spring's plantings too. 
Taking a deep breath.  Happy fall equinox!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

tropeana lunga onions

Last winter, I ordered some Tropeana Lunga onion seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

So I planted them in starter cells and little black pots in the greenhouse and watched them grow.

Onion seed needs to be planted in winter to get a good start (I plant mine in late January/early February).   But  I  could probably plant them even earlier.  It can be a bit finicky and labour intensive which is why a lot of people prefer to buy sets to plant out. I'm interested in less common types of onions though, so seeds are the only way to get many of them.

In past years, I've had such a tough time getting the little onion plants that are growing in the greenhouse planted out into the garden beds in good time (for me, by late March) because it's just when everything starts getting really busy.  I get overwhelmed with too  many things to do and some things, (like planting the onions) just don't get done.  eeek! what a waste.

But this year, I had wwoofers helping so they did the job and even tho' the transplants were planted out really late (in May), I'm now getting some nice red long of tropeas!  (maybe because they're not a long-day type?...they are an intermediate day length type.....hmmm, I wonder if I should try overwintering these one year?) Seems like I need some more experience before I really know my onions.
I forgot to show my helpers how deeply to plant the wispy little plants so they weren't planted deeply enough, but they still grew.  Transplanted onions have a tendency to push up and bulb up on top of the soil's amazing how I don't think of all the little things to tell folks when I'm asking them to do something!...a whole new set of skills for me to learn.


I had some wwoof help keeping the bed weeded too.  
Here Pascale has moved on to the bed beside the onions.  Onions don't do so well with competition from weeds (just like garlic) but by the end of August, as they were getting bigger, there were lots of weeds again.  The weedy competition can keep the onions from getting as large as they would otherwise.

Just pulled out of the ground.

Tidied up a bit and bunched for the store shelf.
These aren't so great for storing...they'll keep a couple months, but I like them best freshly pulled and sliced into a salad with other just picked summer veggies.   Greek salad, potato salad, cucumber salad, yum yum yum. A fresh summertime eating onion.  It is so nice to have these ready for picking at suppertime!  They go with everything.

I saw these at a farmer's market a couple of years ago...I wondered about them being labelled shallots....maybe there are shallots with that name too?  They sure look similar.

I get inspired to grow things after I see them displayed at farmer's markets and specialty stores....I saw these at Union Square Greenmarket  which turned out to be a hotbed of inspiration for me.  If you're interested, the market has a great facebook page filled with fabulous photos and links.....makes me want to live in nyc!
.....and I have seeds for those lovely cipollinis and will be growing them next year....can't wait!

I got some of these Red of Florence seeds from the Baker Creek folks too.  They seem similar to tropeana lunga and I'll try them out next year.  In case you're interested, Baker Creek has an interesting onion seed selection to browse.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

bush beans and runner beans

I was thinking about these folks and their headline making front yard garden today.
And how a bean patch with a runner bean tepee or any trellis creation in the center (the possibilities are endless!) is such a beautiful thing for a front yard garden. 

 But not only is it beautiful, it's a fabulous way for grow-your-owners to actually get a huge harvest from a relatively small area.....there could even be enough to freeze for winter!!

If you're just starting out with the idea of producing your own food, it's good to start with easy projects.  Bush and runner beans are fun and easy, very productive and a great way to start!  They're very nice for seasoned gardeners too for all those same reasons.  If you don't have a patch of tillable land, check out this great idea!

I often plant beans in a circle.  This spring we planted purple bush beans around the edge of this circle and runner beans in the center, around the rebar and grapevine teepee.

This year, I asked my wwoofers to plant the beans.  I soaked the seeds first because it helps them germinate faster which seems to help get them big enough before the forest varmints find them and dig them up and eat them.  But if you don't live with a forest surrounding you, this might not matter.

Unlike the green and yellow beans I've grown that have white and yellow flowers, these purple beans have purple flowers.  They're so pretty, I use them in flower arrangements....the little maturing beans are nice in bouquets too.  They're also lovely edible flowers in salads.   And check it out!  Before they open up and bloom the flower buds look like bean seeds.

Teeny tiny beans forming on the won't be long 'til they grow bigger and turn purple.

Look at them beans!!
The climbing beans are green with a kind of purple marbling.  They're producing piles and it never seems to stop.  Like the purple beans and purple flowers, they're interesting and nice to look at in the garden, and also just like the purple beans, they turn green when you cook them.  Their colour on the plant makes them easy to spot when picking which is very helpful....altho' I love eating beans, I really do hate picking them.  One of my least favourite harvesting jobs ever because as soon as you try to use one hand while the other is holding something else, you're ripping off entire vines....grrrrr...they insist on your engagement and care when distractions!....not only that, all the bending over when picking from the bushes can get back-breaking.  Bean-picking time is always a time for me to remember those yoga poses while I accomplish my task.  Sometimes I create new ones.  It actually can turn it into some kind of fun.   I especially like my Wide Leg Forward Bend when picking beans : )

These climbers are called "Selma Zebra' and they are so sweet, even when they get a little over mature...very delicious!  An impulse buy when I was at Buckerfields in Victoria last spring (probably because of the pretty image on the packaging)....was totally worth it...there are so many different types of beans to try!

These are really a fast food in the summertime. (well, ok, I mean after you do all the work to grow them and pick them, of course!) Anyway, so easy to snip into pieces, so fast to steam and so delicious (very colourful and beautiful too) when mixed with quickly chopped tomatoes of different colors, peppers of different colours too and just pulled onions with some chopped up homegrown garlic, thrown all together, it needs nothing else, (hmmmm....maybe some butter) the flavours are so darned fresh and amazing...perfect for an al fresco supper.  Maybe if more people knew how much better this good fresh grub tasted, more people would grow it?  Makes me think of that front yard garden again.  Three tepees or trellis circles in a front yard (or anywhere!) with climbing and bush beans would provide a huge bounty, maybe some for the neighbours and some for the freezer for holiday dinners in the wintertime too!

Some yellow beans from Christina's Garden, all packaged up for display at the Farmer's Market last summer.

Bean Patch Kid.  Getting to know some yellow beans in last year's late summer garden.  We're never too young to enjoy a nice bean patch!