Garden—2012—a sad tale

28 October, 2012

Potatoes are in
    The apples collected
Pear tree was great
    But—the veggies defected!

Well, we're still trying to laugh about it but…

This was the Spring that didn't come—and the Summer that wouldn't start—until the beginning of July—and the garden that wasn't. The earth wouldn't warm up, staying in the 40s Fº for so long that we planted anyway. The seeds sprouted, languished and disappeared, presumably because of the cold. The peas and potatoes remained. It was not until the beginning of July that the earth and weather warmed up. We planted again, but it was much too late. We had cucumber plants, about three inches tall, which flowered and gave up. So we had to settle for a few peas—eaten with salads, no lettuce, swiss chard or beets. The potatoes are ready to be dug—very small from the sample we tried—and small carrots. The green beans, which have always given us a good crop, didn't . We got enough for a couple of meals. Kidney beans gave us enough to put in one soup. Same for the runners.

In the fruit department we were a little more fortunate, although the plum tree bloomed early and didn't get pollinated. Somehow the pear trees managed to flower during a warm week, a few bees arrived and all was well at last, we thought, until it got cold again. The bees disappeared. The Bartlett pear had quite a bit of fruit compared to what we've been getting from previous years, which was nil because of the pear tree blister mite. It took time to recover. We seem to have staved off the mites, at least for this year. The Bosc and Conference gave us two apiece, the C blooming before and the B after the Bartlett. Once gain we blamed the weather. The apples bloomed late but we do have some—very few bees were around and the apples are very small. Our wild Himalayan blackberry plants bloomed very late but gave us a huge crop. Seems Mother Nature can cope, and thankfully, September was kind and warm until its finish.

There was a terrible infestation of tent caterpillars here on the island come spring. They were all over everything. Many orchardists lost their crop—hopefully not their trees—which were stripped bald in spite of their efforts to clear the vandals off. There were just too many. They were everywhere in huge webs, swallowing willow, alder and fruit tree leaves, and anything else which took their fancy, leaving the trees and bushes bare and looking dead.

From this in 2008...


... a great crop on the way...

... to this in 2012


Let's travel—we've eaten everything here we like.”   (Our community mail box.)

We were lucky. We caught a few webs of them before they got going on the fruit trees, and we pruned those off. The trees are small and able to be reached. Our garden is surrounded by firs, which the caterpillars don't attack, so there were only a few egg clusters on our trees which the fall spraying of kitchen chemistry didn't get.

We've seen the garden decline from year to year, in spite of our efforts. We even put manure on last fall, something I wouldn't do before—but it came from some pampered horses, and we also applied the usual lime. This has been a very strange year. Grey, rainy, cold days from the beginning. Very little sun, cold temperatures. None of our arbutus trees bloomed this year, and then began shedding leaves like crazy because of the hot weather which came immediately after the cold.

The swallows, which have always had their house under the eaves, didn't nest here this year. They came late and began, but a Cooper's hawk arrived, harassed them and scared them off. They left. So did all the other small birds. The robins, who had already built their nest, snuck in and out of the garden low down among the greenery, and managed to get their kids going.

We're concerned for the birds for, as well as no bees for crops, there were few insects at all this summer. It will be slim pickings for insect egg hunters later on into winter. No bloom on the arbutus trees in the spring meant no berries for the fall migrators who came through on their traditional route south. We hope the arbutus did better for them in other areas of their coastal migration path.

Looks like weird weather is here to stay. No more happily relying on our usual seasonal patterns. Over the last four years here the weather has simply deteriorated, turning our efforts from burgeoning green into this non-harvest. We'll have to reconsider how we garden. Quite a challenge. People are beginning to consider putting up plastic greenhouses. Hope your gardens were a lot better than ours was.

Cheers, until next time!

November and Rain

1 December, 2011

Mushrooms and mosses, maple leaves turning colours and misty mornings. We’re well into autumn here and the garden is practically cranked down for this year. We still have to prune and spray the trees, but they’re still hanging on to their leaves. Fall always causes difficulty because the seasonal rain sets in and then it can’t be done until two days of dry weather turn up. Last year the rain turned to snow and it got too cold. We’re hoping for better luck this time around.


This was a poor crop year, with everything going in late because of the weather and then not enough sun and warm weather all summer. Everybody we heard from or spoke to said the same thing. We had no cucumbers, squash, dill seed, poor, only small crops of beets and swiss chard. The only thing that did well was the green bean planting which went in with warm weather—scarlet runners didn’t ripen—hardly enough for planting next year. Ouch!

We were a bit shocked to see some BC MacIntosh apples, very small and still partially green, being offered for sale at our local ‘supermarket’, buy one five pound plastic bagful and—get one free! This must be a big loss for the orchardists. We can complain about our poor crop, but when it’s a matter of a year’s income it’s something else again. The Macs are usually so nice and big, ripe red and yellow.

Our own apple trees gave us a reasonable crop, not big but satisfying enough. The Red Jonathans did best, the Kings, not bad but the Wolf Creek dropped most of its crop while it was still green. We’re still scratching our heads over that. No pears or plums this year again--bloomed in cool weather and after that a scarcity of bees once more. Even the blackberries showed the lack of busy visitors, with only half of the berries having been pollinated properly.

We’re happy to say that our serrated ‘tin can’ prevention method seemed to work well (see previous posting). The slugs did not get our cabbages this year—but they might as well have, because they haven’t headed up. Lots of leaves but only one or two solids. The red cabbage did best and that’s not saying much—very small. We had row cover on them and maybe it was on too long, but it did keep the cabbage butterflies off. Of course it’s easier to blame the weather   :-(

We dug the potatoes. Not a great crop—small potatoes and not too many, but they’ll make good eating. Not much will be left for seed though. Guess we’ll have to buy that.

The arbutus trees were late in blooming and, although there was a good crop of berries, they were not ripe for the migratory birds coming in. The Robins usually rely on them and come through in large flocks, along with groups of Varied Thrushes, and smaller gatherings of other travellers who eat the fruit of the trees along their way. We always looked forward to the excitement when they came, as they shouted and talked to each other, busy with instructions for the migration route. This year there were few birds, as well as only green berries for them. They moved on quickly.

Sounds like a tale of woe instead of the babble of a happy gardener. Makes a person wonder what’s happening with the weather. It’s very discouraging. We even muttered about not putting a garden in next year if it’s like this again because it’s hardly worth it—but—we’ll probably be at it once more come spring. Many people are putting up plastic greenhouse tunnels. It seems to be the coming trend if we want veggies. We’ll think about it. There’s always next year?! Keep planting :-)

We never give up…

31 July, 2011

Looking back at the produce from our garden of '08, even though it went in rather late then, we did get a good harvest. For the three years since, it's been cold, wet and relatively unproductive, with short summers and disappointing garden returns. This year the planting went in piecemeal—potatoes first, then peas, which this year we grew in paper pots made from folded squares of newsprint. After two years of no peas we decided to try a different method than direct sowing. It worked, the peas sprouted nicely, went into the garden as healthy little plants and are doing well now, with thin little pea pods beginning to show.

Next, lettuce, then carrots, beets, swiss chard, parsley and dill. Beans waited for the earth to warm up—climbers, green-bush and kidneys—and latest of all, cucumbers. We had our doubts, but just about everything is up and growing except for the beets which are making a poor showing for some unknown reason. We reseeded in some places.

Another year of not much in the fruit department. No pears, no plums—too cold and no bees again. The apple trees are making a better effort because the weather turned warm enough for a couple of days so that the few bees around came out at blossom time. Still, not the crop we used to get, but we'll be thankful for whatever. Our little gooseberry plant has come up with a nice crop considering it's only three years old, and the dreaded currant worms didn't show up as they did two years ago and totally denuded and killed a bigger bush.

Strawberries are disappointing, but at least the blackberries look promising. Yup. Mother Nature is having a hard time. If the clouds keep coming and the sun won't shine through the overcast there's not much she can do about it, nor can we.

We've had two harvests of radishes, the first ones rather hot as it took them so long to get going, almost three weeks. The second lot are much better.
We still have our doubts about other results, because the weather has been very overcast, not much sun and, of course, rain showers any old time. Also the temperature hasn't moved much above the fifties at night and only hit seventy twice thus far in the daytime. It's mostly in the sixties and it's getting a bit late in the growing season. We have hopes that August will bring everything along and maybe even September will be kind enough not to get too cold too soon.

In the pest resisting quest, we've tried something new with the cabbages. We collected small cans over the winter, took out bottom and top, clipped around the tops at an angle, bent the sharp pointed result over, pushed the cans into the ground, about two inches or more, and planted a seed in the middle of each one. This, we hope, will prevent cut worms from below and slugs from above. We also put floating row cover over them on hoops again to fend off the cabbage butterflies. It will be interesting to see if we get the results we hope for—cabbages to eat.

The squash started late and probably won't come to anything. We gave them the same experimental protection as the cabbages.

A new threat has arrived. Cute little wild bunnies! We've never had this problem before, but we feel we might be proof against them, as the fence has wire of small diameter, and wild canary grass is allowed to grow around its perimeter outside. It has tough roots, and it's already about six feet high. It also likes the idea of trying to horn in on the good earth inside. Got to keep repelling it's invasions. Maybe the bunnies won't see our growing greens, so won't try digging in. Our neighbour has already lost his beans and lettuce to the little darlings.

Oh the joys of growing one's own delicious organic goodies! At least lots of the wild folk
appreciate it. We get what's left. Have a great growing year—we'll take what we get...   :-D


Hopes for an early spring…

21 January, 2011

Rain again. We've had lots of it since October which, along with some freezing weather, has kept us from pruning and spraying the fruit trees. They were still standing with green leaves when the bad weather hit. We're hoping that February will give us that week of warm weather it always teases us with so that we can get the job done. Seed catalogues surprised us by arriving in December so we've ordered already and we'll just have to wait and hope for good weather this year, like everybody else is doing.

Looking back at the harvest, in spite of all our work in the garden, weather and insect visitors got the better of us. Harvest was poor but we did get some kidney beans we tried for the first time. We put in a small amount just to see how they might do, and they surprised us by growing faster than our other beans and ripening sooner than the climbers.

Because the weather was too poor to leave them in the garden, beans were pulled and hung up inside to finish drying (bush beans to the left and kidney beans to the right in the photo).

It was interesting to see the little round nodes of nitrogen on the roots. It's a pretty visible reason for why people plant beans to help their garden along. We put the leftovers from the plants into the compost. Also interesting that this year, out of the three seed catalogues I received, none of them had kidney beans offered this season. Good thing I kept mine for seed.

We covered the cabbages with floating row cover (Reemay) for cabbage butterfly. This works well if it's put on before the butterflies arrive, but we were a bit late in our timing last year and consequently had to remove a few live ones and some egg clusters. After that there was peace in the cabbage patch for awhile. However, our efforts to defeat the slugs came to zilch. They got in and had a feast. Diatomaceous earth didn't work—got rained out and lost its effectiveness. 

This time we'll try different barriers. Per plans to put a wooden edge all around the patch and—if we can find some—cut up metal screening in strips and attach it with the sharp points facing out so that the slugs will be faced with something like miniature barbed wire. Sounds pretty mean, but they're smart and will stick out their antennae and, we hope, back off—probably hit the lettuce instead  :-(

Also, a friend told us how she frustrates cutworms. She saves small food cans, opens both ends, and pushes them down about two to three inches into the earth. Mature cutworms inhabit the top two or three inches of soil where they feast on plants at ground level and—cut them off. She plants her seedling, or in our case it will be seed, inside the can and all seems to go well. This combination, along with row cover for cabbage butterfly must surely give us some cabbages. We shall see if all that defence will work.

Here's to your garden doing well this year too!

At least we try!

23 August, 2010

August—ah yes, the garden. Ummm—Well, as they used to say back when—'It ain't much to write home about’.

Winter, an odd one. Part of it had warm days, up to 50F, and freezing nights to go along with it, which got our apple trees in the lower garden happily excited. They upped the sap. It froze and split the bark. The apple trees are scarred, down to bare wood in places. They'll survive, but we'll probably have some pruning to do, and maybe start encouraging new branches to take over bald spaces.



Then there was Spring. It began by getting warm in February. The Broadleaf Maple tree buds appeared.

By March it had everyone thinking, 'Ah, back to what we expect!'. This started a spate of digging and planting among ourselves and friends—peas and lettuce and potaotes. Then it got cold, unexpectedly cold, down in the forties, and stayed mostly that way until the middle of June.Trees bloomed but weather did not. Consequently—no apples—maybe about six or eight if they should hang in there.Too cold too long and worst of all, no bees. A few pears, a few plums, and no grapes, although this last are self pollinating. No lettuce, no peas. The potatoes, though, obliged, but they usually do in spite of the weather. Never did get any peas. June 6th was when we actually seeded our garden plot.

Next, sudden warm weather. Great, and warmer, and then hot—no rain. The complaints were not ours alone. Everybody watered. Most of our friends were as late as we were getting things in. They got no fruit either. Seems it was too cold for pollination and the bees weren't out. We heard from the owners of a farm on Vancouver Island who keep bees for their blueberry crop, and from whom we buy honey, that there were practically no bees from Nanaimo on down to the tip of the isle. The bees had disappeared and the hives were ninety per cent empty, just like the happenings elsewhere in the world. They had to pay four thousand bucks to get new bees imported from New Zealand.

Mother Nature seems to be angry.

However, the garden—what there is of it—is progressing. Green and runner beans are on the way, potatoes are flowering, cabbages have been covered with reemay to fend off the pretty little cabbage butterflies—well almost. We were a little late, it seems. Somebody snuck in and laid some eggs before we got the cover on, after which we 'deported' a few greenies. Swiss chard and beets were spotty and we reseeded the empty spaces. Lettuce got seeded twice. Peas three times but no results there—none. As for squash , cucumber and pumpkin, I think we can forget that. They are just now flowering. Herbs though are really giving us good crops. Origanum, wild mint, nettles and comfrey are already in, chives are producing and parsley is going to be good. The flowers seem to be happy, especially the pots of geranium (more accurately, pelargonium). They're big!

We gave up on the celeriac attempts. They produced lovely green tops but the roots were disappointingly small, so we decided to use the space for something else—we're trying kidney beans.

So—it looks like we'll be visiting local farms and weekly garden markets a lot more this year. It's great to tell people to grow their own but, when you come to rely on results, it's a bit disconcerting when weather won't cooperate and nothing arrives to fulfill expectations. Better luck next year? We jolly well hope so! Here's also hoping that your gardening efforts were better rewarded.

Cheers! :-)

This winter is being kind so far...

18 January, 2010

... and, we feel, so much more so, considering what the rest of the country is getting. We’re appreciating the sound of rain, even if it is day after day. We’d rather have that than snow. There is the occasional cessation, with grey skies and even a bit of sun, which allows us to get out and do a bit in the garden. A couple of days ago I managed to get the oil spraying done on the pear trees by the house. The dry break was almost the forty-eight hours needed between rains for the oil to be effective, so I hope the treatment stayed put. I also got the grapes pruned, so yes, this January we consider to be not so bad.

Forgot to mention, in my last posting, something I found this autumn when tidying up some of the garden—an invader on our wild rose bush. Our wildling bush had developed a collection of galls while I wasn’t looking. It’s not technically a native wild flower, but is rosa canina, the dog rose, brought from Europe early on with the human invasion of this continent. Much like the ‘wild’ and prolific Himalayan blackberries, the caninae liked it here so much that they’ve stayed, declared themselves to be native born, and are appearing in all sorts of locations around the country, beautifying our roadsides and abandoned places along with the true originals. The Coastal Peoples of BC are usually cited as having collected the genuine wild rosa nutkana or Nootka Rose hips for food, but perhaps they enjoyed other hips too.

These freeloaders are as pretty in their own right as the rose blossoms themselves, and they last longer, although they have no perfume, nor do they give me any rose hips as they tend to choke off new branchings. I pruned them all off and hope I won’t get any more next year (live in hopes and get carried off in despair, as they say.) Diplolepsis rosae gall wasp is specific to roses and while I know wasps are said to be garden helpers by targetting other ill-mannered insects, when it goes after my garden greens I’d rather do without it’s assistance.

We thought we’d get a little jump on Spring by bringing in a branch pruned from the cherry tree and getting it to bloom inside.

The seed catalogue arrived, we’ve ordered, and are hoping Spring will be a little earlier than it was last year.

Cheers, from the West Coast!

Summer packed up and left for Australia…

26 November, 2009

... at the end of September, leaving us with grey overcast days and rain. That meant we'd better start securing the garden and ole homestead for the coming winter. Apples started coming in at the beginning of October, Wolf Creek first (middle)—they're for apple sauce—then the big Kings (left), not too many but nice and sweet eaters, and at the end of October, the Red Jonathan, giving us a great crop of small but beautiful, sweet, slightly tart, deep red apples—winter keepers.

The vegetables were—some good, some not so good and some surprising. We had come to rely on our organic seed supplier for years, but since the place got sold a couple of years ago we've been disappointed with the quality control. Curly leaf parsley grew up as the broad flat leaved type. Sieglinde (aka German Butterball) potatoes came on as something like pale Yukon gold, and the cucumbers we ordered as Sweet Slice gave us such a variety of shapes and sizes they were a source of constant amazement, more like a crop of green gourds than cucumbers. Although the green beans grew true, some of the seed was so small we didn't plant it—same with the cucumbers—which was just as well considering the results of the ones we did. The company also dropped some of our favourites from their catalogue, giving us a smaller choice for planting. We're thinking of finding another supplier.

The beets we've been growing for the past couple of years are Rodina, a cylindrical type which are great for cooking and pickling. Easy to clean, the skins just slip off after cooking, and they slice up into neat rounds for pickles or freezing for a dinner vegie or borscht or salad or... just use imagination. They do have a bit of a problem in that they grow upward out of the ground and need to be earthed up every so often, but to us it's worth it for the convenience, and they're never tough or woody. Maybe next year we'll plant them in a bit of a trough which might make them easier to keep covered.

Our celeriac got going a bit late like everything else and so are quite small, in spite of having grown tremendous tops of healthy dark green leaves which no bugs wanted to tackle, probably because of the distinctive celery aroma they have, which lingers on hands after preparation. We understand that some people eat the stalks like celery, but since we don't like green celery we pass on that. We're leaving most of them in the ground, earthed up to their ears with some top showing. It will be interesting to see if they’ll keep growing on into the next season.

We also got a rather nice crop of grapes this year. Nothing to brag about, too sour, but we cooked them up into a pleasing dessert dish. Sure would be nice to have grapes for wine making, but four little vines and not enough sun preclude that.

Slugs got into the cabbage patch, aphids had a go at the broccoli, which was a bust anyway, the squash produced some small but nice edibles, which for awhile we were afraid weren’t going to make it, along with our little Teddy pumpkins, the dill didn’t make seed, and everybody around us kept telling us what great crops of tomatoes they were getting, while ours—agh!—I don’t want to talk about it. Ah yes. We win some, we lose some. Gardening is gambling—is that legal?

The ponds, which dried up alarmingly early, around the middle of August, are now getting ready to overflow due to the generous amount of rain we’ve ben having since the middle of October, and this last couple of weeks we’ve been deluged. Since we’re up on a slope we don’t have the worry of flooding, but when we dug the potatoes a couple of days ago during a short middle of the day break in the rain, we noticed that the earth was getting close to being gumbo. Hope this doesn’t pose a problem for spring planting.

Rain has also kept us from pruning and spraying the fruit trees, as it started before the leaves had fallen and hasn’t quit much since, leaving everything too wet. We need at least forty-eight hours of dry for the oil spraying, and I don’t regard pruning in a downpour as much fun, apart from asking for fungus problems in the cuts, as the rain would wash off my home made spray mix of green soap, soda and hydrogen peroxide which I use to discourage fungus and other insects than pear tree mites, which I get with the oil spray.

Anyone got any pull with Mother Nature? If so, could you ask her to please lay off the west coast rain for just a bit as, although I have a great moss garden growing on the rocks which mostly constitute our pathways, I’d really like to get the spraying done.

Hope you all had great gardens—including whopping great crops of tomatoes. Arrrghh!

Our July garden

7 July, 2009

Right now we’re enjoying a two or three day spell of showery weather. Yes! BCers, jumping up and down and clapping their hands because it's raining. Haven’t had a decent rain here on the island since the middle of April. Just the occasional day of showers in between none. This isn’t a real soaking rain, but showers are better than nothing.

Here it is, the first week in July, and the garden is nowhere near what it was at this time last year. Although everything is up, it’s very slow. Two early plantings of peas in April served up zilch. Too cold and wet. Then the weather turned from cold to hot—immediately. Third planting of peas is very unhappy with the heat. Except for the potatoes which we put in on the twentieth of April, afraid to wait any longer for the weather to improve, our garden looks somewhat reluctant. Maybe we'll try some compost tea to see if we can give it a boost. Does everybody else use animal manure for their gardens? We're reluctant to do so.

Good potatoes

Slow motion

Nice apple crop coming along

Just as I suspected, there was no Spring. The weather was abominably cold right up to the beginning of June, scarcely ever getting out of the forties, with most often thirties at night. Over the winter our climbing rose bush froze to the ground after two solid weeks of freezing temperatures in January. We don’t expect this deep freeze. The plum tree had a spectacular bloom, but we’ll have no plums as it was too cold at that time, no bees, and even if there had been, the temperature was too low for pollination to take place. I tried the artist’s paintbrush but without results. A friend of ours had his six year old tree die, and the only reason we can figure out was that the ground was too wet, and the roots froze. His wasn’t the only one. Global warming? We’re having a mini ice age.

Down to earth

The problem of the pear tree mites which infested our little Bartlett pear, was treated in the fall with a dousing of just grape seed oil and water, five tablespoons to a litre, and it was about eighty percent clear of the problem come spring. I removed any ‘pink’ leaves which appeared, and it is now a nice healthy green tree. No pears though. It was so put upon last year that it needed time to recover. Maybe next year, after it gets another oil treatment, which we hope will permanently cure the ailment.

Recuperating Bartlett tree

Now we’re cheering for rain. Everything is drying out. We notice that the deer fawns are not as big as they were at this time last year. No lush vegie growth out there for them. For awhile we thought we might not have any swallows in the little blue house under the eves, but they nested at last, and the little ones are just getting close to flying now—rather late in the year. All the wild plants seem to be going quickly to seed, as though they don't expect to last long and had better hurry up and reproduce. Maybe they know something we don’t. Interesting times.

Wild flowers going to seed

However, ‘hope springs eternal’ as they say, particularly in gardeners and farmers who are at the mercy of the weather. Take what we get and make the most of it. So we will continue to supplement our twenty minute daily between-row irrigation with the hose. Hope everybody else’s garden is blooming and blowing and full of good vegie things.

Keep enjoying gardening and never give up! Cheers!

Marking time…

4 March, 2009

The seed catalogues arrived in early January and we’ve already sent for and received our year’s worth of seed for planting, but—looking at the weather, it would seem like we’re going to have a repeat of last year’s cool spring. Maybe I’m too pessimistic. Let’s hope so, but after the unusual heavy snow and two weeks of freezing weather which came in January I can’t help being a bit wary.

The freezer is bulging with last year’s harvest, but we had nowhere to store the potatoes cool enough without having them freeze, so we took them in from the potting shed, they warmed up and, of course, figuring this was an invitation to sprout, they did. Very willing garden friends, but too early. Maybe we’d better take them down to the new little workshop we built in the fall and see if we can discourage them from being so enthusiastic. It’s cooler there but it does have some heat now, enough to keep things above freezing.

If you use bay leaf for cooking you’ve no doubt been shocked at the price of a few leaves to gussy up the vegies and soups—I was—five bucks for twelve small leaves. So we decided to do something about it. Bought some seed from a herb specialist last year and planted our own laurus nobilis forest. Expecting a couple to sprout, we now have five little beauties all waiting for bigger pots. Wonder if we can palm some of the bounty off on the local health food shop when this quintet really gets going and we have to prune them back. Way too much for us, and probably the neighbours too, but they’re pretty plants.

The celeriac experiment turned out promising—small but adequate tubers with somewhat overgrown roots on the sides. I have since researched a little and found out that the top adventitious roots have to be cut off to keep a nice round tuber growing and that they actually sit sticking out of the ground, like the species of beet we plant. Hadn’t really wanted that much hand work. However, since we enjoy celeriac, we’ll plant some again this year and see if we can keep up with them. We left two in the ground over winter, well mounded over with earth, curious to see what will become of them when we dig them a little later this year. We’re told that cold or a bit of frost makes them tastier. We’ll find out soon. Anyone else growing this vegie? Maybe you could let us know how yours are getting along, and pass on some much needed advice.

A friend offered us a couple of fig tree shoots last year, one large, one small, (the same friend who gave us a couple of grape vine whips and a mulberry root the year before) and we innocently took them on. After a little reading, I found that fig trees will take over everywhere and sprout indiscriminately if allowed to be planted out in the open, so we potted them, one in a bucket and the other in a big old cedar planter. Well, along came the freezing weather and to save our two sprouts we hauled them inside. They thought they’d been returned to the warm Mediterannean, smiled happily, and are now putting forth gigantic leaves which are threatening to push out the windows. This, before we dare to let them outside again.


Ah yes, the joys of unwitting (or witless) gardeners. Have fun, and do try something new. However, beware of friends bearing gifts which may grow you out of house and garden.

Like a happy jungle…

2 September, 2008

Oh yes! The garden. It's getting on like a happy jungle. From a beginning which almost looked like an ending, this garden has delivered like we never expected. Apart from the absolute lack of tree fruit--one plum, one pear, only a small crop of apples--the rest of the garden is now suggesting that we get busy and process its bounty for the winter.

We're eating lettuce as fast as we can. Cucumbers, Per's favourite, are becoming like too much ice cream every day. We plan to pickle. We have done green beans, swiss chard, kale and boysenberries. There will be more beans and greens. The beets and rutabagas are busting out of the ground as the rain has washed the earth away from them. True, the type of beet we grow, a long cylindrical one which makes for easy pickling, has a statement in the seed catalogue to the effect that it tends to lift itself up. Hey, it's jumping out of the ground. I'm busy with the hoe a lot.


The pea crop is in and the potatoes which stuck out of the earth are being avidly enjoyed by slugs as they also enjoy the wet weather. I'm catching them and deporting them to the back five with hopes that they won't find their way back too soon. Our garden snakes are a big help, but they're not into mega meals. Taking a look at the big black ones, I don't blame them. Thus far we have been amazingly free of insects except for the disaster of a currant worm explosion which cleared off our remaining gooseberry bush over one day and night when we weren't looking. Think it's a gone goose. We have yet to figure out some way to deal with the pear tree mite problem.

The celeriac, which I thought was too spindly to hang in there, has grown tops which threaten to imitate celery stalks and we're almost afraid to take a peek at the bottoms. Broccoli is heading up. Carrots are progressing. Mint, comfrey, nettles and origanum are hung up to dry. The parsley is a bit slow but it'll come. Tomatoes, which we grow in pots and cover from the rain, are very slow and probably won't make it until we bring them in to finish off later.


We're really surprised and happy that our little garden which went in so late and in such unpromising weather has turned out so well. Makes me think optimistically that everyone else's gardens did the same. We hope so!

The planting is done at last!

3 June, 2008

We waited impatiently for the weather to warm up and stop raining so much. It didn't, so when we got a few reasonably good days in between we rototilled. The soil was heavy and still not dry but we managed. Then we earthed up the beds and the potatoes went in. They had willingly sprouted nice long shoots as they waited—a little too long—but we were careful not to break them off. They are now greening up nicely.

We then decided to seed everything else, as the fourteen day forecast was no more optomistic than all the others before had been. We hesitated over the beans. They don't like wet weather, sulk and disappear into compost, but if they don't make it we'll reseed like last year—three times. Don't see the cucumbers coming up either. They'll get the same optimistic treatment if they don't show.

On the bright side, the little celeriac seedlings we put in are doing very well, with radish, lettuce, peas, kale, rutabaga and beets cheerfully poking out now. These are the hardy crops which don't mind a bit of fifty degree (10c) weather.

I resorted to asking a forum for help with the problem of our little pear tree. If you're into using the internet for seeking information, try Sooner or later someone comes up with an answer or a suggestion. It seems we have a pear mite infection which is not easy to get rid of. The suggestion was that I wait until fall spraying time and use lime-sulphur-oil spray. I know it's common practice, but I'm reluctant to do this as hydrated lime is not in my book of happy solutions, and instructions for use seem like getting dressed for a stroll through a chemical mist.

So far I've removed all the infected leaves, and am now considering what to do next. Since we're not getting a crop of fruit I wonder if some sort of spray to raise the pH of the tree would discourage the beasts.

Does anyone know if pear tree leaves are on the acidic side?

Hope everyone out there has also managed to get the crop in and are able to at least lean on their shovels a bit, if not take it easy.

Here are a couple of photos from our house garden: wild sedum and fringe cups

and chives among lemon balm, columbines and forget-me-nots

More waiting... this time for the garden to grow

29 May, 2008

Looking at the weather forecast, our hopes for an early spring have faded somewhat. The chilly weather is persisting and what little efforts we’ve been able to put into the garden have been limited to cleaning up and preparing the soil with dolomite lime and some manure.

These are some of our celeriac seedlings ready for planting

And here’s a shot of our veggie garden with beds ready to be seeded
a corner of our garden

Our little Bartlett pear tree needs help!

10 May, 2008

Over a two year period it has become infected with something and a hunt on the internet has yielded nothing like the problem we have.

This spring the leaves and some bunches of flower buds are already covered with rose-coloured spots even before leaf and flower buds have barely opened. I sprayed the tree in the fall and spring with a solution of five tbsp. hydrogen peroxide, two each of green soap and baking soda per gallon of water. The problem, whatever it is, has come back worse than before. Last year I spent a lot of time partially denuding the tree of mottled leaves whenever any appeared and burned them. I cleaned up under the tree in the fall.

So far our Bosc and Conference pears haven't been infected. What's going on? Can anyone help diagnose this and tell us what to do to get rid of it? Please email me if you can help.

Spring still seems far away…

19 April, 2008

Yesterday it snowed for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Reading the forecast last evening we prudently took in the pots of geraniums from the deck. The temperature fell from 43 to 32F overnight and it snowed—and it's still snowing. Our little grape hyacinths are out there holding up their snow caps and hoping for something better. This is not what we usually expect in the middle of April but maybe we'd better get used to the idea. It seems like a repeat of last year's cool wet spring. Weird weather seems to be a trend setting in everywhere.

grape hyacinths

As far as planting is concerned we're going to stick to our general habit of not planting until the earth reaches a temperature of 50F. This is further reinforced by the fact that I put in some lettuce and peas in March when what appeared to be the beginning of warm spring weather arrived. I was encouraged to do this by catalogues and friends who go on about these plants liking cool weather and theirs are doing fine. Well ours didn't. The patch is still vacantly empty and waiting for something else to happen to it. I figure that, being about five hundred feet higher than the lowlanders, we have an entirely different micro-climate. There are lots of those on this island.

As we don't use pesticides, the problem of the white grubs was solved by physically removing the lot of them a shovelful at a time. Gloved hand at the ready I'd turn over the earth, remove the little beasts into a small bucket of soapy water and continue the process.

June beetle grub

At least I hope I got them all. Fortunately this infestation was confined to a small patch surrounded by rock. I'll have to move those and see what's there. Although I think June bugs and beetles are very beautiful, I'd like to admire them in in the wild, not in my garden. Their overall length varies between 15 and 25mm.

I also caught some other villains in three of my flower pots. I haven't identified them yet. I think they're some sort of cut worm although they're very small (about 15mm in length) and thin and usually curled up tightly. They got the physical treatment too, plus some green soap water. Any ideas about these? If you know the name of these little worms please email me.

unknown grub

Outside gardening is now suspended until better weather arrives!

Waiting for spring…

21 March, 2008

Looking at the weather forecast, our hopes for an early spring have faded somewhat. The chilly weather is persisting and what little efforts we’ve been able to put into the garden have been limited to cleaning up and preparing the soil with dolomite lime and some manure.

We’ve also found that we have an infestation of ‘white grub’ which most likely came from a number of plants in pots we were given by a friend. These had come from a nursery and probably contained either the eggs or the grubs of the ‘june beetle’. We’re now considering ways in which to get rid of this invader who is notorious for eating roots, not just of lawn grass but any other kind of root as well.

We’ll see what remedy we come up with.

Here’s a recent shot of our Ferguson FE35 tractor in front of the dormant garden —

a corner of our garden

The garden is still asleep

10 March, 2008

So, here goes our first posting:

Although we’ve had many nice, warm days—both in February and March—cool temperatures at night have kept the garden too cold and wet for anything to really get started.

This week has started off with rain, and we expect rain for most of the rest of the week.

Updated 13 June 2013