Happy Summer Solstice!!!
My third article in this season’s Globe & Mail Kitchen Gardening column was published on Saturday. The topic is growing nasturtiums to eat.
One of my goals with the series is to publish articles while there is still time for as many gardeners across Canada as possible to get that particular plant into the soil (I am writing to a Canadian audience with these articles…. not easy since Canada is massive and growing conditions vary radically). As a result, my nasturtium article was published before my own plants had flowered. They still haven’t! There are lots more nasturtium varieties than can be found in the local gardening shop — I try to grow a different variety every year. This summer I am growing ‘Creamsicle.’ I can’t wait for the soft orange flowers to come up.
Meanwhile, my friend Barry was daring and put his seeds into the soil well before the last frost date for our region. As luck would have it the weather was unseasonably warm and his flowers are already up. I managed to shoot the very first open bloom on the day my article and photos were due. How’s that for timing?
Here it is:
The variety is called ‘Mahogany’.
Do you have a favorite nasturtium variety? Which variety are you trying for the first time this year?
Project “Let’s Not Kill the Corsican Mint” is well underway and so far so good. You see, I tried to grow one in my community garden plot last year and failed. If I can manage to move from not-killing the plant to encouraging it to grow lush an over the sides of it’s pot I will be very happy indeed.
Looking back I have a few theories around that failure that I am testing on plant number two, the sequel. I was naive and a bit lazy with plant #1. I just shoved it into the part of my garden where the other mints grow and called it a day.
Done and done. Literally.
But Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is not the same as tough as-nails mint. It is very diminutive, spreading plant — more like a moss than a mint. It has delicate roots, while regular mint can bust through all sort of barricades.
- Good Drainage: Corsican mint is the sort of creeping plant that grows well between paving stones. It is sometimes used as a ground cover and can take a bit of foot traffic. This leaves me with the impression that it requires very good drainage. Regular mints like good drainage too, but they are less picky. I have worked hard on the soil at my community garden and it is good. However, I lost a thyme (also requires good drainage) in that exact spot so I think the drainage may not be as good as other parts of the plot where thyme has survived. Although, wild strawberries live there now and they have overwintered and happily spread themselves about. Go figure.
My strategy with Corsican mint #2 is to grow it in a pot in which I have added a bit of sand and grit for extra drainage.
- Dappled Light: Mistake number 2 was planting the Lilliputian Corsican mint (they don’t grow more than an inch tall) nearby much taller mints. Over the course of the summer, the monster mints grew and took over the space as mints are want to do. Corsican mint likes dappled light, but I do not believe it likes to be shaded out completely. I am currently keeping plant #2 on this shelf, which resides in the partial shade portion of my roof. So far it looks happy and is growing. Life on the roof is hot but it is protected in that spot and I can check on the plant daily. I only visit the community garden plot weekly or twice weekly. The most fruitful observations are made when you can check on a plant every single day.
- Soil Moisture: This was the one thing I did right, but without the proper drainage. Corsican mint likes to be kept moist, but not too moist. It should never dry out. In a word, it is finicky. It likes things just so. The trick is to figure out what that means exactly and keep doing it.
When I was in the West Indies, I was surprised to see how much people coveted strawberries. While I was salivating over golden apple and fresh bananas, West Indians were paying through the nose for a basket of pathetic, well-traveled berry-like objects. I don’t think strawberries grow very well in extreme tropical heat. That didn’t stop one gardener I visited in Dominica from trying. As my own strawberries begin to set fruit and ripen I wonder if her little plant has made it and if she was able to savor a few homegrown berries this year.
Here in Toronto, it’s not too late to start strawberries. My first article of the season for the Globe & Mail explains how, but did not include this photo of a mixed planting I put together using an old honey tin I bought at a yard sale. If you are going to use something like this, don’t forget to add drainage holes. I made several in the bottom using a large nail I keep on hand for this purpose. Everything in this pot is edible, including the flowers.
One Each of: An unknown hybrid strawberry (the berries are ripening now!), ‘Golden’ sage (it is not hardy here and does not grow very big), ‘Gem Apricot Antique’ viola (may soon have to be replace for something more heat tolerant as the summer kicks in, or you can just pull it out when it kicks it and let the strawberry and sage spread.)
You want a food post today. I can feel it. I had every intention to post a photo of something edible that I am growing this year but then photos of this creamy, soft daffodil came up, and how much longer can I talk about daffodils when they are so very nearly on the way out?
The daffodils are fleeting. I have found myself jumping between favorites as they have rolled out their blooms. This is the one I currently favor.
I love it here, paired with Artemisia vulgaris ‘Oriental Limelight’.
Well done Mr. Parker. Well done.
Update: You’ll notice that I got the variety wrong. I don’t believe ‘Avalon’ is a miniature, and I didn’t realize these qualified as a miniature. Time passes since a picture is taken and you forget about size unless they’re really tiny like these guys.