Greetings from the hermit’s nest where I am working feverishly, both figuratively and unfortunately quite literally through what I can only describe as a marathon of deadlines. This summer has revolved 100% around gardening and food, a focus that promises to continue through the fall and well into winter. Actually I’ll still be at, although hopefully not quite at this pace, come spring. When I’m not in a garden taking pictures, I am sitting at a computer writing about gardening or I am in the kitchen cooking. When I am not doing any of those things I am thinking about doing those things, or rather, freaking out about NOT doing those things.
The irony of all of this is that it is pushing me further and further away from my own actual gardens. I’m in them more as an observer then as a gardener. I’ve been able to accomplish the bare minimum and have had to let the rest fall to the wayside. Boo.
Anyways, all complaints aside, I have managed to find a minute here and there to get in touch with the happenings that are taking place on the roof and in the community plot. I’m still harvesting some of the straggling late summer crops and if the weather holds I should have another crop of late tomatoes coming through soon. My ‘Green Grape’ plant has been producing non-stop. I fell in love with that variety last year causing a complete turn around on a long-standing distaste for green tomato varieties. I grew it in a larger container this year to see how it would perform and it has been outstanding. I’ve added ‘Green Grape’ to my list of varieties worth growing in a garbage bin.
Seed saving season is in full swing and I’ve been taking some time here and there to collect for next year while also harvesting seeds such as dill and coriander for eating rather than growing.
2008 can best be described as The Year of Dill out on the roof. At least a hundred dill seedlings sprung up in the spring and proceeded to flourish due to a record-breaking wet growing season. I honestly can’t keep up with the amount of dill seed that is maturing right now and have had to find a few stolen moments to process seeds in order to avoid being buried alive underneath the masses of seed heads that are collected nearly ever day. Keeping them under control now also means less seedlings to contend with come spring. We’ve had our fill of dill and I am guessing that it will be years before we can appreciate the flavour of fresh dill with our meals again. Yep. Sure is tough having so much bounty!
Still, the timing for dill seed perfectly coincides with pickle season. 2008 was a terrible year for cucumbers so I’ve decided to focus on making mixed vegetable pickles. They’re turning out great. We consumed a whole jar in only a few days. It didn’t even get a chance to mature into its full flavour. I can’t wait to taste this batch in a month. My favourite new vegetable to pickle is ‘Black Radish.’ ‘Black Radish’ is a large radish that is black on the outside and white on the inside. It reminds me of a cross between a radish and a turnip but without the turnip flavour. They’re quite spicy raw, however the hot water processing cooked the radish slices slightly making them soft and succulent. I plan to grow lots next year now that I know how good they are…. Next year…. what a joke. Gotta make it through this one first!
I took this photo back in October (Is it really very nearly the end of the year already?) on our trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, I can not recall which plant this is. I might have known what it was when I took the photo having more of the plant for context. And there is always the possibility that I might have known it based on a photo of the flowers rather than the seed pods. I have never been very good about keeping track of the plants I take photos of, relying on what I always think is a good memory only to realize later that I have no idea what the heck this thing is.
I’m excited about a plan to add a regular photo feature to the site in the New Year as a way for me to actually use some of the countless plant and garden photos I take during the growing season. I am especially excited about showing more of my film photography because that is actually where my heart is. It is a big part of my life (and my gardening life) but has never really felt like it had a home here. I’ve got to do a separate design for it since I want to be able to post those photos larger than 450 pixels wide hence the wait until after the New Year.
I desperately need to clean up my rooftop garden. Desperately. Double desperately. It’s horrible how long I’ve let it got this year really. The warmer Fall temperatures were wonderfully evil and I just went with it pretending that Fall would continue forever. I rewarded myself for cleaning up at the community garden so early this year. I can put it off a little longer, I said. It will be just like last year, I said. There will not be snow until January and by then everyone will be freaking out and talking about the blooming crocus and dandelion flowers and how the end of the world is neigh and it won’t matter that some of the pots weren’t empty or that the strawberries never did get replanted from the big pot into the ground.
And now I am in this dilemma. It has already snowed. The ground is probably frozen. I say probably because I haven’t had the courage to check. I would take a picture and post it here for you to see what I am talking about but that would mean having to look and I can’t bear it. I avoid looking out there entirely preferring to pretend it doesn’t exist. From memory and the occasional tiny peek I do seem to recall an assortment of clay pots that are usually emptied, washed and put away by this time every year prior to this one. I’m pretty sure that tender Echeveria I’ve been over-wintering indoors for years is now dead. The shiso was never harvested. Lifeless bean stalks cling to string and a few remaining lantern-like tomatillos hang from leafless branches.
Today would be the perfect day to get out there and do it already. The sun is shining, the temperatures are above zero, and anything that was recently frozen is probably melted after yesterday’s torrential downpours. I could cut back the plants, remove and wash the terra cotta and be done with it. And I would be totally on it too, I really would, except that I have come down with a terrible cold complete with body aches and a nose that runs like a faucet. So instead I will go back to bed with a pile of hankies and a warm tea, putting those self-preserving powers of denial to work for one more day.
Garlic Shown: Stiff-neck which tends to be hardy and stores well over the long term.
Sitting down to write this, my first thoughts are to apologize for the slow down in updates recently. I consider writing to assure you that the slow down is merely a glitch in workload and I will not stop writing here during the winter season because gardening is a daily thing for me that does not stop it merely shifts with the seasons. While I’m at it I want to apologize for the header that still says “early Fall” when we all know it is proper Fall now. As I sit here a list of assorted lagging details run through my mind and I entertain the idea of apologizing for each one like something in the room that needs to be acknowledged before our relationship can move on. Or a clearing of my throat. “Ahem. Hi. Is this thing on?”
I wonder what it is about internet writing that brings that out? Is it the feeling of an informal and personable context? Is it the assumption that I am sitting down to speak directly to you and you back to me? When I sit down to write an article for a printed magazine I don’t think to begin with apologies and casual shout-outs. “So… Uh, sorry this is my first time writing for this magazine but you know how it goes, I had other stuff going on and insert excuse here. Before I kick this off I just want to say hey what’s up to so and so whom I met last week at such and such event.”
Okay, enough banter. Let’s talk about garlic.
I should preface these instructions by stating that I am not a garlic eater however I love to grow the plant. I think it is a beautiful plant worth growing regardless of personal taste, requires little effort to produce a good crop, is self-perpetuating (you can use this year’s harvest to produce next year’s crop) and it is especially useful as a pest repellent crop warding off insects like aphids and Japanese beetles. You can also crush garlic cloves in water and make an organic pest spray. Because garlic is easy to grow it also makes a good crop for trading with other food gardeners and friends.
The plants were so lovely in the window today on a sunny November afternoon. I could not help but grab a camera to capture the moment.
This is ‘Variegata’ hot pepper, a gorgeous and edible heirloom variety that has got a lot of play on the site recently. I grew it from seed for the first time back in the spring and it has become an unexpected favourite this year. The colours and shapes are so gorgeous, I find myself pointing the camera in its direction time and again. I brought it indoors before the frost kicked in and it has since continued to put out fruit. These will turn bright red when mature.
These are the flowering stems of two sundews: One the left Drosera aliciae and on the right, Drosera capensis.
This is one of two pencil cacti (aka Mistletoe Cactus) I have hanging in a window with indirect light. They are epiphytic jungle cacti which means they need a lot more water and richer soil than the desert cacti most of us are familiar with. This one is a member of the Rhipsalis genus although I have never been able to confirm the species.