Another Seedy Saturday Toronto has come and gone and like last year I managed, with great effort, to make it around to a few booths and pick up some seeds. The event was more packed than ever this year making it nearly impossible to leave my brother/assistant alone at the table for any length of time or push through the crowds lingering around some of the larger seed sellers. The sellers I did manage to get to were often sold out of items on my wanted list. And forget the Seeds of Diversity trading table. I had high hopes but only managed to snag a pack of red orach seeds. Next year I plan to employ the strategy of browsing during setup, BEFORE the crowds arrive. Next year.
Here’s what I managed to bring home with me:
- Red Orach – A trade pack harvested from Jackman Public School’s Learning Garden.
- ‘Early Yellow Crookneck’ Squash – A trade with a You Grow Girl forums member. I thought I needed squash but then got home and realized I have several varieties in my stash. This is why I should have brought a list.
- ‘Dragon’ Carrot – Another trade that I already have. ‘Dragon’ is a beautiful purple carrot. If I had to choose I suppose I favour it over ‘Purple Haze’ although ‘Dragon’ would crumble in a Best Name competition.
- Love Lies Bleeding – I’ve been trying to grow more amaranth over the last few years and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a classic that never gets old.
- ‘Blue Spice’ Basil – Another trade. I don’t think I have grown this variety which is kind of amazing since I’d swear I have covered just about everything in the unusual basil category at least once.
- ‘Purple Calabash’ Tomato – I fell in love with its ugly beauty last year. I am planning to grow less tomatoes this year and have not finalized my list as-of-yet. Who gets cut will be the hardest decision I have to make this year.
- Painted Lady Sweet Pea – I just love the fragrant sweetness of sweet pea flowers but tend to steer clear of them due to their attractiveness to aphids. I decided to try my luck and grow a few varieties this year. I can always pull them out if things get nasty. This variety really does look like the runner beans of the same name. I know it seems redundant to grow them when I can just grow the beans later in the season but I can’t cut those flowers and I am really craving cut sweet peas for my desk.
- Persian Broad-Leaf Cress – I have grown a number of pepper cresses but like that this variety is described as milder than other cresses.
- Tendergreen Mustard Green – I’m on a personal mission to try growing just about every salad green under the sun.
- ‘Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon’ aka ‘Plum Granny’ – I’m planning to grow some melon this year but admittedly this one was an impulse buy and not on the list. ‘Plum Grannies’ are tiny melons known for their intoxicating fruity smell. I can not resist a good back story and the story for these citrus-sized melons is that Victorian women carried them in their pockets to fight street stench. The thought of two of these in a breast pocket has me thinking about another derivative of the colloquial use of ‘melons.”
- Swiss Chard ‘Ruby Red’ & ‘Golden Sunrise’ – I’ve grown the ‘Rainbow’ mix and other coloured varieties but these two are my favourites for their saturated colours that look so beautiful in containers of contrasting colour or as a burst of brightness tucked beside boring veggie varieties.
- ‘Selway’ Lettuce - Brightly coloured greens are another edible trick I employ to brighten dull corners and containers. Consequently I am always on the look out for a good red variety. We’ll see how these fair against ‘Lolla Rosa’ aka ‘Lollo Rosa’ which still reigns as my favourite red.
- ‘Cimmaron’ Romaine Lettuce – An unusual romaine with a deep, reddish purple hue.
- ‘Yugoslavian Red’ Butterhead Lettuce – A really beautiful butterhead variety with shades of green tinged by deep red.
- ‘Black Spanish’ Radish – I’m very curious about the flavour and how to eat this root vegetable.
- ‘Black Jet’ Soybean – I have to admit I bought these for the dark bean colour. I’ve had a lot of success with soybeans in containers on the roof but that dang groundhog just LOVES to eat the plants as they emerge from the soil at the community plot.
Don’t forget to enter the Haiku Contest!
During the spring and summer months I grow indeterminant tomatoes (large, vine plants) in large garbage bins like this one purchased for $10 each a number of years ago at the local Ikea. The flat grey colour has faded significantly over the years but the containers are still holding up under the wear and tear of hot summers and winter heaving caused by fluctuating temperatures.
I typically fill each container with a single tomato plant and surround it with 4 basil plants. With the weather being warmer this fall I decided to try and keep the rooftop deck productive AND aesthetically pleasing by replacing the spent tomatoes with attractive, cold-hardy edibles previously growing in smaller, individual containers. This also allowed me to get a head start on clean-up bringing in some of the smaller, terra cotta containers that will eventually come indoors for the winter.
In This Container:
- Tri-color sage
- Pansy (will keep flowering. Flowers are edible.
- ‘Lacinato Blue’ Kale aka ‘Dinosaur’ Kale
- ‘Red Bor’ Kale
- Cinnamon Basil (not cold hardy but surprisingly still going strong.)
Everything in this container is edible. Unfortunately, while we were away a squirrel made a hearty lunch of the dinosaur kale but everything else is still thriving and ready for picking whenever we need a bit of sage for our eggs, some flowers for a salad, or kale to flavour a soup.
Proudly cradling the basil harvested from my community garden plot. Varieties include: ‘African Blue’, ‘Purple Ruffles’, ‘Sweet Basil’, ‘Genovese’, ‘Columnar’, ‘Spicy Globe’, ‘Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil’, ‘Dark Opal’, and ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ (a variegated variety).
I reluctantly harvested the remaining basil plants from my community garden plot last weekend. With the temperatures dipping low it was time to take the plunge or risk losing all that lovely fresh basil to the frost. I am yet to harvest the remaining plants growing in containers on my rooftop deck but we are enjoying nipping out for fresh leaves to put on sandwiches and in salads so late into the fall season. Really with such a mild fall I am shocked that we have been able to hold out for so long. Basil is notorious for hating cold, wet weather and has never made it this far into the Fall (in my memory) before turning black and flopping over in defeat.
Between last weekend’s mad pesto/pisto making operation, and the basil I have been drying in bunches since mid-summer, I’d say we’re pretty well stocked until the first plants are ready to be pinched back next summer. I think this may be the first time that I’ve been able to look into the freezer and say with a sense of authority that the bounty is good.
The following is a very short clip revealing how frugal I can be about the basil. What can I say, each leaf is like a tiny nugget of gold!
As I type this, one third of my rooftop garden sits on the floor in my living room. A second third of the garden is cluttering up the hallway around our front door. “Come on in friendly visitor! But first brave this minefield of plants, soil, and containers.” The final third remains outside. They were either impossible to transport or cold hardy enough to stay outdoors during last night’s reported RISK OF FROST, dated June 5, 2007. In June. Five days into the month of June in the year 2007. Just days after sweating to the oldies with RISK OF BURNING UP while adding new plants to my community garden plot.
Who loves climate change now?
We constructed this tent system for the garbage can-grown tomatoes that could not be moved. We used a huge piece of canvas cloth and the existing tripod stakes in the containers as support. The tomatoes look fine but the tomatillo is not taking it well at all. I’ve left this insane structure in place since it is still very cold and windy out there. The rooftop deck is exposed on three sides so the wind is a lot more intense than on the ground.
On a positive note I ate my first peas of the season this morning and ‘Whipper Snapper’ (aka ‘Whippersnapper’) is still going strong having begun making itty bitty tomatoes sometime around last Friday. At this rate, and if the real June ever decides to return, we should have our first tomatoes before July 1.
Because I am afflicted with the disease commonly known as “Can’t-Walk-Past-Plants, Most-Especially-Plants-on-Sale”-itis and because an entire kitchen garden that was non-existent a few days ago doesn’t seem to be enough today; I done went and bought me some pathetic-looking transplants. But wait, they were only fifty cents! Except the tuberous begonia — that was two bucks.
It went like something like this: I was walking past the Loblaws (Canadian supermarket chain) where I was lured by a sign hanging over the garden centre stating, “The Sales Have Begun!”, to which my mind responded, “I may be able to squeeze a few more plants in. This is last, last call. I can’t NOT see what they have. And I need more soil amender.”
In fact we’re so far into summer that this week is sort-of like last call in a city like Montreal where the bars stay open late followed by another round at a skeezy after hours bar where libations are surreptitiously purchased from some dude sitting on one side of the room and mixers are purchased legally from a station marked “Canteen” on the other side. And to be honest grubby is kind of how I felt buying fifty cent hybrid peppers from the garden centre of a popular chain supermarket when the remaining 99 percent of my plants are homegrown heirlooms or purchased from small, organic growers. But when that last call panic sets in I can be swayed to the dark side by just about any sad looking thing with a sale tag. Plus I am going to save these plants from the dumpster and grow more food! Right?
Here’s what I got:
- Tuberous Begonia – I could have cared less about tuberous begonias until I learned that the petals of hybrid varieties have a sour, acidic taste that makes a juicy substitute for lemons. Now I’m a champion for tuberous begonias everywhere. I chose a variety with golden orange flowers.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Orange Grande’ – This one had a fair-sized pepper on it. When buying sale plants try to avoid plants with flowers and fruit since the stress of living in a tiny pot results in plants that have put all of their resources into reproducing. I chose mine because it had the healthiest, lushest looking leaves of the bunch. The pots were fair-sized making peppers a good choice regardless. Peppers aren’t heavy feeders and can take a bit of abuse. Tomatoes on the other hand were just plain done. I had to pull myself away knowing that nothing was going to save them now.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Sweetspot’ – Okay, how could I not buy a variety called ‘Sweetspot’? I am immature.
- Zucchini ‘Goldrush’ – It didn’t look any worse than the plant I just transplanted from my shady plot so why not?
- Columnar Basil and Genovese Basil – One can never grow enough basil. I am convinced this is true.
I picked the pepper off as soon as I got it home. Part of the strategy behind Project Save the Hybrids is to get them on the road to producing healthy leaves and establishing roots. Allowing the pepper to continue forming would be diverting energy into the wrong place.
And yes I did purchase bags of soil amender; mushroom compost to be exact. Unfortunately it was not on sale.