Not too shabby

Pink and white peonies in a vase

In spite of feeling that we got off to a somewhat slow start to gardening this year, it’s gratifying to know that the peonies pictured here are the only item available at our farmers’ market that we can’t or haven’t grown ourselves. At this time of year, our local farmers are largely confined to selling rhubarb, spring onions and early greens, and we’ve got all of those right here in our own garden. We’ve even got some beets, thanks to our (extremely modest) winter gardening efforts.

The spring onions were a nice surprise, as I’d completely forgotten about planting these last fall. When I found a large corner bed full to bursting with these up at the house, and a smaller bunch down in the greenhouse, I couldn’t believe my good luck. There is something to be said for being disorganized, if only for the pleasant surprise it can afford.

Every year we move forward and do more, and it’s good to take stock amidst the mishaps, misses and other misadventures. Such as:

i) Winter gardening kind of got away from us, largely due to poor planning, inattention and then being overtaken by life events (homeschooling), but we have discovered that we can do it, as evidenced by the spinach, beets, spring onions and lettuces that greeted us in the early spring (and which we’ve been harvesting in earnest in recent weeks). This gives us much greater confidence for the coming cold season, and means that we’ll pull up our socks, knowing it will be worthwhile.

ii) My mum, having never really grown food herself, has started a small bed with carrots, lettuces, kale and peas at our place. It’s nice to be doing a tiny bit of gardening together in this way.

iii) The mature fruit trees that we’ve planted over the past couple of seasons are mostly doing very well, particularly the plums, an apple and a serviceberry. The Manchu cherries that we bought by mail order are absolutely thriving, and the blueberry bushes and a single red currant bush are looking pretty strong. We’re awaiting delivery from the US of some blackberry bushes that we found after a long, drawn out search, and are hopeful that they will do well here. The ‘baby’ nut trees that we also received by mail order did not make it, and we’ve learned that it’s better to focus our efforts – at least when it comes to trees – on mature ones, (particularly as we’re not so young ourselves anymore), as we’re not inclined to coddling.

iv) We continue to expand the number of beds that we can plant, and have done so at a pace that pretty nearly matches our appetite for growing more varieties and consolidating how much we grow of our favourite crops.

v) Having chickens to feed has made sense of the truly silly amounts of kale and other greens that I tend to grow, creating a more sustainable supply-demand chain.

vi) We finally bought a very good sized, energy efficient freezer, which will enable us to save more of what we grow more easily.

Now I just need to find somewhere to plant peonies, and we’ll be all set, right?

Please tell me what’s growing in your garden or what you’re most looking forward to growing this year, I’d really love to know!

Peonies from the farmers' market

10 thoughts on “Not too shabby

  1. I have no garden to speak of right now…poor planning, procrastination, and, as you say – life. I have a huge bed of kale that we ate through the late winter, till it started going to seed, and now I’m just letting it – accidentally on purpose, along with some chard that’s intermingled. There is no fence around this 10 x 60 ft bed, so I had to share it with the deer, but even so, it’s more than enough to share – and leave plenty for chickens. I have 6 sad looking tomato plants that are finally in their outdoor bed, having been bequeathed to me from my elderly neighbour, who treated them like royalty – liquid compost, cold frame etc – over this side of the fence, I hardened them off right away, as the glass in my cold frame broke over the winter. I don’t think these princesses were ready to go cold turkey, but they had no choice, and they appear to have chosen life, however precariously. Still, they’re not going to be 6 ft wonders. I have a bed ready for beans, which I need to plant. I have hacked blackberries around the dwarf apples (2) and the “new” hazelnut, been ruthless with the honeysuckle that wants to choke the walnut, and pulled huge clumps of grass out of my old herb bed, where despite total neglect, the lovage, sage and chives are holding their own, and the lemon balm is apparently ready to take over the world. No peonies, though. No one here seems to grow them – I’d only read about them before I visited my in-laws in the Maritimes, where no garden is complete without them. I’m glad you found a source for blackberries, hope they take!

    1. I loved reading about where you are with your own garden this season. How lovely to receive those tomato plants from your neighbour, and better still that they seem to be surviving the transition to a less pampered existence! 🙂 What size/shape is your coldframe? We’re realizing more each year how much we need cloches or small cold tunnels to get many of our transplants through the early transition to being outside. Hardening off doesn’t really do enough; they are often scoured by wind where we are. It’s always sobering to see how tiny plants just emerging from the soil do so much better than their larger, more established transplant counterparts. My husband would be envious to hear of your lemon balm, it’s one of his very favourites. Yes, I’ll let you know about the blackberries; this variety is reported to thrive from the deep south all the way up to Alaska!

  2. I finally got one peony blooming this year, so I cut it off and brought its fragrant self into the house to enjoy! I know they hate to be moved and I did just that about 6 years ago and now it’s finally forgiven me and bloomed.
    My garlic and some leaf lettuce made it through the winter just fine. Today I finally planted my sweet potato sprouts, so we’ll see how this new experiment does this year! All the blueberry plants survived the winter as well. My garden is all planted now…………. lots of squash as I’m lazy this year and just want it to wander all over the place lol. My tomatoes I started from seed are ‘Sub Arctic’ which come from the prairies and are grown for shorter seasons.
    Thanks for your update – I look forward to seeing pictures of your garden this summer.

    1. I didn’t know that a peony could hold such a long grudge! Wonderful to hear that you’ve got blooms to enjoy again. I’ve always adored peonies, and somehow never had any in my own garden. I must rectify that. I seem to know loads of people experimenting with sweet potatoes for the first time this year and feel like I’m out of the loop! I can’t wait to hear how you get on with them, they are an absolute favourite of mine. You can’t beat a lot of squash, especially as there is no tearing hurry to do anything with them once they’re ready! I’ve never tried Sub-Arctic, sounds intriguing. We’ve been trying a lot of different tomato varieties the past few years and are still figuring out our favourites. Thanks for sharing, it’s the best part!

  3. My mother in law (we called her Gram, too) also used to say that peonies hated to be moved. Grammom reminded me that one bright spot in my garden is the 55 garlic plants that are just about ready to dig up. We’ve even eaten a few garlic scapes sautéed with chard. Like the scythe, the cold frame is yet another legacy from my Dad – and it’s classic English. A rectangular box that slopes up to the back. About 4ft x 6 ft, I’d guess. 18″ at the front, 2ft at the back. Two barn windows make the “lights”, and they just rest on the edges of the frame and a bar across the middle. To open it, or to ventilate, a stick is used to prop one or both lights open. It’s looking very sad right now, as it needs a bit of refurbishing and one of the barn windows needs two panes replaced and the whole lot re-puttied. I’ve heard about people trying sweet potato up here too, also peanuts.

    1. A whole lot of garlic plants sounds pretty fine! I love the sound of the coldframe, what a lovely old thing. It sounds like something that can be refurbished, which is what I love about simply constructed items like that.

  4. Our spring kale this year is the best we’ve ever had, and more than we’ve been able to use (though we’re trying). Thanks for reminding me how much chickens love it. 🙂

    1. Congrats on a bumper crop of kale, it’s such a great thing to grow. So glad I could help with a nudge for your chickens! Cheers 🙂

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