Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surviving the Urban Jungle

     It has been  a bit since I posted anything, it has been busy around here. I'm sorry to say the blog is the first casualty of the nice summer weather. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done.

     One of the biggest jobs in the summer is trying to stay ahead of the garden. First, so I have all kinds of deliciousness for the kitchen and secondly to have my own little oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. It makes the perfect setting for entertaining or just relaxing after a long day.

     How do I tame my urban jungle? With my trusty Ipod and a bunch of tunes of course. Yes, I have my trowel, various shovels, pruners, hoes and rakes but it is my Ipod that is my most used bit of gardening gear. I have it on an idiot string around my neck (or I would lose it), tucked inside my shirt ( because I catch the earphone cord on everything ), blasting away.   Whether I'm "Gardening till the World Ends" with Britney, tying up my tomatoes to Rihanna's "S&M, going "What the Hell" with Avril as I survey the damage the squirrels caused, everything ends up "Perfect" with P!nk. The time just melts away. I'm sure the occasional dance move / seizure keeps the neighbours entertained. And yes, my friends have all told me I have embarassingly bad taste in music. LOL

     So here is what has been keeping me occupied.

Bright red dainthus taking over as the soapwort fades

My false indigo, much smaller than last year but it has spread like crazy

White peach leaf campanula

Cranesbill geranium

Antique roses, such an incredible scent

Brilliant yellow primroses,
a transplant from my mother's garden

Gorgeous blanket flowers

Brown Eyed Susans,
their real name escapes me right now

Bright red New Guinea impatiens

     That pretty much covers the floral part of the garden. My lilies are almost ready to bloom, maybe a week away, the morning glories are climbing and the snowball astilbe and toad lilies are all progressing well. All my annuals, impatiens, heliotrope, geraniums, marigolds etc are all doing well in their respective pots except for my petunias. I always plant them because I really like the smell but something is eating them this year so they are a little less than spectacular.

      Speaking of which, I lost two plantings of dill, eaten right off to nothing, several of my lilies have the flower buds eaten away and my green beans also suffered, but only the green, the yellow bean plants were untouched. Go figure?

My poor row of beans,
They have since recovered so I should still get a good crop
I thought I was going to have to replant

     What else has suffered? Some one stole one of my marigolds off the end of the vegetable patch and one got run over by someone turning in my driveway, thanks, but the biggest hit this year has been my strawberry patch. Just as my strawberries were coming in, the horde descended.

Perched on the top of the fence,
the miserable little rodents

Coming in for the harvest

The strawberry patch after the fact

     I'm not sure if the picture does it justice, but the squirrels this year have completely trashed my strawberries. Anyone have any good recipes for squirrel pie? Before you start feeling too badly, I did manage to get about 35 cups of strawberries out before/during the invasion. But seriously? If anyone has any tips on keeping them away please pass them along.

     Even though I do this every year, I still get a charge out of seeing the first of my produce coming along.

My herbs are flourishing
I'm using my basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, tarragon, sage, mint, oregano and cilantro

My heirloom yellow pear tomatoes, tied up and doing fine

The rest of the tomato patch, staked and tied

Cucumbers all in flower and trailing everywhere but up the trellis I provided
I had to tie them on to start them up

The start of my zucchinis,
All eight plants are producing and I should have the first by the end of next week

Peas climbing, all ready for summer

My winter onions, with the first new sets out and almost ready to harvest for next year's planting

     A few tips for the vegetable patch.

     Peas are climbers and usually end up as a big tangled mess. Plant them around tomato cages and they stay neater, are easier to pick and  to weed. Thanks for the tip aunt Jean. They also can't stand a lot of heat. Mine are planted next to the fence so it shades them in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day.

     Cucumbers are also climbers so trellis them as well. The best cucumber crops I had were at another house growing up a chain link fence. It saves a lot of garden space if you grow your vines on the vertical. Cucumbers are strong enough to support the weight of their fruit but melons are not. Put melons in a nylon sack, cut the ends off of pantyhose, and tie them to your trellis. As the melons get larger, the pantyhose stretches to accommodate them and the trellis supports the weight so you won't damage the vines. Looks strange but hey, whatever works.

     Always stake/support your tomatoes. It makes them easier to prune, keeps your garden tidier and easier to work in, provides sunlight and airflow around the plants and helps prevent tomato rot from fruit resting on the damp earth. Tomatoes can be very tricky. They are susceptible to about everything that can go wrong in the garden. Tie them with broad strips of cloth not fine cord like butcher's twine or jute. It can saw right through the stem as it moves in the wind damaging or killing the plant. Tie them as securely as you can as well. All my old pillowcases get shredded up for this.

     I always plant at least one heirloom variety of seeds, usually three or four. It is important to keep our seed heritage alive and well rather than depending on only a few varieties.

     What aren't you seeing? The lettuce, Swiss chard and arugula are all doing well and being used. The watermelons are coming along after a rocky start. The radishes, well..... The beets that survived the squirrels seem to be doing okay, if nothing else I'll have greens and the blackberries and eggplant are coming along nicely.

     All in all, it looks like it's going to be a good harvest this year. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and the music loud. LOL

     How is your garden growing? Drop me a line and let me know. Feel free to pass along any of your tips for keeping your garden green. Take care.

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Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".