The one question about apartment gardening that I am asked more than any other is: what should I grow this year? Fair enough. My sort of obvious, kind of cop-out answer has always been: grow what you like to eat.
My expertise on small-space gardening was always a bit theoretical. I’ve grown tomatoes and a whole bunch of other things in a small garden at the cottage, but it’s really twice as big as some community-garden plots in downtown Toronto. Stretches the “small space” definition. This year though, we moved into a new place with a balcony, just in time to cultivate some plants that gave us food this summer and that made our apartment a more pleasant space.
May was probably drier than is strictly optimal for my vegetable garden but June has brought even hotter temperatures (particularly warm nighttime temperatures) and a more optimal amount of rain.
In my vegetable garden at the cottage I have even been lucky with weeds. I learned to identify the edible lambs’ quarters and the runner up for most prevalent “weed” is an unruly (though fragrant) crop of dill. My selection of vegetables has also been fortuitous because I have temporarily abandoned spinach and radishes–both lovers of cool weather–for more beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Witkiem beans with their black spotted, white flowers
As mentioned in the April Gardening post May 26 is the average last frost date for the general area our vegetable garden is in. Other than cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini tomatoes are the garden’s most frost-sensitive, common plant. The consensus advice is to wait until a week after your average last frost date to put them in the ground.
I’m partly motivated by a competitive drive to be the first with backyard tomatoes; I’ve been very good about staying away from mealy, pink-white winter tomatoes and it would be great to break the fast even earlier in August; but at this point there is also a strong desire to get all of these pots off the kitchen windowsill and outside. The temperature this week are supposed to be above seasonal with highs in the low- to mid-twenties and lows not below ten degrees celsius so it’s definitely time for the tomatoes to go into their final home in the garden. (more…)
Last view of the garden covered in frost in October
Winter has finally taken hold in full force here in Toronto. There has been snow on the ground for several weeks and overnight temperatures are regularly in the double-digit negatives but I’m thinking about gardening. Last year I had started seeds (parsley and lettuce) by Valentine’s Day and while I don’t know if I’ll be quite as ambitious this year it is definitely the right time to start planning the garden. But first I need to do a final wrap-up post for last year’s garden. I hope this will at least provide a green reminder that the ground isn’t always frozen and white.
Peas dried and saved from the 2008 garden
Peas: After a pretty successful crop in 2008 I saved some peas and planted them this spring. This first experiment for me in seed-saving had very mixed results. I’m confident that the peas were properly dried and stored because they germinated in the ground and produced healthy shoots. I was surprised and frustrated to return to the cottage one late-June weekend to find that all of the shoots (along with their handful of nascent flowers) had disappeared. I strongly suspect that birds who managed to foil the pea defenses that I improvised from bent sticks (a la Jamie Oliver) ate the tasty shoots. I haven’t yet seen a bird in (or even near) our garden but vigilance is definitely not constant at a weekend, cottage garden in the spring.
Peas are a contender for garden space in 2010. Working both for and against them is the fact that they make such a delicious in-garden snack–I eat my fair share and it makes it easier to recruit weeding helpers but it cuts into crop size. (more…)
Yesterday’s post focused on the food that is available growing wild at this time of year. Today, I’m going to take a look at what the garden has to offer as August draws to a close.
Pollock tomatoes ripening
I have complained just as much as everyone else about the lack of sun and heat this summer. This should have been a particularly bad year for tomatoes because they depend on these too variables and there are stories that farmers in New England have had their crops attacked by blight that flourishes in wet weather. Last year the tomato plants went into the garden on 31st of May and the first ripe tomatoes were ready around the 26th of August. This year I transplanted them a week earlier and we were eating ripe tomatoes by the 22nd. Canabec Rose and Pollock varieties have both been good about being the first to ripen. (more…)