Meanwhile, Over at the Greenhouse

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

We have been enjoying an unseasonably warm March here in Toronto that has lead into the warmest early April I can recall, ever. Temperatures are supposed to soar this weekend, sending gardeners (including me) into a flurry of activity. I have already sown spinach and mâche into containers on the roof. The chives have been shooting up slowly over the last few weeks, and I am starting to identify lettuce seedlings that have self sown where I let mature plants go to seed last season. I intend to spend this weekend cleaning up, amending the container soil, and getting all of the gardens into shape.

Meanwhile, over at the greenhouse, my little seedlings are go. I started tomatoes and peppers on March 5 and have sown the odd thing here and there since. I’m enjoying the simplicity of this stage of the growing season very much. I’ve been through this stage countless times now and you’d think it would get dull, but it never does. Every year there is something new and even the same old same old haven’t lost their appeal. On a basic level I am amazed by my plants’ progress every time I visit the greenhouse. I am relishing just observing the beauty of new seeds as they come out of the package and discovering the early growth stages of plants I have never grown from seed before. This is a happy time all around.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

These are a pansy called ‘Caramel Spice’ from Botanical Interests. It’s a little late to start pansies and violas from seed as they are typically started in January. In fact, I just bought the first pansy cell-packs of the season yesterday. Unfortunately, these seeds came late but I figured I might as well give it a shot anyways. I can always try tucking them into a cooler spot once the summer heat hits and hope they make it to the fall cool-down.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This is cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), one of my fun experiments for the 2010 growing season. Cardoon is a gorgeous, and rather massive plant that looks an awful lot like an artichoke or giant thistle. In fact, they’re related. What’s interesting is that you eat the stems of the plant, not the flower bud as you do with an artichoke. But before you harvest it you’ve got to “blanch” it, much like celery, by covering the stems with a large box or some other cover to keep light out and soften the leaves. Perhaps a bit complicated but my curiosity has got the better of me so here we go. Another fun fact: cardoon is often used as a vegetarian rennet substitute in cheese making.

I like the seedlings at this stage; so perfect.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

These little seedlings are purple plantain that I bought at the Montreal seed fair. It’s hard to see in the photo but a little bit of the purple colour is beginning to come in. I should probably thin these out (remove a few to prevent crowding) soon.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I first grew this variegated tomato years back and have not grown it since. Amazingly, the seeds were still very viable. It’s a gorgeous plant that is worth tucking into a boring spot, but I was unimpressed by the tomatoes. They weren’t bad, just boring when up against richly flavored black tomatoes. I originally purchased these seeds from Seed Savers but it looks like they are no longer carrying them. Looks like I should save some seeds this year if I want to grow them again.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This little seedling is Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium). I also bought the seeds for this exciting tomato relative in Montreal. Notice the close resemblance to a tomato plant at this stage. Soon enough it will start to change. I can’t wait for the thorns! It would make a good candidate for the street garden, don’t you think? It is an edible but perhaps I will keep an extra one for that space. Another fun experiment that makes me so excited I making mental squees and jumpy claps as I write this.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I first came upon the ‘Elberta Peach’ tomato last May at a plant trade and knew right away that I would be growing it in 2010. The leaves are soft and downy, not unlike lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), and the tomatoes have a little fuzz too.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This rosemary is called ‘Blue Boy.‘ I bought pots of this as table decor for the “Grow Great Grubbook launch party and saved this one for a friend who was away. But then it turned out he had already grabbed one for himself so now I have one. I chose this variety to giveaway because of its compact, bonsai-like growth. Unfortunately, despite it’s size I’m beyond the point of desperation when it comes to window ledge and grow light space at home so I brought it over to the greenhouse to keep until it is warm enough to go outside.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Over at the Greenhouse

  1. I love the crisp green and bright light in your post’s pictures- beautiful plants! I can almost smell the tomato and rosemary! Now I’m reeling with guilt for not putting my beautiful tomato transplants in the ground. Thanks for the reminder…

  2. So glad to hear that spring is in full swing somewhere in Canada! The west coast has been hit by wind storms, rain, hail & cooler temps so it feels like we’ve stepped back a season…

    Love the seedlings & the greenhouse space – I lost the roof to mine in a wind storm….

  3. Ooo, cardooooons. I’m eager to see how it goes for you… I’ve been contemplating a foray into the artichoke/cardoon family. Just need to sort out the space question. They’re both such dramatically beautiful plants. I’d also be interested in seeing how you eat ‘em. I was just reading about dipping steamed cardoon into bagna cauda – yum.

  4. Your photos are lovely, can’t get my greenhouse ones to look like that!

    Lovely too, to hear that *someone* is enjoying some great weather! It is foul here in my part of the UK and I am desperate for some sun and warmth.

  5. Speaking of seedlings,

    I often get things mixed up in the garden and don’t know what it is that is growing (weed or not?) and I came across this site that helps identify plants at the seedling stage

    not the sharpest photos – but it helps give an idea.
    thought I’d share it.


  6. looks like I need to buy a goat now and try out that cardoon! … where to overwinter the goat … hmm …

  7. I grew ‘fuzzy peach’ tomatoes a few years ago, bought as seedlings from the Jean-Talon Market in Montreal. The plant was gorgeous, but the tomatoes proved a bit of a challenge to eat – peach fuzz is one thing, tomato fuzz is…different…

    We’ve just done our biggest tomato harvest this afternoon (it’s early autumn here) and I find growing them on a patio in NZ is more of a challenge than on a Montreal 3rd floor balcony. I’m still getting used to the climate – we’re planning the winter garden for my mom’s raised beds, and I’m dreaming of next year’s tomato experiments!

  8. Hi, Happy Spring!
    I’m wondering where I can get some heirloom
    tomato seedlings in Toronto (having missed Seedy Saturday this year; I am behind)- or ( is that scoffing I hear?)- where can I at least buy the seeds?

  9. Carolynn: There is no shame in buying transplants. I grow from seed because I can’t get what I’d like as a transplant.

    Urban Harvest sells heirloom tomato seedlings at various markets beginning sometime in May. We’re still a bit early for seedlings. They also sell seeds and I have seen their seeds at Grassroots on Bloor.

  10. Marvelous green color, refreshing look! Have you written anything like “how to build your own greenhouse”? I’ll love to know about your greenhouse and please post some photographs.

  11. Sarina: I don’t own a greenhouse and I definitely had no hand in building this one so am no authority on greenhouse management. I’m a member of a community group that grow together in this greenhouse.

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