Oh dear. I really have been remiss in providing updates and photos of the garden in its first year. The last photo I posted was on June 29. We were headed to Denver and I wanted a record of it before I left. Until that time June was still a bit wet and sometimes cold. A heatwave struck while we were gone and the garden really took off from there.
It was an insanely busy working weekend. Come Monday morning and I was desperate to unwind from the weekend, not the other way around. I still managed to get some time in most of the gardens, with the exception of the street garden, which is taking care of itself these days. Thankfully we got some much needed rain.
First up, the community plot and a confession: I am not always efficient about sacrificing invasive plants to the compost pile. Intellectually, I know what has to go for the betterment of other crops and the overall design of the garden, but I find it hard to let some plants go. As a result, the plot was turning into Giant Borage Land — I spent a good hour scratching my arms to hell culling the plants that were no longer holding themselves up. I brought a bunch of the flowers and foliage home for eating.
Davin harvested some gooseberries from his bush in our community garden plot. I planted the bush in 2007 and it’s really starting to produce a good crop. That said, I’ve referred to it as his bush because while I like the idea of gooseberries, and I certainly enjoy photographing them, I don’t love eating them. Currants I am all over. Gooseberries… meh.
I dug up a baker’s dozen of garlic from my community garden plot. It’s a pretty good haul considering I don’t remember planting it. Chances are I planted at least half of it and the rest is accidental. There are certain gardening activities I have done so many times, I don’t always recall specific instances. Planting bulbs is the best example of this since you do it so many months before the plants make an appearance. It’s either that or the early onset Alzheimer’s, which believe me is no joke. This is one of the things that keeps me up at night. I can be incomprehensibly forgetful at times and I’d swear it’s only getting worse.
Blackberries are coming.
And over at the yardshare garden…. Because I’ve neglected to properly introduce it, the yardshare is quite literally a portion of a large backyard that a neighbour has generously offered up to a few locals to grow a collective garden in. They’ve been growing there for a few years now, and I was invited to join this spring. It came just in time since I was pining for a larger garden space but have been unable to get a plot at the High Park allotments. Waiting lists for community gardens and allotments are getting longer by the year, and yardshares are a new way to find garden space in densely populated urban centres like Toronto.
We have a lot of tomatoes growing there, which is another saving grace since I decided to give the soil a rest at the community garden, and had to pull back on the roof to make space for plants and projects needed for my next book. So between the extras I started at the greenhouse, and another friend who was a bit heavy-handed while sowing tomatoes seeds back in February, we are coming into quite a crop. This is ‘Black Krim’ developing on a vine. I can’t wait! ‘Black Krim’ is still in my top 10, if not my top 5, but I haven’t had a chance to grow it in a few years.
With more available growing space, I decided to grow some larger ornamental edibles. This is ‘Joseph’s Coat’ amaranth. I’ve grown it on the roof but never in the ground. It’s shape kind of reminds me of older poinsettia plants growing in the Caribbean. It develops more into that look as it matures.
Another plant I am growing for the first time this year is Spigarello, an heirloom broccoli rabe that produces edible leaves and few florets. This plant wasn’t in my plan for the year but when I saw the seedlings for sale at Urban Harvest this spring, I knew I had to make space for one, or as it turns out, four. I put one in at the yardshare, one into the community garden plot, and there are two plants in pots on the roof. I bought so many because of the marked variation in the leaves. The plant you see here has very thick foliage and looks more like a typical broccoli, but I have two others that are very thin-leaved and fern-like. I will post some pictures for comparison soon. The young leaves are tender enough to munch on raw. As you can see here the plant is doing very well at the yardshare — between this and the monster kale also growing there, we’re covered for cooking greens. And a friend just gave us a big bag full of Swiss chard. Thankfully I did not plant any of THAT this year.
p.s. The image at the top of the page is roasted elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum).
‘Miniature White’ Cucumber grown on my rooftop. ‘Redbor’ Kale photographed at a community garden in Hamilton, ON.
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.
I spotted this lovely gold and dark purple seasonally appropriate container combo at Fiesta Gardens recently. While I am generally not a fan of the traditional seasonal mixed container, this one is a simple concept with a limited colour palette incorporating unusual plants like the ‘Red Boar’ Kale centre piece that is edible and insanely inexpensive if you start it early in the year. Even still a plant that size at this time of year runs between $6 and $10. I would guess that the price of plants for a container like this (not including the price of the container) would total approximately $50-$100. It’s pricey, a little out of my league — I’d replace the Heuchera with something cheap like black or yellow pansies to lower the cost.
Plants: ‘Red Boar’ Kale [centre], Chrysanthemum [middle ring], Heuchera ‘Black Beauty’ [edging].