I had big plans, HUGE PLANS, to use this post to write about exciting topics that were guaranteed to delight and amuse, but then we popped over to the community garden this evening to check on the first zucchini — which you can guess by now began as a simple task but quickly turned into a marathon work session. I have been waiting on eggshells for the first little miniature penis-like thing to be pollinated (incidentally this phallic-like thing is the female flower) by the pollen from a male flower and evolve into a full-grown zucchini. Before someone says it, yes I could have pollinated the female flower myself but I was not at the garden when the flower was open.
I don’t know what it is about that first zucchini that inspires such excitement although I suppose the first of just about anything worth harvesting from the garden is exciting. The first tomato, the first pinch of basil, the first onion, I can’t think of a single first in the garden that doesn’t inspire even the tiniest mental high five. Read aloud that makes me sound an awful lot like the dudes from “Gummo” as they glow with pride over a haul of dead cats. “I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.”
Come to think of it I’d say that the other thing about that first zucchini is that waiting for it to grow becomes like a sort of death watch, a race between myself, an unknown mammalian critter who just loves to take a solitary bite from my zucchinis, and the developing fruit. Will I get to the zucchini BEFORE it is discovered by a mammalian critter (i.e. ground hog, opposum, cat) but AFTER the zucchini has reached a large enough size for picking? Who will win? Do I take a chance and leave it just one more day only to arrive the following afternoon to discover a ready-to-harvest fruit still on the vine but with a few scattered chunks and teeth marks cut into it? It’s all the thrill of gambling without any of the reward. First you get the zucchini, then you get the power. This has happened many times, and god knows I don’t enjoy it, but the disappointment of defeat is a lot more acceptable once a few good-sized zucchini’s have made it to the dinner table.
As you can see from the picture I did not take a chance and removed the zucchini even though it could have gone another day or two. But you know, it’s the first one of the season, it’s a reasonable size, and it’s edible.
I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.
Special thanks to Davin Risk, the Official You Grow GirlÃ¢â€žÂ¢ Hand Model Alternate. The t-shirt should clear up any question as to our country of origin. Hint: It rhymes with Free Health Care.
Despite the cold — and the fact that we experienced a brief and light snowfall this afternoon — outdoor gardening is still happening here in Toronto. I am yet to put any of my gardens to bed. The side garden is fine really. Doing a last clean-up is pretty much my choice. I choose to be lazy until such time when and if I am struck with the spirit of Martha.
Hardneck garlic before planting. I bought these cloves at the Organic Farmer’s Market… specifically from The Dufferin Grove Market and the Plan B Farm. They were still selling cloves today if you’re looking in Toronto.
The rooftop container garden is another thing entirely. I have really got to get on that action. Dead annuals need to be composted, soil collected, pots scrubbed clean and brought indoors, and everything put away — it’s a crucifixion! Things are starting to freeze up there. I should be out there right now, not inside in the warmth, heating my body by the warm monitor glow. I’ll get on that tomorrow.
Planting Thyme in the cold, wet dirt. Sure is fun!
Thankfully I have been slowly working on the community garden since the first signs of fall back in September. I planted hardneck garlic last week, and Egyptian clumping onions at least a month prior. I pulled up or cut back most of the dead calendula and borage, pulled up a zucchini plant, harvested everything that wasn’t going to see another day, and laid straw down. Rather than overwintering potted perennial herbs as I often do, I elected to plant the marjoram and various thyme varieties in a section of the new community plot. All of the still-green tomatoes were picked and are sat on top of the warm fridge ripening. I’ve got a single precious ‘Black Pear’ tomato left that I am saving until the absolute perfect moment to enjoy on a fried egg sandwich with pesto.
As things get colder I am finding myself longing for the days of summer when I was out in the garden sweating in a t-shirt. Sweat and heat exhaustion sound good right now. I was at the community garden on Saturday wearing several layers to protect against both the cold and the rain. When I got home my hands were frozen and went through that terrible dethawing process that is a mix of both itchiness and pain. I love gardening and even those those wet days can be some of the best for things like planting perennials even I can’t sell it. Digging in cold wet dirt just sucks!
Because I am afflicted with the disease commonly known as “Can’t-Walk-Past-Plants, Most-Especially-Plants-on-Sale”-itis and because an entire kitchen garden that was non-existent a few days ago doesn’t seem to be enough today; I done went and bought me some pathetic-looking transplants. But wait, they were only fifty cents! Except the tuberous begonia — that was two bucks.
It went like something like this: I was walking past the Loblaws (Canadian supermarket chain) where I was lured by a sign hanging over the garden centre stating, “The Sales Have Begun!”, to which my mind responded, “I may be able to squeeze a few more plants in. This is last, last call. I can’t NOT see what they have. And I need more soil amender.”
In fact we’re so far into summer that this week is sort-of like last call in a city like Montreal where the bars stay open late followed by another round at a skeezy after hours bar where libations are surreptitiously purchased from some dude sitting on one side of the room and mixers are purchased legally from a station marked “Canteen” on the other side. And to be honest grubby is kind of how I felt buying fifty cent hybrid peppers from the garden centre of a popular chain supermarket when the remaining 99 percent of my plants are homegrown heirlooms or purchased from small, organic growers. But when that last call panic sets in I can be swayed to the dark side by just about any sad looking thing with a sale tag. Plus I am going to save these plants from the dumpster and grow more food! Right?
Here’s what I got:
- Tuberous Begonia – I could have cared less about tuberous begonias until I learned that the petals of hybrid varieties have a sour, acidic taste that makes a juicy substitute for lemons. Now I’m a champion for tuberous begonias everywhere. I chose a variety with golden orange flowers.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Orange Grande’ – This one had a fair-sized pepper on it. When buying sale plants try to avoid plants with flowers and fruit since the stress of living in a tiny pot results in plants that have put all of their resources into reproducing. I chose mine because it had the healthiest, lushest looking leaves of the bunch. The pots were fair-sized making peppers a good choice regardless. Peppers aren’t heavy feeders and can take a bit of abuse. Tomatoes on the other hand were just plain done. I had to pull myself away knowing that nothing was going to save them now.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Sweetspot’ – Okay, how could I not buy a variety called ‘Sweetspot’? I am immature.
- Zucchini ‘Goldrush’ – It didn’t look any worse than the plant I just transplanted from my shady plot so why not?
- Columnar Basil and Genovese Basil – One can never grow enough basil. I am convinced this is true.
I picked the pepper off as soon as I got it home. Part of the strategy behind Project Save the Hybrids is to get them on the road to producing healthy leaves and establishing roots. Allowing the pepper to continue forming would be diverting energy into the wrong place.
And yes I did purchase bags of soil amender; mushroom compost to be exact. Unfortunately it was not on sale.