Monday, July 29, 2013

Garden things

As documented on this blog, last year was my first time trying to grow a vegetable garden. Some things went well, some not so much, but I learned from my own trials and errors and from the valuable advice of experienced gardeners.

My second year with a vegetable garden is going quite well. Again, some things didn't work out as I wanted, but other things seem to be very good successes!

Vegetable garden 2013
I have green and  yellow beans which I sowed a little late, so they are lagging a bit behind. Similar issues with the peas. I sowed them in pots but took way too long to transplant them, so they didnt get very big. My romaine lettuce grew nice and big, however, and we enjoyed many fresh leaves before the last 2 heads went in bloom.
Last year, I had one kuri squash plant. It was an awesome discovery for me, as I absolutely loved the taste of this beautiful deep orange squash in soups, cream soups or just as an accompanying vegetable to a meal. This year, I planted 2 plants in stead of one, and they seem to be doing very well! If all goes well, I will harvest more than double the amount I had last year. (Well, I only had 3... )
The picture below shoes 2 of the young squashes. They will become a deep orange colour as they grow bigger. 

Young kuri squash
Zuchini, which we had way too many of last year, are not doing nearly as good this time around. I only planted 1 plant, but it's being a bit invaded by my pumpkin plant, which is totally and absolutely thriving! It is the first time that I try growing pumpkin (as in real halloween pumpkins, you know!). I'm really excited about the possible outcome!

Halloween pumpkins in the making!
Another thing being a bit invaded by the pumpkins are some special kinds of beans, which I don't know the name of in English. I have 3 different sorts cramped between the huge crawling pumpkin plant and the very tall sweet corn. Thankfully, I also have some in a huge pot somewhere else in the garden, and those are doing very well! (they taste awesome too!)

Finally, the corn! Last year, I ended up with - I think it was 3... - very pittiful corn plants, and didn't eat a single corn cob. This year is much better. I have 6 very healthy corn plants that grew tall and green and are starting to form cobs! It will be interesting to see if the cobs will be full and nicely formed. 

In the greenhouse, my tomatoes are having a bit of a hard time. They get something called "blossom-end rot", which, as far as I understand, is caused by a lack of nutrients. :( So that's a big disappointment. However, I'm working hard to try and save the tomatoes that are on the way now. I am hoping this organic fertilizer I got will help the matter.
On the other hand, my mini cucumbers are doing great. They are delicious and provide perfect little snacks when I'm working in the greenhouse. :)
Chilies "Apache" and Jalapeno are also doing great! I am very happy with my chili plants this year. They look really good. I'm thinking of trying to keep them in the house over winter. I read that this is possible! We'll see... 

Apart from plants growing and cucumbers, lettuce and beans being eaten, there are also things going on in the yard, as always... 

The compost corner has been upgraded to a paved compost-and-branch-and-such-things corner. A place where we can put non-compost garden "trash" until we can bring them away with the trailer, and of course where we still have our compost bin. 
Paved "compost corner"
The stones we used to pave the area are recycled from the terrace by the greenhouse. We are about to lay new stones, so in stead of getting rid of the old ones, we used them to pave this corner. Nothing like recycled stones to pave a compost corner, don't you agree? :) 
The plan is to have bushes an flowerbed around the area as a wall to hide the corner from view. We will also eventually build a second compost bin to make turning and things a little easier. 

Field stones are also useable in the garden. I had field stones around some of my flowerbeds, and I didn't really like the look. I wanted something more open / less framed. But I had another plan for the stones I removed. 

Field stone path
Since I removed the fence around the terrace by the house, I have been walking directly out through the flowerbed in stead of going around it. Going around was a detour when one wants to go to the garden patch or the compost corner. So I decided to make the new path "official" with stones. The flowerbed will all be rearranged anyway, so that was the first step!

And what do we do when we've enjoyed our garden during the day and made improvements and all that? Well, we sit outside during the evening and observe the night life waking up for its shift!

Mr. Hedgehog came to say hello... 
... And the bats come out for their insect hunt. 

Bat, july 2013
There's no where like home... I love my house, my greenhouse and my garden!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer days in the garden

Aaah... summer vacation. A time to reconnect with myself and my interests. A time to take it easy and follow my own rhythm. I am enjoying every minute of it!

So what exactly am I doing of this lovely sunny peaceful time? Here are a few samples of my recent activities.


First, my husband discovered a dove nest in the tree right in front of our balcony. There are 2 fuzzy chicks and a protective mommy! I discreetely take a look at them every so often. So cute! And interesting to see how long they will stay sitting in their nest. :) The mommy often leaves them but usually only sits on the rooftop of the neighbors house some 15 meters away.

Muddy business

When my husband and I were digging (and digging and digging and diggiiing) in preparation to installing the greenhouse, we reached a level that was composed of beautiful clay soil. I gathered some and put it aside for later use. This week, I finally took my sample up and decided to try and clean it.

Clay from my own backyard
In order to clean my clay, I first submerged it in water and broke it down with my fingers until I obtained a homogeneous texture.

I then poured the muddy liquid through a sieve to remove small stones and roots or other unwanted bodies that were mixed with the raw clay soil, and let the somewhat refined muddy soup rest and settle for a day. The clay and sand being heavier than water, it fell to the bottom, leaving a level of clear water on top. I gently removed as much of the clear water as possible without loosing any clay.

Settled clay-water mixture
I was left with a still-quite-liquid mud. I lined a big tray with a good thickness of newspaper, covered with an old piece of cloth. (an old pillowcase, to be precise). I then poured the mud on the cloth. The cloth and newspaper should take some of the water, while evaporation will also do its part.
The rest of this muddy adventure will follow in a future post, as I am still waiting on the result of the experiment!


I have a few lavander plants here and there and while I really like their look and fragrance, I decided to remove 2 of them, which I find are not very well placed. Before pulling them up, though, I decided to cut the flowers and hang them to dry.


Hanging lavander to dry.
(They are actually hanging in the house now in a dry, darkish corner)


A friend gave me some dried rods that came from a plant she grows in her garden. I don't know the name of it in English, but it makes thin bamboo-looking rods that can be used as support for plants. I've been using them especially for my tomatoes and beans. They're great because they're totally natural. I find they give more of an authentic look to the whole thing.

I don't have many flowers in my greenhouse or garden (hopefully more next year!), but I do have one which I started from seeds and is doing quite well. According to google and wiki, it is called a Rhodochiton, or purple bell vine. The young plants are growing and climbing beautifully, so I used some of the rods and made a bigger, more permanent trellis for the vines to climb up on. 


In previous years, I have tried growing basil and was never really successful. Basil is quite sensitive to cold and doesn't seem to like fresh nights and wind. So growing basil outside was always a bit of a challenge. I also only learned last year that basil likes to be cut and used! The move you cut it, the more beautiful and fulll it will grow.

Thi syear, with a bit more knowledge and with my brand new greenhouse, both red and green basil are thriving! So today, I decided to make some pesto.

Thriving basil

Beautiful, healthy basil leaves

- A good amount of fresh basil leaves
- a small amount of pine nuts
- some garlic
- olive oil
- (parmesan, unless your partner doesn't like cheese... sigh)

Finely chop the choppable stuff and add some olive oil. Tadaaah. Yummy!

Home made pesto

Aaand that's about it for now!

Happy summer!