gabriola garden

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A clove of motherly love

When I was just a little tyke and feeling under the weather, my mother would make toast for me and rub a clove of garlic into both sides of the bread. I’ve associated the taste of garlic with the healing warmth of motherly love ever since.

I’m not ashamed to admit it—I love garlic! I eat it almost every day and use it in almost every dish I cook. Sara missed out on the richness of ethnic cooking when she was young, but I’ve more than made up for it by treating her to my style of cooking. Her favorites are tofu stroganoff (with mushrooms, onions, sour cream and garlic), Hungarian stir fried vegetables with garlic and paprika, and baked tomatoes stuffed with a garlic, mayonnaise and dill sauce, invented by yours truly.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Sara is vegetarian. So is our daughter, June. For our son Jim and I, I sometimes make pork stroganoff, stir fried chicken and vegetables, and baked tomatoes stuffed with diced ham, mayonnaise, dill, and—what else—garlic!

I like to grow my own garlic, because frankly the store-bought variety isn’t always fresh or tasty. To plant garlic in Canada, you should do it in the fall. You crack open the garlic head into cloves and plant them vertically in the soil, the same time that you do your spring bulbs.

Autumn planted garlic will remain dormant for a few weeks before it develops roots and a shoot. While winter sets in, the growth below ground slows down until the weather warms up in the spring. This gives the plant a chance to develop side buds that will grow and swell into the cloves.

If the garlic sprouts emerge from the ground before the spring thaw (as they inadvertently do here in British Columbia) they will be resistant to frost and snow, provided you mulch heavily.

I usually mix Advanced Nutrients Iguana Juice Grow into the soil at garlic planting time, then fertilize again in the spring. When the seedlings are standing proud and strong, I usually spray my entire vegetable garden with Scorpion Juice to inoculate against pathogens.

Garlic needs to be in a soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, that has good drainage. Garlic is also susceptible to root diseases, so I treat the soil with Piranha and Tarantula, to colonize it with beneficial fungi and bacteria respectively. This wards off bad fungal, viral and bacterial diseases, and it also helps in the absorption of macro and micro nutrients.

Once spring growth has set in, every two weeks I give my garlic bed a side-dressing of a 100% organic nutrient (such as Iguana Juice or Mother Earth Super Tea Grow) and strong, healthy foilage develops. The robust foilage above ground means that large, healthy cloves are growing underneath.

My next posting will focus on Sara’s flower garden. Our cat Nina recently had kittens—here are two of them. June hasn’t named them yet, but Snowball and Snowflake are strong contenders in the name race. The purple flowers are campanula, the petunias are store bought, and the pink rose is just a pink rose, origin unknown or forgotten.

posted by Tim at 9:07 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Joy of Gardening in Southern Ontario: Gardening, World Cup and Smelling the Roses

posted by Tim at 5:29 PM | 0 comments

Yams, Yarrow, and Paprika

Stumbled across a blog by a South Carolina lady, and she had a story about yams. Ironically, I was peeling a large bowlful of yams at the time for supper, so it all became even more interesting. It seems that a visionary chemist went down to Mexico and discovered that you can extract a substance from yams that can then be transformed into birth control pills! How is that for nature’s bounty?

While Sara tends her flowers and our faithful dog, Max, looks on, I fiddle around with my vegetables. They are nothing to speak of yet, but I went into my picture archives from previous years and found a few veggie shots you might enjoy. Our prize-winning zucchini earned its ribbon by being the fastest vegetable on wheels at the local fair!

For our green beans, we usually build a bamboo frame to run on, and I found this great shot from two years ago. It usually doesn’t fill up like that until August. We’re just putting the string in between the bamboo poles for the plants to climb onto.

Our tomatoes are slow in ripening, but once they do, they are certifiably succulent and a hit with every salad. I couldn’t find a picture of the yams, but they’re not ready to be dug up until fall. Ditto the potatoes. My wife makes a killer yam casserole (which is what we’re having tonight, with store-bought yams). She lays a layer of yam slices, a layer of peeled and sliced golden delicious apples, sprinkles parmesan cheese over the layers, and drowns the whole dish in melted butter. Season to taste.

My ancestors came from Hungary, so I grew up eating food seasoned with liberal amounts of paprika. Turns out the Magyars didn’t invent paprika, which is a red powder made from ground sweet or hot chile peppers. Capsicum annuum actually originated in Mexico 2,000 years ago and Columbus brought the pepper seeds to Europe. The Magyars, knowing a good thing when they taste it, made it their own. Every October there is a Paprika Festival in the Hungarian town of Kalocsa in the south of that middle European country.

I grow hot Hungarian peppers, and also sweet yellow peppers. If the peppers are green and you leave them on the vine in the sun, they’ll turn red. I also grow some red varieties. We cook with them and Sara turns the remainder into tangy pepper jelly, great with sandwiches.

My vegetables, just like Sara’s flowers, benefit greatly from the 100% organic nutrients provided by Advanced Nutrients. I also spray with inoculants, such as Scorpion Juice, in order to ward off pathogens. Sara’s roses perked up immediately after being treated with this wonderful solution.

Another plant that grows in our garden is yarrow. Native to British Columbia, this perennial aromatic herb has been used as medicine by the native peoples of the Pacific coast since time immemorial. The Haida used it as a poultice, the Tsimshian as a sore throat gargle. Other uses for the yarrow were as a childbirth medicine, a bronchitis medication, a cure for colds and measles, to get rid of headaches and to purify the blood.

Before your skeptical side scoffs at all this, just remember that aspirin came from the bark of a tree and that the lowly yam gave us the birth control pill. We have much to learn from our native brethren.

I notice that whenever our dog Max is having stomach problems, he chews on certain grasses on our daily walk. Yet when I try to feed him lettuce, he leaves it in his bowl. Animals know instinctively what’s good for them. Somewhere along the line the human species has forgotten these truths.

Our organically grown vegetables will not only keep us healthy but they’ll help us lose weight this summer. And who among us wouldn’t be better off my shedding a few pounds?

posted by Tim at 3:50 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Finally, here are some pictures

Sara’s flower garden is coming alive with blooms of many varied colors! She is so excited, that the whole family has caught the fever! Our male cat Pinta is absolutely mesmerized most of the time.

Our ten-year old daughter, Hedgehog, loves the Tiger Lily on the back stairs, which my wife grew in a container from a bulb and is thriving this year. It is listed as a “hybrid lily,” but we call it Tiger Lily, after the character in her favorite bedtime story, Peter Pan. All we know for sure is that it’s a member of the Lilium family.

My personal favorite is the pinkish cluster of flowers provided by the Passion Campion (Lychnis viscaria), which is a perennial that we acquired last year. It is a very vigorous plant and starts flowering in late spring.

Sara has several all-time favorites, including the Bulles primrose (Primus x Bulolesiana) which produces orange flowers as far as I’m concerned, but Sara claims they are a shade of yellow.

Another one of Sara’s favorites is the Japanese Snowbell tree (Styrax japonica) next to one of her flowerbeds. This is the perfect time of the year for it to blossom, and it never lets us down. It grows around six to nine meters, and flowers in late spring. We treat it with reverence, since it reminds us of that Nikos Kazantzakis quote: “And I said to the almond tree, sister, speak to me of God, and the almond tree blossomed!”

Also on the back stairs in a container grows what I call a daylily, but Sara insists that I’m wrong. She pegs it as a Zebra Malva (Malva Sylvestris), also know as Mallow. Her gardening books list different types of Mallow, but this one is purple.

The roses that she transplanted from containers into the soil are doing well. Two of them are flowering profusely this year, regardless of a touch of black spot. We removed and burned all the infected leaves and sprayed them with Scorpion Juice in order to inoculate them against further infections. This miracle product from Advanced Nutrients requires spraying every 2-3 weeks during the flowering stage to increase a plant’s immunity. We forgot to spray them when they were in the containers in a different part of the garden.

I suspect that Sara’s very special favorite is the Japanese “Bowl of Beauty” peony (Paeonia lactiflora) which just opened its first flower. It’s a bushy plant, with quite a few buds on it, so we hope for more beauty to come. We feed all our flowering plants with Advanced Nutrients 100% organic nutrients.

Last year we had many poppies, this year our first one just opened. It’s called Beauty of Livermore. It’s a perennial oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) and it’s blood red with the usual black center.

Finally, Sara went to the garden store today and bought some lovely petunias, which will go into a planter box near the back gate. I snapped a picture of them while they were sitting on a patio chair in a box, and I can’t resist posting it. (Being a novice at this, I'll post it next time) Anyway, these pictures will give you an idea of what our garden looks like this year. More enticing visuals to come, to be sure.

posted by Tim at 9:00 PM | 2 comments

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sara's Heavenly Blossoms

I must confess that while the vegetable garden is mostly my domain, our flower garden belongs to my wife. She seems to have a proverbial sixth sense as to choosing just the right blooms to grace our flowerbeds. She scours the garden stores at this time of year for seeds and seedlings, and she prays that our perennials return year after year.

If you do any gardening at all, you know that there are no guarantees. Here is a short list of so-called "perennials" that failed to come back, usually after one season. Magic Fountains Delphinium, Golden Margeurite, Mango Coneflower, Peachleaf Bellflower, Blue Butterfly Delphinium, Blue Clips (or Campanula carpatica), Alpine Aster 'Goliath,' Pacific Giant Delphinium, Guinevere (a Pacific Giant hybrid), Purple Pixie, Princess Blue Viola, and Purple Duet Viola Sorbet, a fancy name for a perennial Pansy.

Those of you who are experienced gardeners are probably snickering because you know some secret reason or other why these flowers of ours refused to return. Wish you would write and tell us. Was it poor drainage, or was overcrowding the probable cause? Did we plant shade plants in the sun, and sun plants in the shade? Did we let our subscription slide to Canadian Gardening?

Next is the partial list of the flowers that do return, year after year. Baby's Breath, Mamma Mia (a light pink pot carnation, that does equally well in the ground), Windflower (an Anemone hybrid), Armeria maritima "Dusseldorf Pride,' Convallaria majalis (a Lily of the Valley), a Perennial Marguerite Daisy (Anthemis 'Wargrave Variety'), Becky Shasta Daisy, Baloon Flower 'Sentimental Blue' (cousin to the Bellflower), Profusion Fleabane Daisy, Calamint (not to be confused with Catnip), Munstead Lavender, Lavandula 'Otto Quast,' Lavender 'Ashdown Forest,' Lavender 'Grosso,' and Swiss Mint, which Sara likes to brew into tea.

I included this limited selection of the variety of flowers in our garden, which includes scores of other species to be discussed in future posts. But even with these few, my wife is able to create a carpet of vibrant blues, delicate pinks, rich yellows, and dainty whites to favorably compare with the palettes of even the most famous of painters. She is very choosy when it comes to just the right flowers. Lavender 'Grosso,' is ideal for drying, whereas Lavandula 'Otto Quast" is better for a healing cup of tea, recommended for headaches and insomnia.

Sara feeds her flowers with well-composted peelings and other debris, as well as 100% organic nutrients from the Advanced Nutrients company. They not only make scientifically researched and balanced macro and micro nutrients for plants, but also protective products that inoculate Sara's flowers against plant pathogens and pests. Bug Away, for instance has proven to be excellent in controlling aphids (the plague of all gardeners), while Barricade is a very beneficial supplement that raises your nutrient pH and results in healthier plants, more vibrant flowers.

We just finished another weekend of knees in the soil, elbows in the dirt kind of gardening, and will be posting pictures of our results in the near future.

posted by Tim at 8:13 AM | 0 comments