Our gardens in many lights

lundi 29 février 2016

Successes and failures, part 3

Cet article en français.

Louise :

The small, third garden that was behind an appartment building is no more. The owner moved the year after it was constructed. Therefore, it will be replaced in our blog by a new vegetable plot located on agricultural land which, from now on, will be refered to as the third garden. But as we don't want to be distracted from the true purpose of today's topic, we will postpone its story for another time. Today we will talk about the successes and failures of this new garden during the summer of 2015. 
On our woodland, the rocks make for an omnipresent kind of harvest.
Since I like to keep the best for the end, I'll start with what didn't work out well.

Failures on the farm :
I planted this new green in March, in the
greenhouse when there was still a lot of
snow outside. I left two plants to seed,
so I have enough seeds for next year.
They are not that numerous and can mostly be explained by the coldness of the summer of 2015: the peppers produced little and, just like at home, we didn't get a single eggplant. The groundcherries didn't produce much either. Barely nothing came out of the harvest of wild red raspberries, contrary to the year before that. Only two plants of zucchinis out of six survived the transplantation phase. They did produce, but not overly well.

I didn't managed to make mâche plants sprout very well and the couple of plants that got through their rough beginning didn't grow very well either. For a first experience, it's not a success!  

I wanted to have new perennial vegetables, including egyptian onions and chives. However for the chives, only half a dozen (out of 36 seeds !) made it and I lost all the egyptian onions. For what reason? They were located in two different places in the garden. The egyptian onions were set at one extremity of a new garden bed, directly in the ground while there was garlic at the other end. The onions all died but the garlic managed quite well (I'll talk about it later on). For the chives, there's a theory for this partial failure: I made them germinate on top of a bale of straw and that sometimes make uneven germination because seeds can sink between the straw stalks and the humidity in straw is hard to maintain constant. I thought I had managed to avoid these two traps, so who knows! 

Successes at the farm :

In the spring of 2015, the strawberries planted the 
previous year came back strong. I planted onions
all aroundThese two plants lived well together!
For the small fruits: we had two dozen strawberry plants called 4 seasons, half of them planted in the spring of 2015 (the other half, the year before). We were able to harvest berries from June until the first hard frosts, about a handful everyday. I always made sure that the young runners - those appearing at the end of the long stalks that the motherplant produces - could root well since they will ensure our future production. Our strawberry plants grow directly in strawbales and they seem to love that.

 This year, I tried a new berrybush that produced really well. The fruits were ready by Mid-August. It's a Nightshade hybrid called 'Sunberry' aka 'Wondeberry' comonly called Garden Huckleberry (Solanum Retroflexum aka Solanum x Burbankii). If the autumn frosts hadn't killed the plants, I believe they would still be producing ! Personally, I love the taste of these berries, but not everybody agrees with me. Some find them rather bland. But they are tiny and tedious to harvest. They are also fragile - their skin looks a bit like that of a blueberry but thinner, so it rips much too easily. They don't keep well either, but my sister made an awesome jam out of them ! Their pulp looks like that of a blueberry too and it's filled with tiny seeds - luckily, these don't diminish the enjoyment of savouring them in any way. Careful ! It Solanumhat this plant can ressed itself abundantly. But more important, don't eat its berries when they are green, as they can be toxic (like green potatoes - same family) and don't mistake them for the European Black Nightshade (Solanum Nigrum), which can be mortally toxic.

We have a humongous wild rose bush that produces lots of rosehips, but we didn't harvest them -  for the second year ! It's simply because we were much too busy with more urgent tasks and didn't take the time.
Trout lily is a bulb that grows in our maple
forest. Althought it grows very slowly, over

many years, it can manage to cover an
expensive surface of ground early in spring.

Perennial vegetables and herbs: 
This is my linden flower harvest of 2015.
My personnal Horn of Plenty!
I managed to harvest some wild plants after assiduously identifying them. One of them was the Trout Lily, for the spotted leaves. It's also called "yellow trout lily" or "yellow dogtooth violet" (Erythronium Americanum). I didn't harvest that one; I only tasted it, since it's reported to be edible. On the other hand, I harvested a good quantity of  goutweed (Aegopodium Podagraria), as usual, but the variety with plain green leaves. The rosemary and the oregano patch did very well too and gave a good harvest. Mint grows  in great quantity on the bank of our small lake and the property is planted with a dozen mature linden trees, so I was able to harvest an entire year's worth of my two favourite herbal teas. 

Annual vegetables: First, the half-successes. If we had as many tomatoes as last year, it's only because we planted triple the plants we had then. The harvest wasn't as big as last year maybe because of the new location we gave to the plants (less sun) but maybe because of the low temperature too. Potatoes didn't produce as much as anticipated but they were planted on a new garden bed receiving barely 8 hours of sun. The ground wasn't ideal neither. It was a new bed made right over the grass that I covered with many layers of cardboard. Then, I covered them with bagged garden soil, compost and manure. This mix isn't bad but here's the deal: The time it will take the cardboard to decompose, the grass will have died. That barrier prevents grass from taking over the new bed but it also prevents beneficial microbes and insects living beneath the grass to colonise the new soil. It takes time for all this to happen and I noticed that new beds made this way don't produce very well at least the first year.

In the fall of 2013, we planted 28 garlic
cloves of a rustic variety with hard
necks  - different from the varieties
we usually get at the store. In 2014,
we put aside 48 cloves for our fall
plantation (picture taken in July 2015).
In October 2015, I planted 60 cloves.
Each year, I make our crop bigger.
Each year, I move them to a different
spot in the garden to insure a rotation.
On the other hand, I finally pierced the mystery of how to successfully grow onions: you have to plant them as early as possible, since the varieties that grow well here in Quebec are photosensitive. This means that they stop producing leaves when the days start to shorten, after June 21th. If the leaves haven't grown enough, they don't produce enough energy to help the bulb to grow. This year, we managed to harvest bulbs of a more respectable size. A first!

Many of our vegetables did very well. We had a nice kohlrabi harvest (the heads were a bit small, however),  nice beets, rutabagas and forage beets harvests too. The forage beets were used for my sister's horses as winter fodder. We could have used them ourselves: we just had to harvest them young and tender. The leaves are also edible but we didn't even bother to sample them. 

We had a great quantity of good, big carrots. On a whim, we tried to replant the carrots we pulled out at the clearing stage. This was my sister's idea. We planted them en masse and then took out the seedlings that were too close together). These unwanted carrots managed to reroot themselves well, but they ended up malformed, some of them coming out round like an apple! Still, they were delicious and most of them really big.

The dwarf beans and the climbing beans produced a lot, so did the peas and radishes. The roman lettuce lasted until the end of August!
One of our many garden beds made from bales of oat straw. For the curious ones, like Helene, the lean-down fence was placed there to prevent the dogs from running through the garden - they were taking that path as a shortcut instead of going around it before.

Dwarf beans, hybrid squashes, forage beets grow in these straw bale garden beds. The wire fence at the back leans on a tree stump and is used to make peas climb up it. At their feet you can see roman lettuce growing, they are a nice shade of light green.
The broccoli  are hidden under the plastic sheet,
on the left hand of this photo, to protect them from
insects. The sunflowers produced nicely, which allowed
us to give many seeds to our chickens throughout the
fall season
Broccolis, grown from seeds (too much seeds, actually), have been transplanted and produced nice heads and  a multitude of smaller heads, that we picked on three subsequent harvests! I also learned that in mild enough climates, broccoli could produce for two to three years! If I had left them in the ground instead of ripping them off at the end of October, we could certainly have had more. I chose instead to keep the best leaves for ourselves and give the rest to the horses.

The four plants of sweet potatoes gave us a harvest of 10 lbs (close 5 kg), about thedouble of what I managed back at my home (same number of plants at the farm and at home). There was more space for them to grow at the farm however, but the weather was cooler. In both gardens, it's still a great success considering this vegetable doesn't like cool weather.

 We got 68 squashes (pumpkin, Butternut, Buttercup and a delicious hybrid of spaghetti and Buttercup, from my friend, Aya). The only one who didn't fare well was a variety called Kumi that produced only one fruit.

New in the garden: I managed to grow amaranth and yellow nutsedge (Cyperus Esculentus), chinese mallow, aka cluster mallow, (Malva Verticillata) which leaves are good to eat, and Bunias Orientalis (goes by many names: warty-cabbage, hill mustard, turkish rocket, etc.). It's a perrenial I'll be able to taste next year.

Up to now, we presented through this blog a garden located in a village, another in the suburb and briefly, a tiny tenant's garden, situated at the back of an apartment building.

Of course, the garden we are presenting here is different on many levels: the size of it, the climate, the closeness of a piece of forest, the presence of animals, both domesticated and wild. I'll be interested to reveal it little by little. I have the firm intention of trialling a wide array of plants and techniques here and to showcase it, on this blog. Keep a close watch!

Let me introduce you to Petit Coeur (Tiny Heart, our young red rooster, shown here lying in the foreground) and three of his ladies. The picture was taken in September and they were all born on the 10th of June, 2015. It was our second summer  raising meat chickens. We meant to send them all to the slaughterhouse, a bit before September. We didn't plan on keeping any chickens throughout winter; our chicken coop wasn't settled yet to protect well from our harsh winter weather. But Petit Coeur was such a great boy, following us everywhere, begging to be petted and observing our every move while we were working on the chicken run. That's what saved him. Also, of all the "male" chicks that were sold to us, we found out there were five females in the bunch (sexing on just-hatched chicks is quite hard and is done by observing certain feather on the wings). Three of them started to lay eggs in mid-december.


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