{ Archive for the ‘fruit and vegetable gardening’ Category }

Mourning my wee little pumpkin

My excitement over discovering my wee little pumpkin was short lived. A week after I photographed his progress and wrote about him, I noticed the leaves on the vine wilting. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the whole plant had been chewed, cutting of my wee little pumpkin’s lifeline.

Now I don’t know who the culprit was, but I assure you if I ever find out, they’re going to be in BIG trouble! So for a second year in a row, my attempt to grow a pumpkin for Halloween has been foiled. The two other vines in my pumpkin patch have a few flowers on them, but so far I haven’t found any other pumpkins growing.

Although the nature of gardening is always unpredictable, it’s the trail and error that make gardening as a hobby enjoyable. Whether you fail or succeed, there is always a lesson to be learnt. Today’s lesson…..build a protected fortress around next year’s pumpkin patch that is under 24 hour surveillance to prevent hungry critters from enjoy a midnight snack!

Treat your tomatoes to natural fertilizers

I was reading the summer issue of Reader’s Digest’s new mag, Fresh Home, and I came across an article about kitchen-scrap fertilizers for tomatoes. My tomato plants are doing surprisingly well this year, but they’re still shorter than my basil plant. Here’s what the article suggests:

  • Every week, for every foot of height of your tomato plant, add one tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water to add magnesium.
  • When you first plant your tomatoes, add fresh banana peels to the hole. They will act as a slow-release fertilizer, providing potassium and trace elements. I’d heard about doing this for your roses… will have to try next year with my tomatoes!
  • Every week or two, add about six crushed eggshells per quart of water and sprinkle on your plants. The calcium will help the growth of leaf tips and blossom ends and will prevent blossom-end rot.
  • When your tomatoes start to turn red, add a spoonful of sugar to your watering can to help make tomatoes sweeter and juicier.
  • Try planting your tomatoes around a compost bin. As nutrients break down in the surrounding soil, the tomatoes will benefit.

I might try the sugar trick… some of my tomatoes are just on the verge of turning. I’m excited because last year I barely had any and I was eating the few I did get in October and November!

Drop me a line below and tell me if you’ve used any of these tricks or others!

My wee little pumpkin

I spent some time gardening this weekend, and finally got around to weeding my pumpkin patch and low and behold I discovered a wee little pumpkin growing.

Earlier this spring, I bought a package of Mr. Fothergills ‘Jack O’Lantern Pumpkin’ seeds and sowed five seeds indoors. Once they sprouted, I nurtured them lovingly until I was able to transfer them outside. Three of the five plants survived the great outdoors and have continued to thrive. Since we had so much rain this summer, I didn’t really pay much attention to my little pumpkin plants since I didn’t have to worry about watering them.

I’ve had loads of flowers on the vines for the past month, but didn’t think I had any pumpkins bigger than a golf ball until I discovered this little guy who is now the size of a large baseball.pumpkin

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my pumpkin continues to grow over the next two months. I’ve never had much success growing pumpkins. Last year I tried growing a giant pumpkin and was very disappointed with my crop. I ended the season with one green pumpkin about the size of a football. Wish me luck!

A few garden casualties

Sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, something ate the base of my giant zucchini plant and it’s now dying a slow death. My guess is the squirrels got hungry, because I found a half-eaten cucumber nearby. I feel so defeated! It was still growing zucchinis for me, too. I’m glad I’m not depending on my garden to feed me!

Other casualties in my gardens include one of my cedars, a clematis and the cilantro I was so proud of at the beginning of the season. I’m not sure why my cilantro decided to call it a day, but my neighbour told me that clematis’ like a plant in front of them so that their roots are shaded, so maybe that’s why it didn’t continue to flourish. And my mulberry shaded my cedar maybe a little too much, so if I plant another, I’ll have to be sure to trim it back and give it more water. Luckily the other cedar still seems fine. Hopefully it will make it through its first winter!

Eating my way through a veggie tasting

I tried to post this Friday, but unfortunately our sites were down...

Today I had the pleasure of getting out of the office with Canadian Gardening magazine editor Erin McLaughlin and heading to St. Catharines for an event put on by Stokes Best and President's Choice (parents of my zucchini plant). The event was held at Stokes` Trial Farm where they scrupulously test all the different varieties that you may–or may not–see in stores in the next couple of years. Our important task was to provide our feedback on some of the vegetables they were testing for market under the Gigantico brand. We mostly ate tomatoes, but we also got to try some peppers, zucchini and cucumbers.

Erin, myself and Peter Cantley, head of Loblaws Lawn & Garden (photo take by Mark Disero of gardenwriters.ca)

Erin, myself and Peter Cantley, head of Loblaws Lawn & Garden (photo take by Mark Disero of gardenwriters.ca)

Now I'm a very picky tomato eater. The mushy, mealy tomatoes you often find in grocery stores and in restaurants are often left at the side of my plate. That's why I love this time of year! Everything is crisp and sweet and most importantly, fresh and not trucked from hundreds of miles away. I'm excited for my own tomatoes, but I might be eating them in November again at the rate they're going.

What I found funny was that some of the tomatoes I absolutely loved got a lower rating from the other garden writers and the ones I wasn't as excited about ranked as favourites for them. For example, Stokes has a new tomato called `Tumbler` that was bred for hanging baskets. The little tomatoes were crisp and sweet and one of my faves for sure. Some of the feedback was that it was a good tomato for a hanging basket. I guess that means if it was on the vine, it wouldn't measure up. Yet I thought it was one of the most delicious! Some of my other favourites included the `Pepolino` and `Golden Honeybunch.`

The one tomato that seemed to get a unanimous thumbs up was the `Red Candy` grape tomato. It was sweet, firm, juicy and perfect for my picky tomato tastebuds.

Besides the amazing produce, what was also a treat was seeing how both flowers and fruits and vegetables are tested before being deemed suitable for our nearest nursery. The gardens were absolutely beautiful, even despite the excessive rains we've had this summer. I was happy that Stokes got a nice day so they could showcase their gorgeous and tasty gardens.

Pooped on by a bird, doused by a zucchini

Will there be some good luck coming my way? Last night as I was out in the garden, minding my own business amid the plethora of weeds, I felt something fall on my back. As I stood up to look behind me, the giant zucchini leaves I had just cut sprayed water all over my capris from their tube-like stems. When I finally got around to peering at my back over my shoulder, I could see a couple of dark, mulberry-tinged splotches on my pristine white T-shirt. “Not again,” I sighed.

The last time I think I used my recliner, which was last summer, I fell asleep amid a pile of Martha Stewarts and Marie Claire Idees. When I awoke, that familiar-looking mulberry stain graced my shirt.

Since my white shirt was most definitely headed for the wash, I thought I might as well continue, so I stayed out outside weeding for another hour or so, wondering if the birds were up in the tree having a good old laugh at my expense.

What's the best way to pick a zucchini?

zucchiniMy President's Choice Gigantico zucchini plant is a monster! Part of me is glad that a few of my plants didn't work out because this thing is taking over! I picked my first two zucchinis this week. However both times, I broke off the tip of the vegetable. Does anyone have any advice on how to pick them so they end up whole?

Please answer in the comments section below. I also posted a question in the Fruit & Vegetable Gardening forum.

By the way, my zucchinis were delicious! I made both into raw `noodles` with my Joyce Chen spiral slicer last night, added some carrots and a sweet vegan ‘Pad Thai’ sauce I had made and ate it all with a piece of barbecued salmon. Yum!

Tip to help tomato flowers turn into tomatoes

I was reading advice in our forums the other day and one of the posts piqued my interest. A reader was having trouble with her tomato flowers dying before they turned into little tomatoes. “Beeman” came to the rescue and recommended vibrating the flower stem or spritzing the open flowers with a small hand sprayer filled with warm water to encourage pollination. Ten days later, “Crazy4Columbine” reported that the spraying worked! I thought I’d pass along this helpful tip and I might see if it works on my zucchini plant. Some of the flowers have been dying before I get a mini zucchini!

A case of veggie garden envy

I was so excited about my veggie garden this year. We carved out a whole new area in the backyard and I was so optimistic about reaping a bountiful harvest. Sadly, I had a real problem with squirrels… they carried away all but one of my eight cucumber plants, all but two of my eggplants and dug up half my seeds. On the bright side, my two plants that I got at the President’s Choice Lawn & Garden event–a zucchini and a sweet pepper–are doing amazing and I have some hot peppers, onions, tomatillos, beets and bush beans that will hopefully yield at least a couple of vegetables.

But then I went to my sister’s place the other night and her balcony garden is doing amazing! She has green tomatoes already and her plants are all big and bushy. My garden is quite stunted by comparison. I’m thinking maybe I need more nutrients in the soil. Needless to say, I was a little envious of her success. But I still hold out hope that my plants, however stunted, will give me a late harvest. Last year I was still picking tomatillos and tomatoes in November! Fingers are crossed.

Looking forward to picking salad from my garden

Ever since I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver last year, I've been inspired to grow more than just a couple of tomato plants and the odd herb. It seems I’m not the only one… every newspaper and magazine has been extolling the virtues of urban vegetable gardening of late. And with the wealth of information out there, picking your dinner from your yard doesn’t seem so unattainable. I now have a new garden all laid out and I can't wait to plant what I hope will be a bumper crop of veggies.

I've got the seedlings that made it through my fungus gnat infestation–hot peppers, fennel and cilantro–as well as some heirloom tomato plants currently growing in my sister's apartment; a couple of promised plants grown from Gina's tomato seeds–carefully saved each year by a friend’s mom (apparently they yield giant, juicy and delicious fruit!); and a few other plants to join my seeds–a zucchini, a green pepper, and a strawberry (though I may save this for a different spot). I’m also growing beets, beans and a few other treats from seed.

Still on my list are tomatillos, since they were so successful in my yard last year. Apparently my parents, who also grew them, have a bunch coming up in their garden already. I had read that they reseed themselves, but I haven't seen any sign in my own garden so far. Either way, I want to be able to make my own salsa verde again.

There are definitely some lessons I've learned since last year's growing season, the most important, I think, revolving around feeding my soil.

I've also consulted Canadian Vegetable Gardening written by Douglas Green. I love Douglas` stress-free approach to gardening and how the book devotes a couple of pages to each vegetable, making it easy to consult and gather the necessary tips. I had a chance to chat with Douglas recently about gardening when I interviewed him for a Homemakers.com story on growing herbs and took away some helpful tips from that conversation, too.

Another resource I've been consulting is the notebook I took to Canada Blooms. I attended a seminar by Ken Brown who, like Douglas, has a very laid-back, resourceful approach to gardening, yet still reaps tremendous rewards all season long.

I noticed someone in our forums recently had posted her three favourite reference books for veggie gardening, so I added my two cents.

What are your favourite veggie gardening resources?

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