The miraculous change from bodacious bloom to bountiful fruit! I would be happy to grow a creeping pumpkin vine just for the glamorous golden blossoms, but am grateful to also get my sweet pie pumpkins. See more pumpkins by clicking here.
Beets are one of the jewels of the veggie garden. Juicy red-purple stems carry ruffles of wine veined leaves that can be a feast of their own. Plump and potent roots swell into globes of earthy sweetness waiting for harvest. And ‘oh the glow!’ of pickled beets nestled amongst vinegar, sugar and cloves in a mason jar.
Veggie gardens are in full swing now! Fat, fragrant garlic bulbs have been pulled. Frilly, bushy kale is lush for the picking. Cabbage heads have rounded out. Beets have plumped. Green beans hang waiting. Snow peas jiggle in the breeze. Lettuce is still lush. Fennel and dill wave their feathery leaves and waft their savoury scents. Zucchini and cukes are profuse – pickling has begun! Peppers are dangling. Precious tomatoes are ripening. The bounty, the glory, the harvest!
The August planted arugula has grown into perfect green lusciousness, and I have fallen in love with it all over again! Arugala adds a unique zippy, zesty flavour, thus its alias of ‘rocket’, ‘salad rocket’ or ‘roquette’. The tasty leaves can be added to salads, top a stir fry, or spice up an omelet or sandwich – yum! And these peppery leafy greens are so easy to grow; sprinkle the seeds as evenly as you can over fresh soil in a ground or container garden, cover with another 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil and then water. I haven’t tried them indoors, but may this winter!
I have a soft spot for self-seeders. How can I not appreciate any plant that seeds itself, and of its own accord, goes on to thrive and offer me sweet blooms? You never know where a self-seeder may pop up – between stepping stones, amongst pea gravel, or in this case, in the strawberry patch. I left a ripe strawberry for the photo below. This portulaca warms my heart and has given me spritely blooms of encouragement all summer as I picked strawberries (ever bearing). And it’s still going! Note - Portulaca is an annual, but quite happily self-seeds unless you dead head.
You have to love the warm, rich scent in the house when you are saucing tomatoes! Sauce can be traditional for many people. For me it is all about harvesting the fresh flavours from the garden, capturing them to enjoy in our long winter months. And being more of a pasta sauce than just tomatoes, this batch collected from the garden: tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, garlic and basil.
Dill pickles are one of those things that once you have homemade, you can’t go back. They have a sour, salty, tangy, dill-y taste that cravings are made of. The basic flavouring ingredients are simple: equal parts vinegar (I use a mix of white and cider vinegar) and water, lots of fresh dill, mustard seed, and salt and fresh garlic to taste. Since I grow cukes, garlic and dill in the garden, dill pickles are a must every year. I never tire of the vibrant green when you pour the hot vinegar mixture into the cuke and dill packed jars. Now to wait a month or two while the flavours steep!
Pungent, spicy, aromatic...culinary herbs bring texture, depth and a whole other world of scent to the garden! When walking my path, with thyme amongst the stepping stones, and mint mixed in the plantings, you need only slightly brush these herbs to release their fragrant rush. Some herbs such as basil, rosemary and dill are annuals, but many herbs like sage, lavender, mint, thyme and lemon balm are perennials – just check the labels for zone information as there are many varieties. The lavender and sage below are over 10 yrs old. You cannot mention mint without a big warning on its invasive quality. Mint needs a well contained bed of its own, or preferably a big pot to keep it contained. Of course culinary herbs make one of the best container gardens. I have herbs in pots, in the veggie garden and mixed in the perennial gardens. For me, culinary herbs make the garden interactive: a caress of rosemary transfers my thoughts to the Mediterranean, a snack of mint or parsley awakens the palate, a leaf of lemon balm refreshes, velvety sage makes me think of holiday dinners, and dill makes me crave dips and pickles!
The veggie garden has moved into summer harvest mode. Zucchini and pumpkins are in lavish bloom, with baby zucchini now on the menu. Tomatoes are blooming, ripening and some are ready to pick. Peas and beans are hanging heavy with their bounty. Raspberries and blackberries shine in the sun, getting riper and sweeter. Beets have fattened under the earth, and are now waiting to be plucked. Glorious kale, with purple stems and curly green, is a regular harvest. Lettuce marches on despite summer heat. Cabbage is a luxurious blue-purple. Nasturtiums, with edible flowers and leaves, add spice in taste and colour to greens. In a week or two I will plant another round of lettuce, arugula and peas, to sneak in more harvest before cold weather hits.
I hear the comment all the time, ‘veggie gardens are a lot of work’, and I am sorry to say that it is true. Plus you need full sun, good soil, and regular watering, so there better be big reward! A short walk in my veggie garden this morn revealed lots of rewards. Chives are in full mauve pom-pom bloom. Baby zucchinis are just forming from their golden trumpet blossoms. Green beans in an orderly row will soon be blooming. Kale, with its purple stems contrasting to slate-green curly leaves, is ready for the picking. Gorgeous garlic has a fan of green topped with arching, elegant scapes. Lush lettuce begs to be harvested. Baby beets have a way to go, but some will be stolen away as greens. And there is ripe red treasure hiding in the strawberry patch. If you don’t have the space or time for a veggie garden, this is an excellent time to seek out your local market!
Seeds and seedlings are finding homes in the warm earth of the veggie garden. They’re nestled in rows enriched with composted manure with happy worms doing their thing. Old straw is waiting to mulch betwixt and between the rows. I have pinched the odd tiny leaf of arugula to taste its peppery flavor. Peas, lettuce, beets and carrots have all sprouted. Purple cabbage, banana pepper and kale seedlings look so tiny, but how they will grow. Asparagus keeps pushing through, and rhubarb is crazy. Seeds for green beans, pole beans, swiss chard, zucchini, cukes, pumpkins and next flights of peas have all been planted, and the tomatoes have just started going in. Strawberries are blooming. Now if we could just have a nice gentle rain to tuck it all in!
Nasturtiums do double duty with perky orange, sunny yellow and rich red blooms, plus the leaves, buds and blossoms are all edible. And triple duty, since although it is an annual, the seeds are easy to collect in the fall for replanting the next year. Nasturtium directly translates as ‘nose twist’, due to the unique fragrance, and the peppery flavour of the blooms and leaves. There are mounding bush or climbing vine varieties. Both have rounded soft leaves and liberal flowers with several colour options. These are also one of my favourite bouquet flowers thanks to their sweet scent, and long lasting, delicate blooms. Nasturtiums are susceptible to aphids, though resist them if watered well. I plant them in the veggie garden as an aphid lure; the aphids prefer the nasturtiums to most veggies, and the aphids are easy to see and remove (and squish underfoot!). There are many varieties to choose from. ‘Alaskan Mix’ is a regular for me, and this year I’m trying ‘King Theodore’ for crimson velvet blooms. My seeds came from Floribunda Seeds – a delightful organic seed farm not far from where I grew up. You can check them out at www.floribundaseeds.com. It is worth the effort to pick up a packet of nasturtium seeds for container or ground - easy to grow, edible, and ornamental with abundant and assorted blooms!
Technical stuff – Nasturtium/tropaeolum, annual, seeds can be started indoors for head start, or plant in ground after last frost, bush and vining varieties, bush variety grows about 12” tall, poor to average well drained soil, sun to part shade, blooms summer and fall.
I have a dear gardening Aunt that lives on Vancouver Island – a haven for gardeners! When visiting her last summer, amongst the buffet she prepared was a gorgeous bowl of multi coloured tomatoes. They were of course ripely delicious, resplendent in shades of green, ruby, golden, mahogany and even white. I gushed compliments, and later in the mail received seed packets for each variety – yes, I am spoiled! Much as I love the prospect of starting seeds indoors, I have not (yet) invested in the space, grow lights and shelving units. But for this sampling of indoor growing adventure, I did pick up a tray and peat pellets to position in a sunny window. The dry peat pellets were showered with water, and it was wonderfully satisfying to see them in moments swell to little earthy homes. Then, I tucked the tiny tomato seeds ¼” into these earthy pockets of potential. Now the anticipation of sprouts begins, and the promise of their bursting bounty for mid-August! The varieties I planted included: black cherry, gardener's delight, yellow pear, green grape and snow white.