Monday, June 30, 2014

Veggie Garden Triumphs and Tragedies

It's been a long while since I last wrote a Triumphs and Tragedies post.  Not sure what my excuse is but it's high time I got back at it.  One thing I've realized over the last four years of blogging is that my failures garner just as much or more attention than my achievements.  You can find pretty pictures of flowers and vegetables anywhere but can you find a picture of a dead cucumber seedling on anyone else's blog?

This was the case recently when someone emailed me from New Hampshire.  They were looking for a photo of a dead cucumber for their newsletter.  The newsletter article was discussing how cucumber seedlings can wilt and die quickly due to temperature fluctuations.  Apparently my photo was the only one to be found on the internet.

Now this isn't necessarily the kind of attention I hope for when I blog, but it is gratifying to hear that my errors help other people in some way.  And it makes me realize the value in my failures.  We can all learn from my mistakes.

With that in mind I bring you my 2014 spring vegetable garden.

I was very proud today as I weeded, watered and trimmed the entire garden.  It looks pretty darn good I think.  Every year this garden looks better.  More varieties of plants, healthier plants, and a longer growing season.  Part of the reason is better soil. When I started growing veggies in this spot the soil was less than stellar.  Each season I have put down a variety of amendments in hopes of improvement.  Lime, bloodmeal, bonemeal, manure, mushroom compost and my own compost all have gone into these beds and the results are really showing.  Spinach that was spotted and stunted the first year is now healthy dark green with large leaves.

I'm also trying new varieties of veggies each year, spreading my wings.  Some are hits and some are misses.  Swiss chard planted last season looked beautiful but didn't get eaten.  Kale planted this year has been a huge hit.  I planted kale thinking the baby leaves would be good in salad, which they were.  But now we are cooking up the big leaves as well to freeze for winter to add to pasta sauces and soups.

Chard was pretty but neither of us wanted to eat it.
Another triumph is how we have expanded the length of our season.  My thanks go out to Niki Jabour and her book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.  This book has become my go to guide on Atlantic Canada vegetable gardening.  There is tons of great advice on every vegetable imaginable but Niki also showed me that vegetable gardening doesn't have to be limited to a couple short months.  With a little planning and know how I can plant peas and spinach as soon as the snow melts and be eating salads by June.

That said, I also refer to this book a lot when things go wrong.  Like this.

What's that you say?  Doesn't look like anything.


I have tried for two years now to grow parsnips.  This is the results of my effort.  A bare patch of ground.  Frustrated I finally went to my books the other day and discovered that parsnip seed doesn't last.  In fact, even fresh seed doesn't have great germination rates.  So the seed I planted  last year that didn't germinate ......  right, it's not going to germinate this year either.  Mark that one down as a tragedy.

Fresh seed is the lesson of the day I think.  Radishes were also a bust this year.  I managed to pick two.  I planted somewhere around 30.  Could be because the seed is 5 years old?  Probably time to buy a new packet.

Germination rates are also a problem even with fresh seed.  Did I mention that it took two tries to get the spinach growing this year?  Only about 10% of the first packet germinated.   So I had to go back a second time and replant.  I had about 60% germination the second time around and thankfully we now have spinach.  But next year I'm buying two packs straight off and planting it all.

So there you have it, lessons learned and shared.  How about you?  What have you learned in the garden lately?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Common Links

I have a list for you.


Moose (
Beans  (

Can you tell me what these things have in common?

No, I haven't lost my mind.  Not yet anyway.  I'll keep you posted.

Any guesses?


Spinach has approximately 2.0 - 3.4 milligrams of iron per 1/2 cup serving.

Moose has 3 milligrams of iron per 100 gram serving.

Beans such as black beans, cranberry or pinto contain anywhere from 2.6 - 4.9 milligrams of iron per 3/4 cup serving.

Why does this matter?

Iron is part of the system that produces red blood cells which work to bring oxygen from our lungs to our bodies, it also helps convert blood sugar to energy and helps in the functioning of our immune systems.  When you are lacking in iron you may find you are tired and dizzy, suffer from headaches and weakness.

I have learning a lot about iron lately.  Vitamin B12 too.  Both are necessary in the production of red blood cells.  Part of what I have learned is that I am lacking both of them.  It's not great news but at least I have an explanation for the issues I have been experiencing.  Now I can work toward correcting the problem.

Which brings to me to my garden.  I can't grow moose.  I'm pretty sure about that.  But I can certainly grow spinach, and beans.  But what to do with those things once they've been grown?  I love spinach salad, and spanokopita. That's a good starting point.  But what other ways can I use spinach?  And beans are not something I normally eat.  I don't dislike them but I don't eat them.  I need to start.  So I planted soybeans this year to trial.

I'm looking for suggestions.  What is your favourite spinach recipe?  How do you cook your beans?  Part of the trick I think is to find tasty ways to eat these foods.  Looking up recipes is okay but I would love to see some recipes that people actually use and love.  Let's face it, if it doesn't taste good I won't eat it.  So please, send me your favourite recipe, tell me where to find a moose.  I greatly appreciate any and all suggestions.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The First Flush of Spring

It seems difficult to believe but the first flush of spring blooms has finished and we are well on our way into early summer.  I say difficult to believe because it has been darn cold around these parts.  We're looking at a high of 15 degrees for the next couple days.  That is not normal for June.  It should be in the low twenties at least.  It has been so cold that my vegetable garden is still not planted.  I fear putting out my basil seedlings lest they die in the frigid overnight temperatures.  I loathe the idea that it may never warm up enough to allow heat seeking plants like pumpkins to grow to full size.  It is looking like one of those summers.

For now though we'll look at the positive side.  Cool temperatures meant that daffodils opened their sunny faces and stayed around for weeks.

Golden Echo Daffodils
 Taking a tip from Jennifer @ Three Dogs in a Garden I paired my daffodils with Snowdrop anemone.  

Daffodils in the foreground are echoed by anemones in the background
The plants are similar colours with similar bloom times.  The anemone lingers longer though and hides the withering daffodil leaves in their foliage.

snowdrop anemones
I also enjoyed how the daffodils picked up the white fringes of the hosta leaves.

There is a lot of white in my spring garden.  The tiny flowers of sweet woodruff, the bells of Solomon Seal.  There is more than white in my spring garden though.  Tiny purple violets peek out at me from shady corners.

Tulips blushed and then blossomed.  Shades of pink and purple gracing the bed day after day.

 And a good dose of yellow as well

Cushion spurge makes a great foil against the yellow trumpets of daffodils and pops against the pink of tulips. 

I must say I am feeling a major sense of accomplishment this spring.  Although the daffodils and tulips have faded I can see the next crop of blooms starting to push out.  It's taken four years but this bed is finally starting to resemble a mature garden.

Time for a happy dance I think. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Slow Drains, Cracks and Leaks

Houses can be really frustrating, can't they?  Some days I just want to tear my hair out.

We had been contemplating renovations for this season.  There's a long list.  The exterior paint job on the house still isn't finished.  The gutters need replacing.  The driveway could use some gravel.  The front door has a pretty serious draft.  All important fixes and just the tip of the iceberg.

Remember this?
We had pretty much decided our plan of action and ....... not gonna happen.

Houses are like that aren't they? It's true.  Especially houses circa 1890. They have an agenda all their own.

It all started when Jody left town. The upstairs bath started to drain slower .. and slower ...... and slower ......... until it completely stopped. That was frustrating but workable. It’s amazing what a little vinegar and baking soda can accomplish. I got it running again, somewhat. When Jody came home he decided to look at the plumbing.  Just lift up the ceiling tiles in the downstairs bath and take a peek at the pipes .......  No.  That's NOT going to happen.

Our downstairs bath has ceiling tiles we can lift to access the upstairs plumbing
Frustrated yet?  Turns out the bathtub's plumbing isn't conveniently located under the ceiling tiles.  That plumbing is located in the hallway.  Sealed under drywall.  That’s not smart.  Some implements of destruction were required .....

look up... way up..
The good news is the pipes were located and a hairball the size of a large rat was removed. Well maybe it was a rat but we'll never know for sure.  The good news is I can now take a shower again without standing knee deep in water. Small victories.

That should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Of course.  Two weeks later I was cleaning the bath and I hear Jody yell STOP WHATEVER IT IS YOU’RE DOING!!!!! You see, we hadn’t patched up that hole in the ceiling yet. Turns out that was a blessing and a curse. There is a leak. Had we patched up the hole we would not have known. But we didn’t and now we do. And my frustration level is rising. Little wonder really.  The plastic backing in the surround is full of cracks. Cracks that are leaking into the wall.

Definitely not the most stylish bath you've ever seen.  The oh so lovely plastic walls in the bath are the culprit.
Which means it needs to come out. And if you’re going to fix that, you might as well fix the entire bathroom.... Say goodbye to a new front door. Our budget has been seized by an unexpected bathroom renovation. So if you were wondering why my pinterest account has a sudden influx of tile and bathroom related pins, well, now you know. Let the renovation begin.