Soooooo, summer is sort of here…or at least planting season is upon us!
Warmer weather has come (and gone) a couple of times this past month, which has made planting a bit of a chore. I waited until after the May long weekend to plant and I still lost my tomato plants and eggplants to a frost….ughhh!
Welcome to Canada.
But, alas, I think we are safe now – or at least I hope so.
As always, when it comes to planting, I always like to support local farmers and farmer’s markets. What I figure is these hard working folks spend the winter months planning and prepping for the summer months to come, but really have no income. This is why we should all be nice people and support them for all of their hard work and give them a source of revenue when the money might be tight for them (they have so many overhead costs, machinery upkeep and materials to worry about when they aren’t bringing in an income!). If you buy your plants from a grocery store or other retail establishment (ones that don’t sell plants as their first source of revenue), then you are really never sure where the plants come from or wheather or not they are healthy to start off with.
If you go to your local farmers, they have most likely cultivated those plants within the confines of their property and you can ask them any questions you like about those plants. The will most likely be hardier and will yield more crops (at least that’s been my experience). Plus, if you get friendly with your local farmers, they will remember you at the end of the season (I usually know when strawberries are almost finished and they will sell me really ripe strawberries – perfect for jam – at a portion of the cost!).
Be nice to your farmers…they are the ones that put food on your plate (at least some of it!).
Let’s take a meander through my 2015 plantings:
I plant 2 kinds of onions…spring onions that are harvested early (great on the grill) and then bulb onions (this year I planted white) that will grow big and be harvested in the late summer. With both of these growing, I am never tempted to pull bulb onions before they are ready.
I have a few lettuces – always nice and tender for salads – which are great because you cut it as you need it and then it grows back all summer.
My chives are great now because they are one of the first things to be harvested an the chive blossoms are perfect as a garnish. I have to figure out a way to preserve them so I can use them throughout the summer (if any of you have ideas, let me know!!)
Chives also grow all summer…you keep cutting and they keep growing!
I planted flat beans (I’m Italian and we use these like crazy!!) as well as sweet peas…I will stake them as they get bigger.
These are the sweet peas…you can even harvest the tendrils for salads!
I have sage, oregano mint and thyme that grow back every year but I found this pineapple sage that will hopefully like where I put it and grow back year after year!
I also found purple basil which looks really pretty in salads (but it’s an annual so it will die with the frost!)
My dad and I cut back the grape vines and I think we gave it a realy bad haircut (aka: we went too far!) and I thought I killed it. But look…new growth! I would hate to lose this because a close family friend gave me a cutting from his dad’s vine from Italy (yes he smuggled it across the border for me…ssshhh) that is 40 years old. It is hit and miss each year with how many grapes I get. Only one year gave me enough to make jelly!
These are radishes…I planted them from seed. Not sure why I did that…I don’t even like radishes!
I planted lots of swiss chard…I love swiss chard! It the heat of the summer when it is growing like crazy, I dice it up and freeze it. Last year, I had enough to last me throughout the winter to add a handful here and there to pastas, soups, fritattas, etc…
This is zucchini…four tiny plants will give me TONS of zucchini (last year with the same amount of plants, I got zucchini flowers and zucchinis for days and enough at the end of the season for almost 40 small bags of grated zucchini for the freezer, which I use in the winter for cakes, muffins, egg dishes and I even add it to meatloaf and hamburgers!)
Here are my tomatoes – round 2! I have early girls, romas, San Marzano, beefsteak, heirloom and 3 kinds of cheery tomatoes.
This is chicory (you may know it as dandilion…yes, that stuff we try desperately to get rid of!). You will often find older ladies on the side of the road picking these leaves. I like to plant some because these ones are free from any “funny stuff” that might get sprayed on the ones in your yard or on the side of the road, and they are also more tender.
These are 2 different kids of hot peppers (my favourite are jalapenos but I didn’t find them this year!)…
And here are sheppard peppers (those long red ones)…I love these ones!
These are eggplant…the second round. The frost killed my first ones!!
Of course, you have to have kale! We eat kale chips like crazy so these are aweseome to have all summer long. The tender first leaves can be used in a salad and the bigger ones can be made into chips or braised with brown butter.
Here is my arugula. Last year, it didn’t do well because it was dwarfed by my zucchini plants…fingers crossed that it does better this year!
More lettuce…the red leaf kind here!
Yup…4th attempt at strawberries! I’ve tried in the field, in a pot, in a hanging basket and directly in the ground. I’m hoping they will do better in my raised beds!
I planted 2 cabbages…I just love they way they look as they grow! My dad taught me that the frost has to hit it before you pick it to get that sweetness (so this will stay in the ground until Oct/Nov).
These are brussel spouts…I’ve tried broccoli and failed so we will see what these bring!
These are cauliflowers…never tried it before!!
I like to plant something that grows up the outside of my garden fence. This year, I alternated sweet peas and romano beans. They look pretty and make nice flowers as they grow up the fence. On the other sides, I have rhubarb, herbs, cammomile and asparagus.
Outside my kitchen door (which is a ways from the veggie garden), I always have extra goodies that I can pluck from, so I don’t have to run far to grab a bit of freshness! Here is a basket of lettuce leaf basil (it will grow big and works well with caprese salad) and a pot of rosemary (this one survived the winter in my basement!)
Of course, we have to have lots of flat leafed parsley…some in the garden and some on the porch!
And lastly, a tomato plant on the porch for a quick grab of goodness right outside the door!
The things I haven’t shown you are potatoes (always throw in a couple of plants to harvest baby potatoes through the summer!), winter squash, eggplant and garlic.
I’ve left some space for any interesting plants I might find in the next couple of weeks (still looking for nasturiums…love them for salad but they aren’t easy to find!). I also loved having carrots last year to pull all summer long but they, also, are not easy to find in plant form (last year, I seeded them, but this year, I was too late). And lastly, I love beets because, while you wait for the actual beet to grow, you can harvest the beet greens and braise them like swiss chard (they make a beautiful pinkish rissotto!!)….haven’t found them yet!
Won’t you join me? Even if you don’t have a designated space for your own garden, throw some chives in with your flowers and put a few pots on your back porch. I promise, you will get the planting bug before you know it!!