Tag Archives: nasturium

Edible flower garden

Last season my aunt gave me full run of the flower garden at the front of the house. She had trouble with Scarlet lily beetles in 2014. She really hates bugs so once I told her what the beetles were and what they were attracted to, she wanted the lilies gone. However, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of them right away. I was still left with plenty of space for my edible flower garden.

All ready for planting!

All ready for planting

I planted sunflower, cornflower, borage, lupine (not edible), and nasturtium seeds, and a lavender plant I bought at Kensington Market. I also remember planting viola but they didn’t take.

Lupine - it didn't survive

Lupine – planted out in late May. 


This is as big as the lupine got. It didn’t survive.

Although I didn’t have the trailing variety, I thought nasturtiums would look great in the hanging pots (at the front and in the back yard) and in the planter boxes on the railing. Unfortunately the pots at the front were attacked by aphids. The ones at the back were perfectly fine. I purposely used seeds I had harvested from city plants at the front, knowing we wouldn’t be eating from those pots, and saved the organic seeds for the back yard.

Nasturtium from organic seeds

Nasturtium from organic seeds – looks tasty!

Organic nasturtium in full bloom

Organic nasturtium in full bloom

Nasturtium from city harvested seeds

Nasturtium from city harvested seeds. Not bad looking from far away, but on closer inspection…

Aphids running wild!

Aphids running wild!

Overall, I think the flower garden turned out pretty well.


L to R – lavender, lilies, sunflower, marigold, cornflower, roses; nasturtium in the planter boxes. End of August. Borage had already run its course.



Pink cornflower

Pink cornflower – I bought a mix and got purple and blue as well

I bought some other flower seeds that I didn’t end up using this year: cosmos, larkspur, and poppies. Hope to plant more varieties next year (and I’m eyeing some more I’d like to purchase – velvet queen and autumn beauty sunflowers, for example) and harvest some as cuttings in addition to using them as companion plants.

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Summer’s end in “The Hammer”

I’m spending the next two weeks as a resident of Hamilton. I’m really looking forward to walking to and from work (have done it for two days already and it’s been great!) and no commuting to Toronto for two weeks – woo hoo!!! This will also give me good insight into what it’s like to live here.

Planning to spend a lot of this time in the garden, cleaning up the summer mess and planting for the fall. Some interesting sights in the garden right now: it seems my relatives have been lax with the watering. The plots are dry as a desert. As a result the greens I planted on my last visit (spinach, collards, kale) are nowhere to be found. I guess I should cut them some slack. They’ve been more focused on preparing for their trip to England.

garden aug 24

The garden minus all the beautiful morning glory.

Acorn squash plant is near death but the fruits are looking good (hallelujah!)

Acorn squash plant is near death but the fruits are looking good. How are they still thriving?!

Also noticeably lacking are the beautiful purple flowers that were climbing the fence. I thought were the precursor to beans (silly girl). Turns out they were morning glory. Really beautiful but difficult to get rid of once they’ve settled in. Both my aunt and uncle have talked at length about the problems they had trying to remove morning glory from their front flower garden.

I personally don’t see what the problem is. I think they’re beautiful! Whether they’re closed for the evening or open in the morning, they really are eye-catching. What a sight!

garden aug 4 010

What’s the story, morning glory?

I don’t think they caused any real harm, except maybe competing with the sugar snap peas (they are doing quite poorly actually). When you’re this beautiful, how can anyone stay mad at you for long?

garden july 19 064

Closing up shop for the evening

The same flowers, closed up in a different way. Interesting...

The same flowers, closed up in a different way. Interesting…

My edible flowers are starting to go to seed. I should start harvesting before I lose them in the soil. Seeing them makes me mourn the fact that the borage seeds didn’t take. What a loss.

What a bounty from just one plant!

What a bounty from just one calendula flower! How many seeds can you count?

Some good sized nasturtium seeds

Some good sized nasturtium seeds

My uncle’s side of the garden is looking pretty good. The many okra he planted are finally starting to produce fruit.

Okra flower and fruit!

Okra flower and fruit!

I searched a few blogs and apparently you should harvest okra when it’s about 4 inches or pinky size. Test okra’s readiness for picking by either cutting the tip with a sharp knife or trying to break it off. If it cuts/breaks easily, it’s nice and tender for eating. If it’s tough, then add it to the compost. The more you harvest, the more it will produce. I think the one in the picture above is ready.

His eggplant are starting to make their appearance…

Silician eggplant

Sicilian eggplant

And he’s got a couple of butternut squash hiding out as well.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash

I have one butternut squash that’s coming along nicely and I noticed the other day that I have another one coming along on the other plant!


There were two tiny ones also growing on this plant but they died.

New squash at the back of the garden

New squash at the back of the garden.

My seed packet says they take 100 days and I read (somewhere) that you can harvest them once your nail can break the skin. Ooo, can’t wait to make my favorite butternut squash soup recipe with it!

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End of spring means sweet deals

I was in Toronto when my uncle returned last week. He was upset that there were so many weeds in the garden and that my cousin hadn’t mowed the lawn. That was my fault. I’d accidentally locked the shed door. The key had gone missing so we couldn’t get at the necessary equipment (the garden claw and lawn mower). I’d felt bad that I hadn’t gotten around to planting his okra as the plants were starting to look yellow. He planted some since his return and told me today he`d plant the rest tomorrow. He`s realizing now that space is an issue in his area.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn't notice the spicy salad mix on the left.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn’t notice the small light green patch of  spicy salad mix on the left.

I haven`t been spending enough time in the garden to really get at what needs to be done. This is evidenced by the fact that the tomatoes were getting out of control. One plant had even fallen over, it was so top-heavy.  I swear, I was watching them closely; removing the suckers every time I visited. I thought I was doing a good job of maintaining one main stem, but each plant has bifurcated and continues to grow new shoots in any way it can. Some suckers are so big and have tiny flower heads on them that I couldn`t bring myself to remove them. I`m really bad at a tomato management.

The plant to the back left has fallen over

The plant to the back left has fallen over

Technically you`re supposed to insert the stake right when you plant the tomatoes in order to reduce the risk of damaging the roots, which is much more likely when the plant is full grown. I tied them gently but firmly to the stakes using twine.

Looks pretty good!

Looks pretty good!

Tomatoes forming!

Tomatoes forming!

I’ve noticed that one of the strawberry plants is starting to lose its leaves. I’m wondering if the weeds are strangling its roots.  Sure, it’s still forming and ripening berries, but for how long? I’m planning to do some weeding on the weekend now that the shed is accessible. Apparently they never found the key and had to cut the lock.

Strawberry plants in May

Strawberry plants in May, when they were first planted. The one on the right was the first one I planted. It was less mature than the one on the left.

You'll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foilage is not as dense as it once was

The first strawberry plant I bought. You’ll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foliage is not as dense as in the picture above (and no, it’s not the angle. It is much thinner).

On a positive note, Urban Harvest was having a plant sale as this is the last week their physical store would be open for the season. The sale started last weekend: 3 perennials or 4 annuals for $10. I didn’t make it on the weekend and my week was filled with after work activities. But what a deal! I couldn’t miss out…

I managed to get into union station in Toronto at 5pm on Monday. My aquafit class started at 6:30 so I took a chance and took the subway north to Dundas West station. I was in such a rush that I ended up getting 3 perennials: rosemary, lavender, and yarrow, and only 2 annuals: nasturtium and cilantro.

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary,  lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary, lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

The staff were nice enough to give me 2 annuals for $5 rather than $3.50 each. By the time I left, it was 6pm. As I ran to the subway, it briefly crossed my mind to go back and see if I could get the 5 for $10 deal because I wouldn’t make it all the way to the east end in 30 minutes.  I should’ve listened to that thought because I didn’t make it to class. I was kicking myself for a few days. But I suppose it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t really know where I’m going to plant what I bought…

Close up!  I can almost smell them...

Close up!
I can almost smell them…

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Good growing (sort of)

Some good things happening in the garden this week:



It’s taken about 3 and a half weeks, but the nasturtium is finally starting to show itself. I’m really surprised because I’d read they were pretty easy to grow and would start to germinate 7 to 10 days after being planted. I’m glad I kept putting down new seeds every week and lots of them. If things are going to be this slow going all season, it won’t get to a size where it can be beneficial in the garden as a flowering plant that attracts pollinators or an aphid trap.  The calendula are coming along, but the borage and cornflower haven’t come up at all. I think the borage is not getting enough light as they like full sun and I’ve planted the seeds on the shady side of the sage bush. The cornflower are just over run by weeds. I’ll have to weed and do a new planting.

Strawberries are coming along as well. Some interesting information about alpine strawberries from Vegetablegardener.com. Apparently I’ll be able to tell when they’re ripe by their smell, which is supposed to “rival the most intoxicating of flowers”. I don’t think I added kelp meal to the strawberries like I did with the other transplants. The article mentions that they like fertile soil with lots of organic matter.

Alpine strawberry

A tiny little strawberry bud at the centre of this flower. So cute!

Alpine strawberry

Looking more like a strawberry now…

Wonder how long before they are edible?

Wonder how long before they are edible?

Sage is the one plant that’s done amazingly well in my uncle’s back yard. You’ll notice some mint mixed in among the sage leaves. I’ve been enjoying mint tea the past few nights. My aunt tells me I should boil the leaves so the tea will be stronger, but I’ve never heard of that. I’ve been steeping the leaves in boiling water in a covered teapot . It’s pretty good after a few hours (I’m enjoying some right now!). I took some sage leaves home to Toronto last weekend for the purpose of making tea but I haven’t used them yet.


Sage – who knew it had such beautiful flowers!

The sage has been picking up the slack for the edible flowers in attracting pollinators. I noticed this bee last Friday. He didn’t stick around for very long. Maybe he didn’t like getting his picture taken; I was following him pretty closely with my camera.


First pollinator of the season (or more accurately first pollinator I’ve seen this season)

The best sight this past week — hands down! — has been the appearance of garlic scapes!  A bit about garlic scapes from About.com. The ones in my garden are still young. I had been told in the past that they are ready to harvest once they start to curl, but this article says they will be nice and tender if harvested young. Harvesting the scapes puts more energy into bulb formation, which is what we want.

Garlic scape

A little taste of garlicky heaven!

I used to roll my eyes when foodie friends talked about garlic scapes (foodie, I am not) — until I tasted them. They have been the most flavourful product to come out of my garden to date. If you love garlic, you’ll love scapes. If you’re not a big fan, you might enjoy the milder flavour of the scapes.




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Victoria Day

I complained enough about the weather.  I put off planning.  I thought I had time. Then somewhere along the way, planting season crept up on me. I don’t think I’ve been as ill-prepared as I was this year.

Milo relaxing in front of my uncle's greenhouse. He put his lettuces, peppers, and eggplants in here.

Milo relaxing in front of my uncle’s greenhouse, home to his lettuces, peppers, and eggplants.

We planted on Victoria Day. It’s a good thing too. Although last frost was expected to be May 9th, making Mother’s Day weekend OK to plant, we were hit with sub-zero temperatures. My cousin bought her mom two big, beautiful ferns that were severely damaged when they left them out overnight. What a pity.

I scrambled to put together a gardening plan for the entire back yard, not just the space I’d asked for. I wasn’t being greedy. I used square foot gardening technique and companion planting sensibilities in order to maximize our space and our yields. I took into consideration some of the stuff I knew my uncle would want to plant, like tomatoes, squash and zucchini, and asked if anything needed to be added. I was being thoughtful and organized. My uncle wasn’t worried. He said we’d figure it out when I got there. In the end, he had his own plan.

My uncle's okra, chives, and thyme.

My uncle’s chives, okra and thyme.

My uncle is much like me. He likes to do things his way. He left me the space I’d asked for, as promised, but proceeded to plant the remaining space in a haphazard manner. At least he was smart enough to plant early Monday morning when it was cool and not in the dead heat of midday like I did. I had to rejig my plan that morning. I could have waited to plant in the evening when it was cooler, but I was stubborn. My cousin, who was helping me, was extra irritable as I tried to explain plant spacing and companion planting. She was baking in her black sweats. She finally convinced me to come inside for a snack. While she took a nap, I went back out and finished in the early afternoon hoping I would at least end up with a nice tan.

Left to right, back to front:

From back, left to right: Sugar snap peas along the back, cornflower far left, butternut squash far right; herbs  far left (parsley, dill, cilantro), zucchini, and onions

From the back, left to right::

From the back, left to right: pepper, eggplant, sunflower, cucumber; calendula, beets, carrots, collards

A few things of note this year:
1. Soil conditions – the soil is not as rich as my community plot.  It’s quite dry and rocky but not clay or cement-like. We used compost that my uncle said he got for free from the city (no comment) and composted cow manure. I added a healthy dose of kelp meal to all the transplants and to the soil around the heavy feeders (squashes).

2. Security – I’m really looking forward to not having any of my harvest stolen. Sweet.

3. I live out of town – this is going to be a challenge. It’s already been over a week since I planted and I haven’t been back. Luckily it’s been quite wet lately.

4. New plants – I went a little crazy at Urban Harvest this year. I bought $46 worth of plants and kelp meal, a cost I wasn’t expecting since I had saved so many seeds last year. New this year:

  • butternut squash seeds
  • Chinese five colour hot peppers – My sister picked these.
  • long purple eggplant seeds
  • alpine strawberry
  • sugar snap pea seeds – another of my sister’s picks.

5. Old plants from seed – Nasturtium, that is. Last year I bought it as a plant. This year, I’m trying the seeds I saved. We’ll see how that goes.

Nasturtium seeds I harvested last fall. Let's hope they grow!

Nasturtium seeds I harvested last fall. Let’s hope they grow!

I bought another alpine strawberry plant today. Planning to go by after work on Friday to plant it and see what’s happening. I know I definitely have to do some sucker removal with the tomato plants. With all the rains I’ve been imagining that the zucchini seeds washed out of their little hill. I know it’s possible because that’s what happened when I first watered after planting them. The recent single digit temperatures has made me concerned about the eggplants because I read online that they really really like the hot weather and don’t tolerate cold very well.

From back, left to right: Borage (planted), crazy sage plant (so much growth!), garlic I planted last fall and neglected (it's doing pretty well), and one lonely alpine strawberry (not for long!)

From back, left to right: Borage (planted), crazy sage plant (so much growth!), garlic I planted last fall and neglected (it’s doing pretty well), and one lonely alpine strawberry (not for long!)

My cousin found me some pots that I can use for my fairy gardens (I’m surprised she remembered). Gotta get on that soon.

What herbs should I put in here?

What herbs should I put in here?

We had the neighbours over and did fireworks on Sunday night. My cousin was disappointed that the firecrackers she’d had for over a year weren’t as spectacular as she had expected. We had a good laugh though and enjoyed other neighbours’ fireworks in the distant. This is what’s left of the bucket my uncle used to light the fireworks.

Can you believe the damage?

Can you believe the damage?

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End of the season

The community gardening season is finally over. We had our last community clean up on Sunday. There has been some conflict within the group, which clouded the last few months as well as our final community day. At the same time there were many in good spirits. After we finished our community work, we checked on our gardens. It was really beautiful out, and in my haste to get to the gardens on time, I forgot to bring my camera.

This was the first time I’d been to the garden in at least two weeks. The kale that I had planted has not come up at all and only some collards are growing. I put down a lot of seeds so I don’t think I’m going to waste any more. Daytime temperatures, on average, have been in the mid-teens these past few weeks and we have gotten a lot of rain so I’m really surprised that more plants didn’t germinate. On a previous visit to the garden I harvested quite a few good sized nasturtium seeds. I did a quick check of the plant to make sure I’d gotten all the seeds and then I pulled it up. All the leaves and flowers had already died off.

Lots of nasturium and garlic chive seeds

I picked off the last heads of garlic chive seeds. I gave away a head to my neighbours to the north (as well as a few nasturium seeds). I have so many garlic chives seeds it’s unbelieveable. My dark opal basil died off so I pulled up the plants. I still have quite a few lemon and sweet basil seeds left.

By the end of the day, I was left in such positive spirits about the gardens. By the time next season rolls around, I’ll be commuting out of the city for a new job. I’m not sure I’ll have the time to commit to the community gardens. I’m thinking of renting out the space to another gardener for the season and I already have a taker, but I feel as though I would really miss not being able to garden! What am I going to do with all the seeds I’ve obsessively been gathering?! At least I have the winter to think about it.

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Still thinking about seeds…

Visited relatives last weekend and came back with some sage, mint, and hot peppers from their garden. I’m using the mint and sage for tea and I’m trying to save the pepper seeds for next year.

Sage, mint, hot peppers

What I’ve realized after reading articles on the subject, particularly the Seed Saving Instructions for Beginners and the Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook , is that the fruits must fully ripen on the plants before the seeds can be harvested otherwise they may not germinate. I had been drying seeds from a green pepper, not a fully ripened red one, and it did not ripen on the plant (obviously). I tossed them out today and after washing my hands, forgetting I had been handling hot pepper seeds, I began to rub my eye. Big mistake! My eye swelled and burned like mad. Without thinking again I put water on my eye, which made it burn even more! I should have remembered that drinking water after eating peppery food just makes things worse. I did eventually recall what helps to soothe the pepper burn – milk! I put some milk in a cupped hand and rubbed it on my eyelids and the swelling began to go away immediately as did the burning. Pfew!

The other day I was surprised to find some calendula seeds just lying around in the plot, near where the borage plant used to be.  So I gathered them up and I’m making sure they are fully dried before I package them for next year.

Calendula seeds

I read in an eHow article that seeds that fall on the ground can be moldy and can get wet (which makes they nonviable for saving). I’d still like to try growing them so I think I’ll separate them into another package, rather than putting them in with the seeds I bought from Urban Harvest. The soil was very dry when I found them so I’m hoping they are still OK.

So now I’m thinking more about harvesting flower seeds for next season. I’ve been admiring the yarrow in the community plot all summer.


I’ve been reading lately about the benefits of yarrow as a companion plant. According to wikipedia, it attracts predatory wasps and ladybugs, improves the soil, and improves the health of plants that are grown nearby. eHow also gives some other useful information about yarrow. It apparently takes 2 years to become established, which is a bit of a bummer.

I helped myself to some drying flowers just off of the community plot and I’ve placed them in a paper bag to fully dry. You can shake the bag to try and separate the seeds from the chaff before you store them.

I saw an interesting video on Youtube today about collecting nasturtium seeds. I’m going to be looking for these on my next visit to the garden!

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