Tag Archives: strawberry

Late start

The first half of the year has been rough: a change in job role and a shitty time-consuming course left me with barely enough mental capacity to plan my garden. I did start seeds but many died; those that did survive (peppers) look like they’re a few weeks rather than a few months old (I don’t have great lighting).

We had a really long winter that suddenly changed to summer temperatures without much of a spring. This week we’re having a cool snap of spring weather. It’s hard to know what to expect next. Should I plant for spring? Summer?

Thankfully, some perennial and self-seeding annuals have sprung up so my plot doesn’t look as bare as it would have had they not decided to make an appearance. The straw helps too.

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I planted the onions and garlic. I was surprised to see the red dandelion and chives. Happy to see the lavender and strawberries surviving and thriving. Calendula is welcome but I don’t need as much as I have.

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Unfortunately the ants have returned this year. I’ll have to try more vinegar on their nests. I’m at an organic community garden so I have to be careful with what I use for pest control.

I planted about 3 weeks ago and things aren’t looking too bad at all.

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I like the way the onions, chives and strawberries look together. Excited to see alpine strawberries blossoming and some early fruit!

Although due to the scorching temperatures, the chives and dandelion have bolted.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever planted garlic chives which have white flowers, so I’m surprised to see these purple flowers, which indicate regular chives.

My lavender grew substantially (quadrupled?!) since I planted it last year. I just love it!

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I love how the lavender regenerates around the dead branches

I was kicking myself for not getting an earlier start but seeing how things are progressing with very little effort (at this point) is giving me renewed energy for the season ahead.

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Chives blossom about to bloom

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Alpine strawberry 

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What happens when you leave your garden unattended for 3 weeks…

The garden becomes a jungle

Potatos (flowering),

Potatoes (flowering), and assortment of weeds and mystery plants

Weeds invade

Strawberry plants surrounded by weeds

Strawberry plants surrounded by weeds

Leafminers invade your beet greens



What you thought were beans turn out to be morning glory (for the second 2nd year in a row) – and they’ve taken over



One zucchini plant becomes two

Yep - there are two here

Probably should have noticed this earlier

You miss the last of scape season

No more scapes and the leaves are starting to turn brown. Oh well, soon it will be time for garlic!

No more scapes and the leaves are starting to turn brown. Oh well, soon it will be time for fresh garlic!



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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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“Mysteries” of the garden

My cousin picked me up from work on Friday so we could check out the organic farmer’s market on scenic drive. It was a pretty small market, about 6 vendors outside Scenic Drive Convenience Store, at Scenic Drive and Upper Paradise Road. She’s trying to lose weight for a wedding in August by increasing her consumption of greens and veggies. She’s decided that heirloom vegetables are what she wants to eat. It was funny to note that she had no idea that I was using organic and heirloom seeds and plants in the backyard. She picked up some kale and greens from Japan (looked like bok choy and name begins with a K). I was happy to sample blueberry pie and apple strudel while she made her choices and I learned from one of the farmers that a plant I had picked on the trail near James street stairs was from the spirea family (he was selling some). I’m trying to see if I can root it for transplant.

Not long after we came home, the sky turned dark. Storm clouds rolled in and the rain started coming down sideways. I was disappointed. I’d planned to quickly plant another strawberry that I picked up at Urban Harvest on Wednesday, take stock of what was going on in the garden, and then head back to Toronto. About an hour, tops. It had been a long week of commuting after recovering from a cold that had kept me off work last Thursday and Friday and in bed for most of the weekend. I wanted to head home at a reasonable time so that I could relax and enjoy my weekend. However, I wasn’t prepared to travel home in a storm so resigned myself to staying the night. I was dying to see what was happening out there so when the rain let up, I went out to check things out.

Snail on the prowl

Snail on the prowl after the rain

The first thing that caught my eye was mysterious little sprouts all across my beds. And then I remembered that my cousin had warned me – “don’t blame me…” she had started. My uncle had decided before he went away for work again (he goes every other month for a month) that he would sprinkle down “mystery” seeds in every space that was unoccupied. This included walkways.

My uncle's "sprinkle" method inside the greenhouse

My uncle’s planting method inside the greenhouse. This is how I knew he was to blame for what I saw below…

"Mystery" seeds around my tomatoes!!!

“Mystery” seeds around my tomatoes!!! Argh!!!

Clearly he doesn’t understand square foot gardening method. And, as I mentioned, he likes to do things his own way. Well, so do I. I had planned to put some companion spicy salad greens and basil on every corner of the tomato plants (ie. 4 plants to one tomato plant) so I proceeded to do so. We’ll see whose seeds to better. Did I mention I was stubborn?

Some plants are doing quite well after about a week and a half. Others not so well.

Onions are doing well

Onions are coming along

Apparently I didn't need to worry about the zucchini

Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the zucchini. I’ll have to remove the smaller plant.

One of two pea plants coming up.

One of two pea plants coming up.

I was disappointed to find that neither the butternut squash nor the nasturtium had come up so I planted more seeds. Also, surprisingly, no borage! That stuff grows like mad. I planted a few more seeds near the strawberries. I also put down some spinach because I had seen in one of the companion planting charts that it was a good companion for strawberries.

This strawberry plant is larger than the first one I bought and has a small strawberry growing already.

This is the first strawberry plant I bought. It doesn’t seem to be doing much right now. The new plant I ot is larger and already has a small strawberry growing on it.

It’s a mystery why some plants do better than others. A combination of seed issues (eg. germination rates),  soil and weather conditions, water,  pests… Nevertheless, nature always finds a way to reproduce. I have a feel that although some things are coming along more slowly than I had expected, it will be a very productive garden. I also have a feeling that I’ll have to put in a lot more work than last year. Damn.

My uncle's okra are really coming along.

My uncle’s okra are really coming along. I wonder where he’s going to put them…

My uncle's section of the garden.

My uncle’s section of the garden.

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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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