The Garden Plot

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The Garden Plot

Things have been unusually cool on the prairies so the gardens are quite a bit behind.  We're finally eating lettuce, spinach, Swiss charge and beet tops, and today I saw that I have little cousas, and my heirloom Italian zucchini is starting to make little ribbed squashes.


That's in the backyard.  Out at the allotment things aren't so good.  For one thing, it's over an hour round trip to get there by bike; 50 minutes by automobile, so I don't monitor the place as closely as I'd like. 


Something weird's happening out there.  I have a few potatoes that haven't created plants.  I dug around the place where I planted them and found that new potatoes are forming, but for some reason no shoots sprang up.  I've never seen that before.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I have not been out to the garden since we seeded it.  The blond guy says it's not doing so hot.  I have to get out there and do some damage control... 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Is anything eating your potato leaves maybe?

I've been trying to get an allotment since I moved in June, but all the urban ones I've found within a reasonable distance have massive waiting lists, even though all of them have at least one, usually several, overgrown or empty plots. And the caretakers are either hard to reach or unwilling to let in squatters.

So, I've been volunteering at the UBC farm instead and getting free radishes. But that's about a 16km bike ride away.


Is anything eating your potato leaves maybe?


I thought of that, but there aren't many potato beetles on the other plants. There was a purty bad infestation of the buggers last summer, though.


I worked at the U of S farm one year. Harvest time was great. The Horticulture people would bring over bags and bags of corn on the cob to give away, and I still have beans from Pulse Group's discards.


I just got back from the allotment.   I had to go into the wind, and was played out by the time I got there. It took an hour and a half by bike today.


I picked a couple of kousas today.  They're way ahead of the others, so I don't know what I'll do with them.  Maybe stuff just two?


I also picked a couple of the Italian zucchinis and used them in a tagine.  This is an heirloom variety, ribbed with light stripes.  The plants are huge, yet the production is small.  The "black" zucchinis we usually grow around here have smaller plants with potentially huge fruit.  One can sure see the value in plant breeding by comparing the two.

I'm going to use my epazote tomorrow in frijoles.  I've never grown this herb before, so this is purty exciting.  I'll also use my jalapenos and cilantro in salsa.  No tomatoes, though - they're just starting to flower.

Bookish Agrarian

It sure sounds like beetle larve to me.  Then can wipe out a fair size of area in a few days and never be seen if you aren't there every day.

Our market gardens are way behind this year too due to cool weather.  The corn is especially backwards.  Still a good several weeks before we can even think about picking.

Had some heirloom beans today called Tongue of Fire - they are a broad bean with red splashes.  Very yummy and very popular at market.  Our cut flower rows are finally starting to bloom too which adds a nice palet of colour to the place.


Here in N. Ontario, my tomato plants are a good three feet high. Scarlett runner beans didnt do so well. Out of 40 beans planted I have nine stalks. The neighbor next door plants bush beans every year, but his poles are without any stalks as far as I can see through the fence. There hasnt been much sun this summer and temps not very warm.


We had an "accidental" cherry tomato plant come up in a flower garden last year, certainly from a seed imported with some compost we bought.  It  was prolific, and the tomatoes were great.  So, I put the odd tomato that got over ripe in the herb garden at the end of last year, thinking  if the seed grew that easy, then the only trouble I'd have with them this year would be thining them out.

Not one sprout.  Nada.

Anyway, al-Qa'bong, potato blight is happening in Ontario and other places this year due to cold and wet weather.  I forget where you are located, but maybe this is your problem.  If so, there's an important protocol to follow if you do have the blight, to make sure it doesn't stay in the soil and infect next years crop.



Whitehorse, Yukon

First frost of the year last night.

The peas and the beans still have flowers on the vines.

Ice on the motorcycle seat this morning.

This is after a record heatwave last week.

Gardeners are not happy.


Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

I had never heard of kousa before. Looking it up, I think it might be the vegetable from the squash family known as marrow to those of British ancestry. Or is it another squash family variation?

Here in Toronto, the rodents are running wild, probably due to the garbage strike. Newly nervy squirrels come right up the back deck (taunting the vicious cat that we keep leashed) to rip green tomatoes off the plants. The yellow tomato plant has been ravaged, and is just recovering and coming up with a second set of flowers, having been torn back to half its size when the first two bunches of fruit were stolen.

The cherry tomato plant has fared much better. It's approaching 5' tall (and towers over me, standing in its 2' tall pot). The squirrels hit it regularly too, but they seem to be able to pick off the small fruit easily, and thus don't shred its branches. Despite the raids, there are still 50 or 60 green tomatoes coming, and that many more flowers besides. Haven't had a single one ripen yet, though.

Due to huge shade trees over the property, the only success we've had with vegetables has been in our pots on the sunny back deck. the herb garden is doing nicely this year, though.



Nothing like having a garden to take the mask off those bushy tailed tree rats. 

To protect specific plants, Lard, try using blood meal.  

I've  got two oak seedlings that are growing in places where they can't mature.  I dug up one, yesterday, and potted it.  I put a generous amount of blood meal on top, along with some chicken wire.    The other one I'm going to dig up tomorrow.  (I want it to absorb some mild fertilizer I soaked it with last night)  I've already mixed blood meal into the soil I'm going to use in the pot.

I have learned hard lessons about oak seedlings and squirels.

I swear, I'm going to get a pellet gun one day and cull the little bastards.



I had never heard of kousa before. Looking it up, I think it might be the vegetable from the squash family known as marrow to those of British ancestry.


Yeah, in English it's called "vegetable marrow." I got the seed from West Coast Seeds.


I'm concerned about my waxbeans and broad beans. They're covered with flowers but don't seem to be in a hurry to form pods. Maybe there aren't enough bees around.



Well.  I just conducted an experiment, and although the results were not what I expected, I did learn a thing or two.

Spike caught a mouse last night, and in keeping with tradition, he left the half eaten remains in the grass.  I was allerted to it's presence by the yellow jackets that were feasting on the remains.

Not being a fan of yellow jackets, I got the flyswatter out, and did a number of them in with one fell swat. 

A few were stunned. 

Knowing the location of a nest of native paper wasps, and being curious, I scooped up a couple of stunned yellow jackets on the flyswatter, and placed them at the entrance of the paper wasp nest.  (it's a small nest, not one of those big things that hang from trees) 

I was curious as to how competitive these wasps are, and rather expected the gaurd wasp to attack the yellow jackets, and summon help, and I'd get to see a mob scene.

Surprise!  The guard wasp made a straight line right towards my wrist, landed there and stuck, stinging. 


So, I headed off to the driveway, where I knew there was a good collection of broad leaf plantain.  I treated the wasp sting the same way as I would a mosquito bite, only with more leaves,  held onto the actual sting site, and also rubbed vigorously on the skin around it.

At first, there seemed to be no effect.  But, within 90 seconds, the pain quickly faded, and entirley gone within another 30 seconds. Ten minutes later, it's still gone.  There is a nice welt, however.

My experience with wasp stings is that after the pain subsides, one can experience momentary flare ups of pain at the sting site, sometimes for days after.

We'll see if that happens.


Only complete dorks mess with wasps.

I am a complete dork.

Dorks should be fully aware of the medicinal properties of broad leaf plantain.


ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

 Things are behind but I also did get some things in this year. My cool weather crops are doing fabulous this year and still growing strong. I have a bumper crops of peas. I tried broccoli and cabbage this year again, having never had much success. Wow. This year the broccoli has been fabulous and really tasty.  I just finished harvesting the side shoots the other day. I wish I had planted more then just four plants. My cabbage plants are about four feet across with some of the leaves a good foot and half in size.  Since I have never grown it myself before I have been asking people if this is normal cause in the books it says it's not. It's really screwed up my garden plan in terms of spacing because I had planned to plant some other crops around them and now there is no room. LOL. 

 There just seems to be something with my soil and I'm learning to adjust to it as I go along in terms of spacing. It seems to grow dinosaur plants. The interesting thing is that I did do some tests on nutrients and the test results showed really low in nitrogen and potassium which at least according to common garden wisdom should result in poorer plants.  I redid it three times because it just didn't seem right in terms of what actually goes on in my garden.  It's an intriging mystery and when I have time I plan to do some more looksee into the complexities of soil science to try to figure it out.

I redid my beds this year and raised them up, hopefully to help with drainage issues in early spring. I was lax though in getting weedbarrier down in the paths and like the veggies they are lush and crazy. In hindsight I'm glad I didn't get to it as now that I'm getting the barrier down I keep finding tomato plants growing whereever they felt like it. I think by last count there's more then those I actually planted and they seem to be at least 5 different varieties. They are actually doing better then most of the ones I planted as well.  It's making staking a bit interesting and I'm having to get a bit creative because if last year is any indication they'll be getting a lot bigger then they are now.  It's hard to tell though because overall tomatos and other warm weather crops are just a whole lot slower this year.  My cucumbers have been inching along and I doubt I'll be getting any peppers this year unless I get them under protection in the fall.  I'm planning to save the seed from the tomatoes that have just popped up.

 Last year I had no luck with beans. Something kept eating them before they got to their second leaves. This year both the pole and bush beans are growing though most have some of the leaves chewed.  I have heard from others in the area that they're not having a good year. I know at least three people who said there beans never even sprouted which is weird.

 I got my potatoes in really late but they are growing like crazy now. I have to hill them today actually.  I had a couple of plants just pop up in the area I planted them last year and they have produced yummy new potatoes. 

 I do have bugs chomping at my plants but not to the point where they seem to be hampering their growth. I've had some difficultly figuring out what they might be as there has been no evidence of some of the most common ones. I thouht it my be earwigs and I'm just not seeing them because they're out at night but when I put out some trap things, there was only one or two in them.  My garden however is filled with roly poly bugs. Everything I read about them says they are basically detrious eaters and don't eat 'green' things except when they are really small, which is one of the reasons I didn't focus initially on them.  As with many things though my garden experience seems to be an exception and it does appear that they are the culprits and are chomping on even the most mature plants.   Since they don't seem to be bent on complete destruction I'm not freaking out about them but do need to do something eventually.  Since there are probably hundreds of thousands of the things around elimination is likely out of the question.  I might be able to get them out of the garden and new ones will just move in from the surrounding forest and marsh.  I've done some research on methods of reduction and most take a heck of a lot of work.  Chickens love them but I can't put them in the garden until it's done growing though a post plant and pre-plant chicken workover would likely help numbers wise. I'm thinking or trying a couple of guineas for the next growing season. I've been reading about people who have them in both veggie and flower gardens. They apparently eat potato and japanese beetles which would be awesome.


ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

 Another thing I'm doing this year is something completely new to me and it still seems rather crazy but in a good way.  I'm getting ready to try out the winter  growing and harvesting techniques found in Eliot Coleman's 'Winter Harvest Handbook'.  I'm going to be planting more in the fall then I did in the spring and if it works will be harvesting fresh greens and other produce as late as January.  The thing that's appealing to me is it is done with no heat inputs. Just a hoop house and some row covers. Up until I read about what he does on his farm in Maine I thought that near impossible and had been planning to set up a heated greenhouse but that can get expensive and the question or whether it's cost effected comes up.  Right now I'm ordering a lot of seed which also seems to be a strange thing to be doing in August.  We'll see how it goes I guess but I think it is a worthwhile thing to have a go at it.  The planning though is really changing the rhytmn of the seasons which I am used to. I'm basically having to get my mind around having a second spring season in terms of the type of work involved.   Since it needs to have a fairly specific layout and one which my current garden doesn't follow I'm putting in a whole new one. Yesterday I surface tilled about 400 square feet of meadow and laid down some weed barrier. Over the next few  weeks I'll be getting the beds built and will start planting at the end of August. That schedule goes through until early October and then the hoop house will be going up. 



I think it's probably a losing battle to try to control wood lice, or pill bugs or as you call them, rolly polly bugs.  (This bug seems to have a lot of names)  I've never bothered with them.  I think even if the young ones eat green stuff, they probably still wiegh heavily on the benificial side because of their ability to break down woody fibers and turn them into compost-- without one having to do any shoveling or anything.

There's a holly hock growing at the back of my garden, and something ate all the leaves-- leaving a tracery of the internal arteries behind.   A smaller one, likely a first year holly hock, growing beside it, has been left alone.

My back yard is wasp central this summer.  I don't remember another year quite like it.  Right now, both  the native wasps  and yellow jackets are hunting insects, and are likely keeping the populations significantly down.   They're not a problem now, however the yellow jackets will turn to looking for sweet things in about a month, and that's what brings us into contact with them. 

I've been tollerant of the native wasps because they aren't aggressive at any time of year,  and it was my thinking that they'd help keep the yellow jackets down-- if not by direct warfare, then by resource competition.

And, I just caught Spike the cat using an Oak sapling as a scratching post.   It's been at the back, growing for about a dozen years right from  the acorn.  It's really taken off in the past three years though, and now it's over eight feet tall. 

Next time I get a cardboard roll from gift wrap or something similar, I think I'll slit it down the middle and wrap it around the place where Spike is scratching the bark. 

Unless anyone here has a better idea. That doesn't include violence to Spike.  He's an exempilary mouser.


Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Rubbing a little catnip where you'd prefer him to scratch could help.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

They are beneficial Tommy and I think one of the reasons there's so many around my place and in my garden is because there is a veritable feast of organic matter to break down, which garden wise is great in terms of soil health.  I don't want to eliminate them from the garden but maybe just lower the number. It's more about balancing it out a bit. I could get rid of several thousand a day and I doubt that would barely make a dent in the overall numbers.  I think snakes eat them as well and I sure do have a lot of snakes.  Last year I accidently discovered what seems to be a perfect human made snake house and nursery so next year I'm thinking of putting one in the center of every bed to encourage them. I'm also building several little pond beds to encourage the frogs and toads to make there way over to the garden from the area they already are.    I may end up just using barriers around the green stuff that asthetically may be an issue in terms of eating,  like on my chard. The leaves are really holely but that plant itself doesn't seem to be suffering.  I personally don't mind eating leaves with holes in them but to some it's a real turn off.  They don't seem to go after the different lettuce plants so at least that's not a problem.


Re Spike.  If he's anything like my cat cardboard won't stop him. It's just another material to sink his claws into and tear up. I don't think they're too expensive but you can get plastic sapling protectors that are used to keep deer and bunnies from chewing. That might work better.

rural - Francesca rural - Francesca's picture

We have an alotment garden here at the United Way building.

I don't know much about gardening science.  But tomatoes do amazingly well in our garden, I got one tiny zucinni last year out of 4 plants!  This year everything seems really slow, lots of blooms, but not much fruit yet.

I couldn't figure out why I never got strawberries off my ever-bearing plants, but the President of the Metis Council was telling me that he watched a black squirrell enjoy a strawberry off my plant (his garden is next to mine)

I have had some lettuce and the onions are doing well this year, last year I didn't get any.

I just have no idea what I'm doing.

Everyone else's garden is lush with vegetation and with this being our 3rd year, we've seem to hit the right mix of people.  Last year we got steamed because some local guy was promoting urban gardening and got his picture in the paper a top his alotment at our site, the article seem to suggest our garden was all his idea, and then he never came back to tend his plot.  We mowed it in August as nothing but grass and weed had sprouted because he was never there to weed it.

We had Canadian Mental Health take over the other side of our building and put in a garden to grow food for their soup kitchen and possibly sell at the local market.  That side seems to be doing well.

It's a very social thing, we have people who come for meetings and take a tour around the gardens and if I'm out weeding, or anyone is out weeding, people walking the sidewalk stop and talk and chat about what's growing.  We've had a senior or two tell us in the spring, what a mess it is, and then after the big dig and planting session, stop and tell us how wonderful it is.

Our little patch has started the community talking about such spaces which is really cool.

(see I'm not so good on the gardening, better at the community mobilization bit)

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

This am I was greeted with a big surprise as I walked out to the garden, a nice big Massaugua Rattler, coiled and sunning itself on the sandy path.  Very cool as it is a threatened snake. Not so cool as now I have to work using snake precautions. No more garden sandals for me!  I've been surfing the net and note some of the recovery programs and it appears that this one is on the edge of the range where it's been documented to still exist so I'm going to contact the nearest program people to report it and see if there is anything I should do or not do to make sure it can continue to  make a go of it.


I guess I panicked a bit over my beans upthread.  I've been freezing and pickling wax beans lately, and there appear to be a lot of broad beans out there.  It's raining these days, though, and I don't want to get soaked picking beans.


I don't know if I'll have tomatoes this year. They started blooming a couple of weeks ago, and now I have but tiny fruit.  The days are getting shorter, which isn't going to help them develop before it freezes.  Cucumbers are just starting to show little fruits, which is pretty late as well.


The koosas and Italian zucchinis haven't produced much either.  The plants are nice and big, but there isn't much on them.


This am I was greeted with a big surprise as I walked out to the garden, a nice big Massaugua Rattler, coiled and sunning itself on the sandy path.  Very cool as it is a threatened snake. Not so cool as now I have to work using snake precautions.

That is way cool.   I've been wondering for a few years now if those snakes might be extending their range, reclaiming lost habitat.  For example, if I was traipsing around the Tara area, or even as far south as Clifford, I'd be looking for them.  Well, listening too.

Maybe I should take care when I'm visiting my friend's farm near Dundalk, too.

Outstanding news, ElizaQ.

Oh.  Apparently early settlers used broad leaf plantain as a treatment for snake bite.  I can attest to its strong efficacy for mosquito bites and, lately, wasp stings.   While I wouldn't use it to treat a snake bite, early application of broad leaf plantain to the site while one is on the way to emerge might mitigate the venom.   Seems to me I read some where the toxin in bee and wasp venom is the same as rattlesnake. 

Speaking of wasps, my garden, in spite of the wet weather, is not infested by earwigs like I thought it might be by this time.  I wonder if the wasps have been predating the earwigs?  The problem with earwigs is that they are a European invader, with nothing to predate them here.  (although, I have seen the odd sparrow catching and eating them)  But then, yellow jackets are European also, perhaps with a taste for earwigs?

Out of the garden, I went for an early morning walk with one of my daughters and her boyfriend through the Westminister ponds area, along the LPS tracks.  Saw a young coyote, a merlin, a red tail hawk, kingfishers gallor and a large and very noisy flock of red wing blackbirds, and of course beaver, herons and a precoscious shrew.

Mostly though, the flora has completely exploded.  This area was my backyard as a kid,  and it still amazes me how much change in a wetland/meadow/mature forest can take place within a lifetime.