31 May 2009

More luck than judgement

The small cultivated areas of the front garden aren't parts I pay a great deal of attention to. They're poor relations, really, to the vegetable gardens and the greenhouse. I do occasionally sow and plant things there: mostly herbs, salad greens and flowers, but there isn't any sort of a master plan to the area (as the post about the lilies-of-the-valley probably illustrates!).

May is a good month for the small stretch of garden in front of the veranda, though, despite the lack of attention. In early- to mid-May the tulips look lovely:

And then at the end of May the irises (planted in our first year and a gift from our neighbour) take over:

This year I managed a small piece of forward planning and sowed some sweet peas indoors (a bit too early, to be honest). I had a mental picture of them growing up the front of the veranda and drenching the area with their perfume. I put them out at the end of March (seven groups of three plants in each) at the back of this bed. This is how one of the groups looked then:

This particular bed gets a lot of sun and is quite warm, as it is next to the house. Otherwise this would have been far too early to plant them outside (as it was, I think I was pushing my luck). For a long time they did nothing at all, but now, at last, they're beginning to grow away well and perhaps the reality will match up with my imagination one of these days.

28 May 2009


I've never had Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) in a garden of mine before. Somehow I associated it (and Sandalwood) with 1970s talcum powders - and didn't really think of it as a real plant. It certainly loves the semi-shadiness of the small square of garden under the ash tree beside our front path. It's becoming a bit of a thug there, to be honest, but I love the contrast of the white and green, so I don't see myself doing much about it.

26 May 2009

Playing the tourist

Collage of Dad & Jenni's visit, May 2009
My dad and his wife have been staying with us for a few days. It's been great to have a bit of a break and to explore the County from a tourist's point of view. We visited a winery, cider-maker's and a brewery on Friday, went to the Macauley House museum's Lilac Festival on Saturday and off the County to Presqu'ile Provincial Park yesterday. In between the trips we got the tomatoes planted, did a fair bit of weeding, drank generous quantities of local wine and beer (we felt we should show our support for local producers) and, of course, built the chicken run.

We also got to go round the County's first ever roundabout a few times on our various trips. I thought it might seem a bit strange to go round a roundabout anti-clockwise, but it didn't, and the other drivers seemed to be coping well with this new way of negotiating a junction. There was a two-hour public meeting about it a month or so ago. I still can't imagine how they filled two hours just talking about a roundabout, but I'm afraid wasn't sufficiently interested to attend the meeting and find out!

25 May 2009

Girls' day out (or perhaps not)

The chicks are getting big enough to spend some time outside when it's warm, so Mike and my dad got building an enclosure for them yesterday:

In the afternoon the chicks had their first outside excursion.

It was great to watch them explore and to get a close look at them in daylight. Although the closer look did raise a question in my mind. Most of the chicks look like this one, with big fluffy tails and pale combs:

But the boldest chick looks a bit different. It has a darker comb (not very obvious from this angle) and the tail is a lot smaller. I'm beginning to suspect that this one is not a girl chick at all.

18 May 2009

Greenhouse greens

It's been a while since I mentioned the raised beds in the greenhouse: a whole four weeks, in fact. Things have been coming along nicely since that last photo. Here is the first bed, full of salad greens:

The second bed has lots of peppers and some aubergines and cucumbers in it. I was also using it as a nursery bed for cauliflower, broccoli and romanesca.

They were all a nice size so today I've transplanted them into their permanent positions outside (Mike had tilled the lower vegetable garden beds for me, so the new soil we've added to those is now well incorporated. I hope this means we won't get last year's waterlogging problems). They're now looking a bit limp and sad, but should perk up again soon.

In the third bed are more peppers and a variety of tomato plants. These are growing on well.

I'll be putting my other tomatoes out into their final positions in the garden later this week. Mike also dug out two new beds in the upper vegetable garden today, so a lot of the tomatoes will end up in those, I think. Then even if the lower vegetable garden does get waterlogged again, at least the tomatoes won't end up like last year's sorry specimens.

Chick pic

Here are the chicks, one week older. They're developing little tails now and the feathers on their wings are quite well grown.

We had to rehouse them in a bigger box, as last night they knocked over the water container and flooded the base of the old one. The water container is now on an upturned plate, which makes it more stable and also prevents them kicking wood shavings (and even less savoury items) into it. We've elevated the feed container as well. Being somewhat dim, the chicks would kick shavings over the food and then not realise there was any food there. The feeder is now sitting on two old egg boxes and is relatively free of shavings. I'm hoping the egg boxes will give them inspiration for their future role!

16 May 2009


I spent much of today ensconced in Deseronto Public Library, attempting to sell some of my young vegetable plants to people. The day started well, with local vegetable expert Vicki Emlaw (who runs a company called Vicki's Veggies) being interviewed on CBC as we were driving over. She was explaining about how wonderful heirloom varieties of vegetables were (audio file on CBC's site). And guess what I was selling?

I sold nearly all of the tomato plants (Purple Russian, Riesentraube and Amish Paste)and most of the peppers (Cayenne and Tomato). The three 'edible baskets' of Red Robin tomatoes and mixed salad leaves all went, too. The cosmos plants were popular, but the red cabbages (I sowed far too many this year!) were a complete failure: not a single one sold.

It was pleasing to have sold the plants, but the really fun part of the day was getting to talk to people who have never grown vegetables before and persuading them to give it a go. Quite a few initially-dubious window-shoppers went away clutching a tomato plant or two.

15 May 2009

Rabbit-repellent corn

I had a bit of bother with last year's attempt at a Mohawk-style Three Sisters bed. The corn part of the partnership just didn't work very well. At the time I blamed poor germination, but later wondered whether it was the fault of those cute little rabbits that were lurking on the fringes of the vegetable garden last year. This time round I decided to sow the corn in cardboard tubes in the greenhouse to give them a head start and perhaps make them less tasty for the furry blighters. Using the tubes means that the roots will have minimal disturbance when they go into the ground. The seeds had a 100% germination rate, which seems to bear out the rabbit-muching theory.

The weather is looking promising now (no sign of a frost in the forecast), so I've put the first sowing out into one of the lower vegetable garden beds. These have all been supplemented with extra soil this year in an attempt to prevent a repeat run of last year's tomato-drowning catastrophe.

The runner beans have been sown there too and the squash plants were sown in the greenhouse, enjoying a more sheltered start.

We enjoyed our first rhubarb harvest last night. One of the three plants that were planted in the tyre garden last year died, but the other two are looking healthy enough. You can see the asparagus plants are enjoying being in their tyres, too!

I've transferred the plants I hope to sell tomorrow into plastic boxes. Mostly they are heirloom tomatoes and peppers, but there are also some red cabbage seedlings and these cosmos plants:

Purple Russian are THE tomato plant to have this year, I understand. ;-)

The chicks are coming along fine. They are starting to look a bit tatty as their feathers are coming through. I'm sure they're growing, but that is hard to detect when you're looking at them every day. Where there is a noticeable difference is in their combs: those do look a bit bigger now than they did on Monday. You can really see why they're called combs, too!

11 May 2009

Chicks (and other stuff)

The chicks I'd ordered for the end of the month arrived a little early. Mike had a call on Friday to say that there were a dozen Buff Orpington females left over from the May 1 hatching and would we like them? We said 'yes' and Mike swung into action, buying chick feed, a heat lamp and a feeder and water-holder for them.

I was travelling back from England on Sunday, so Mike arranged with Jason Cain (the man who runs Performance Poultry), to pick them up today. It wasn't very far to go - the farm is only 7km (4.4 miles) away. So, here are our twelve blonde chicks:

They spend their time eating, drinking, sleeping and preening (and cheeping). Their down is gorgeously soft:

Other things have been moving pretty quickly, too. Here were some of the heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers and an edible hanging basket (the contents are edible, not the container) on 28 April in the greenhouse:

And, less than two weeks later, this is how they're all looking now:

I'm hoping to sell these plants in Deseronto this weekend at the town's Sidewalk Sale event, so if you're in the area, pop by and say hello!

The tyre/tire garden asparagus, which was planted last year, had also really taken off in the last week. So much so, that despite dire warnings from my inner head gardener (does anyone else have one of those?), who sternly told me that I shouldn't cut any until next year, I harvested a few spears tonight and we had them for tea. Delicious.

03 May 2009


Today was the first day of summer. The garden furniture was retrieved from the barn and used for the first al fresco meal. Herbs and onions were harvested from the garden for a potato salad and the seed potatoes were planted in their trenches. Tree swallows are nesting in the martin house and, in the barn, an Eastern Kingbird* has taken over last year's barn swallow nest.

In the orchard, the apricot is in full blossom. It has been a wonderful day.

*Also known by the rather unkind Latin name of Tyrannus tyrannus.