Exploring, eating and writing about good food on Canada's west coast

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Springtime in my urban kitchen garden


 I've been so busy with digging out, preparing and replanted my entire backyard edible kitchen garden for the past month that I haven't sat down to write about it. I have been taking lots of pictures, though, and now I can take a few minutes to share what I've decided to grow this year (some experimental and some old standards).

My garden is, as I often mention, a very experimental project as I learn about growing my own food on the west coast of Canada in an urban backyard setting. If you follow my blog you'll know that last year I decided to devote almost all my garden space to tomatoes, and was hit with Late Tomato Blight, killing off sixty plants worth of hopes and cooking dreams. It was, I can't deny, a bit of a kick in the pants after all that hard work and dreaming about fresh salsas and a pantry full of sauces that would never be. I decided that the lesson I learned from that was garden diversification - good, all eggs in one veggie basket - bad.

I dabbled a bit with a winter edible garden, which you can read about here. Then in early spring, I crammed all my best sunny spots full of fast-growing swiss chard and red lettuces for my team to eat during the Live Below the Line Poverty Challenge where we survived on $1.75 each for food per day, but could eat from the garden as well. Other than a few herbs here and there, that's all I had done in the garden until mid-May.

Then came the massive over-haul and planting of my backyard Edible Garden - 2014 version. Here's a run-down of everything I've planted in the past month:

13 different kinds of tomatoes, including heirlooms, pinks, yellows, oranges, purples, tiny lil' red Mexican ones and husk-covered green tomatillos. I wanted a nice variety that would give me a larger chance of success this year, as well as lots of colour and flavour variety for food photos and cooking.

Lots of Peppers. Jalapenos, Odessa Market Peppers, Cherry Hots, Hungarian Boldog Hungarian Spice Peppers and Jimmy Nardello roasting peppers . Can't wait to see how these go on this year, it's been warm so far and they are all starting to pop out flowers and tiny new peppers. The plants I'm growing this year are quite varied, everything from pickling peppers to dried paprika peppers, so I'll have lots to play with this fall.

Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas and four kinds of pole beans. I got a nice initial spring crop from the peas, but the hot and dry weather the past few weeks fried about half the plants before I could save them. The other half is still producing a nice salad's harvest every few days. The beans are just starting, my first time growing a variety of pole bean types. So far I'm enjoying watching how quickly they climb, and I'm hoping they really explode (which is why the bean pole is at the very back of my garden, so it doesn't shade anything else if they grow to ten feet.

Cucumbers - two kinds this year. I decided to focus on growing my favourites with my beloved Cuchinos, which are tiny, crunchy salad cukes that can also be pickled. I'm also growing Lemon Cucumbers, which grow into strange yellow-green balls that slice into perfect circles for fancy summer sandwiches.

Shallots and Garlic. Thanks to a generous friend who shared her tiny shallot seedlings with me (Thanks, Leanne!), I've got a big crop of healthy-looking shallots on the go. I grew these from bulbs last year and not one made it, so it's nice to see the little ones growing well this year. For garlic, I've got a bunch of Denman Hardneck Garlic that I planted last fall well on its way, and I planted more local garlic all over the garden in early spring. It's just starting to shoot out garlic scapes now, and I'll be harvesting these to top my pizza tomorrow night.

Potatoes in Grow Boxes, Squashes and Zucchini. I'm not growing any potatoes in the garden this year, other than some volunteers that popped up here and there in potato beds past. Instead I've got two experimental potato grow boxes on my deck, one made with a milk crate and the other with an old laundry basket. I started the milk crate one a month ago with some random sprouted potatoes from a friend's garden (Thanks, Sarah!) and it is now covered with green shoots, so far so good. The laundry basket grow box I planted two weeks ago with BC Warba nugget potatoes, but there's no action yet, hoping they're just getting growing now under that soil. There's also a wide variety of green and yellow zuchinis and butternut and spaghetti squashes slipped into empty garden spaces. These are always a hit or miss, so we'll see how they do this year.

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs! My entire property is covered in herbs now, as I've been slowly replacing decorative beds with herb beds. Everything exploded this spring and I decided to harvest some and cut those plants back, and let others flower and flourish. The local bees have been growing crazy for the chive flowers and thyme flowers, and I've been using the blossoms in my cooking and to garnish salads. With a few new additions to the party this spring, I am now growing: Rosemary, Oregano, Chives, Parsley, 3 kinds of Sage, 4 kinds of Thyme, 3 kinds of Mint (including new Chocolate Mint), 3 kinds of Basil (including new Spicy Basil and deep purple Opal Basil) and I'm training a Lemon Verbena into a topiary bush.

It might sound like a lot of herbs, but these plants have all come into my garden on whims here and there over the years and once established, they really just take care of themselves, look pretty and masquerade as decorative bedding plants while providing my kitchen with different  fresh herbs for cooking year-round.

  Lettuces, Rainbow Swiss Chard and Kale. I've still got lots of Red Salad Bowl lettuces growing, I keep hacking the plants down to the ground, and they explode all over again. I'm probably going to pull them this month and plant a summer mix of lettuces, just to have some variety of choice.

I had to move all the swiss chard and three kinds of kale that was taking up the sunny tomato area of the garden, and I replanted it all in partial shade on the west side of the deck that my garden wraps around, a spot where nothing has grown so far due to lack of sun. I wasn't sure if any of it would survive this random transplanting, but was surprised to see that every chard and kale plant that I moved has lived and is now flourishing in their new spots. The rainbow swiss chard is getting bigger and brighter by the week and the kale has stopped trying to bolt and seed now that it's out of the sun, and is putting out lots of new leaves instead. Woooo!

So there you have it, that's what I'm hedging my edible gardening bets on this year, and I'll blog on my progress and failures as they come. If you'd like to learn more about creating your own edible garden space, read my Food Bloggers of Canada article on Small Space Gardening.


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