Category Archives: gardening

An abundance of cilantro, now freezing in cubes; strawberries and peas

Awesome Garden Lady down the street gave us two large bunches of lettuce and a bag of cilantro, so I made an Asian-inspired salad yesterday: toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and the rest of our bag of baby greens, dressed with tamari and olive oil. The cilantro made it feel like eating one of those Vietnamese sandwiches, except without the meat. Yum.

Today I spent the morning chopping up the rest of the cilantro and packing it into our ice-cube tray for freezing. That way, we can easily add cilantro to stir-fries, soups, and other meals.

Many herbs freeze well, which is a good thing because they usually come in large bundles.

In other news, look at what’s in the garden:

The first of many, I hope!

Gardening notes: Cut-and-come-again lettuce

One of my gardening goals this year was to have a cut-and-come-again bed for leafy greens. The idea is to grow lettuce and other greens for continuous harvesting instead of waiting until the head has fully formed. We’re using a self-watering planter from Rona perched on the deck rail. I can even harvest barefoot. (Well, in my slippers.)


I started these plants from seed, which was another one of my goals. I’ve gotten two salad lunches out of this box already. The lettuce is starting to set seed and the leaves are a little more bitter, but they’re still good to eat. I’ve got bok choi and other plants starting there, too, and I tend to putter around and plant more every week.

I should’ve considered the community-supported agriculture box too, because we’re now swimming in lettuce. Today I changed my salad dressing by using tamari instead of balsamic vinegar, topping it with sliced egg. Bit more of an Asian taste. Next time, I’ll toss in some sesame seeds, too.

Salad greens are actually better in some shade than in the hot sun, so if you’ve been looking for things to grow on a balcony, consider growing your own salad bowl. With the cut-and-come again method, you could get quite a few harvests out of them.

Getting things ready for the next week: cooking and gardening

Tired! Did lots of cooking and gardening today. We went into full process-the-community-supported-agriculture-box mode today. I made pesto from the basil in the box (supplementing it with basil from our garden) and another pesto from green garlic. Chopping up the green onions and freezing them means more convenient soups later on. A quick stock made the most of the woody ends from several breakfasts’ worth of asparagus. W- prepared six packs of chicken leg quarters (shake and bake, jerk chicken marinade) and stirfried lots of vegetables. We packed maybe 36 lunches – a few in the fridge, and two neat columns in the chest freezer.

I also put in the drip irrigation system for the backyard. Well, most of the backyard. There has been some attrition among the 1/4″ irrigation fittings, so I set up only the vegetable garden near the house. Home Depot didn’t have the parts I wanted, but Lee Valley has them, so I might pass by one of these days to pick those things up. After I put in the soaker hose, I mulched the strawberries to keep the fruits off the soil. I also put up nets around our blueberries to see if that will improve our chances of actually enjoying them ourselves. We’ll see – there are some serious-looking squirrels around here.

Planted a few more square feet of beans and some lettuce. It’s been cool lately, so maybe the lettuce still has a shot. Saw my first pea flower! The tomatoes aren’t doing too well, though – they’re still scrawny. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of tomatoes in our summer share box.

Tired, but happy. We’ve gone through most of our vegetable box, so I’m less worried about wasting it. We’ve got frozen lunches. We’ve got salad plans. Next week should be a little smoother, and the next week after that even better, and so on.

Decision review: Packing lots of chores into Friday evening worked out. With the laundry finished, I spent Saturday downtown. Might’ve been a good idea to have my massage after the cookathon/gardenthon, though!

And people wonder why I don’t dread Mondays… ;)

2011-06-12 Sun 21:01

Hungry hungry compost and other garden updates

The compost bin chomps through imageall the organic material we give it. It’s nowhere near the smooth dark brown of finished compost yet, but when I turn it every week, my two full bins have mysteriously become two half-bins of compost. The Internet says it takes a ton of organic material (a literal ton, mind you) to make half a cubic yard of compost. To make two cubic yards of compost, then, you need about one Asian elephant’s weight in organic material. (Yes, I estimate tons in elephants, thanks to hanging out with my dad at the zoo.) So I’ll probably buy lots more cow manure (moo poo, as we call it) to amend the soil next year, instead of hoping that the compost bins will pull through quickly.

Other garden updates:

  • Asparagus: Tall and ferny. This is their second year, so we’re leaving them alone to grow and store energy for next year. Four square feet of asparagus might be too little, though. =) We’ll give it a try anyway!
  • Basil: Still getting established in the garden. Slow new growth.
  • Blueberries: Setting fruit. I’m going to put up some netting this weekend or next weekend so that we have a chance of tasting some berries, not like last year when the birds and squirrels had them all…
  • Cilantro: First true leaves emerging. Thoughts of stir-fries dance through my head.
  • Dill: Starting to look all dill-like. Still small, though!
  • Lettuce: Starting to go to seed. I may have a baby lettuce salad after all.
  • Mint: I had my first cup of home-grown mint tea the other day. Mmmmm.
  • Oregano: Thriving like anything. I must make pasta soon.
  • Onions, garlic, and garlic chives: Growing around the garden. Quite easy to grow. I think I’ll pull up more perennials next year and plant those instead.
  • Peas: More than two feet tall now, climbing up the strings like they’re racing the other seedlings. The ones in the unprotected box near the house are winning.
  • Spinach: Probably growing. I think I might be confusing it with weeds, so I’m leaving that section alone for now.
  • Strawberries: The new runners have established themselves and are even blooming, which is a pleasant surprise. All the plants are beginning to set fruit. Exciting times! Must pick up straw or some other mulch so that I can keep the berries off the ground. Also, it turns out you can make tea from strawberry leaves. Looking forward to trying that!
  • Tomatoes: Growing slowly, but getting there. I think we might have some kind of blight, though. =|

Casualties: a Thai basil plant, and the curry plant in front

I planted bok choi last weekend, and I planted some edamame today. We’re more likely to take the time and effort to cook the edamame than the string beans I grew the other year. =) I also sprinkled a lot of lettuce and spinach near the borders, where I pulled up the lilies of the valley. All those sprouts are coming up now that I’m home enough to keep the soil moist. (Note: Don’t plant lilies of the valley in your garden unless you mean it. They’re invasive and will take over. Ditto mint, which I keep in a pot.)

Pity it’s no longer dandelion season. We pulled up almost all of ours and ate them as salads. If we have more next year, I may host a party. We do have a berry tree out back that will be fun to harvest. We missed harvesting it last year, but we caught a lot of berries on a tarp the year before that. I think it would be a good combination with pastry cream, tart shells, maybe some powdered sugar on top. By that time, the tea garden should be growing quite well, too. Garden party! J- said her friends are excited about our tomatoes and peas, so we should have them over to harvest too. Mmm…

Gardening: Horticultural investments, social dividends

It started when we peeked through the bedroom blinds and saw our next-door neighbour cross the street to the house of the neighbour opposite us. He waved to them and took a wheelbarrow of triple-mix soil from the cubic yard bag sitting in front of the house, rolling it back down the curb, across the street, and up the other curb to his house. “They must’ve gone in together on a yard bag of soil,” W- said. It probably didn’t require much neighbourly coordination – a casual conversation, an offer of help – but we envied the ease and connection it implied. We knew our neighbours on either side of our house, but not so much the ones across the street. How could we get to know more people in the neighbourhood?

Gardening, apparently, is an excellent way to meet people over here. Investing in perennials and annuals turns out to pay social dividends. We dug up and gave our front-yard irises to one of our neighbours – we made space for new plants, and he added some more colour to his garden. We replanted the front yard as a herbal tea garden, with the sidewalk box planted as rows of colourful annuals (including one row of edible flowers, the petunias). We dug up the boxwood and juniper shrubs, placed the new plants, and chatted with neighbours and passers-by who complimented us on our garden. We even had an extended conversation with Awesome Garden Lady Down the Street, who as it turns out is Mrs. Wong, and who gave us extra vegetable seeds and plenty of advice.

Here’s what we planted today:

  • stevia
  • lemongrass
  • bergamot
  • spearmint (in a pot, of course)
  • peppermint (in the same pot)
  • garlic chives
  • curry
  • tricolor sage
  • lemon thyme
  • chamomile
  • lots of basil
  • lots of lavender
  • miscellaneous flowers

Weeding and cultivating the front yard will no doubt keep us busy throughout the season, and familiarity leads to conversations. I hope to get quite a few herbal infusions out of it too, and perhaps even a garden party. Our back yard garden is growing well, but is understandably limited as a conversation starter.

If you’re an introvert with a front yard, you might want to give gardening a try too. It’s easier for both W- and me to talk to people when there’s an excuse to do so, instead of just chatting with people out of the blue. Gardening provides an excellent excuse – people talk to us, or we can ask about other people’s gardens as we walk around. Lawns might draw remarks if they’re well-kept, but a more diverse and colourful garden will probably be easier. Have fun!

2011-05-23 Mon 17:35

Victoria Day weekend: back to the garden

Back home and back to the garden! The plants had been very busy growing while I was away. The oregano at the back has doubled in size. The peas are climbing up the twine. The blueberry bushes are flowering. The dill’s starting to sprout. Some of my spring onions have even made it, although a few had been dug up by squirrels who disagree with my landscaping.

The Victoria Day long weekend practically marks the start of the main gardening season. The garden centres are open during the holiday, and the herb and vegetable starters have joined the annuals. People are out planting.

W- and I walked around the neighborhood looking at people’s gardens. Down the street, Awesome Garden Lady’s plants are lightyears ahead of ours, and she’s already started harvesting herbs. We looked at the flowers in other people’s gardens, the way the perennials and annuals were arranged, the color combinations that caught our eyes. We identified fruits, herbs, and vegetables tucked into unusual places: mint slowly spreading across a front yard, alliums (onions, probably) with delicate bulb-like flowers, strawberries peeking out between hostas.

I think we’ll plant the front yard for herbal teas and other edibles. =) That will be fun and useful! Here’s what I’d like to plant:

Common name Height
Sage 2-3′
Bergamot 2′
Anise hyssop 2-4′
Lemon verbena (potted/annual?) 4′, can be more compact
Catnip (potted) 3-4′
Stevia (not hardy) 2-3′
Peppermint (potted) 2′
Variegated common thyme 6-10″
Sweet woodruff 6-12″
German chamomile 12-24″
Lemon balm (potted) 12-24″
Curly spearmint (potted) 12-24″
Pot marigold (annual) 18″
Purple basil (annual) 18-24″
Lavender 12-24″
Golden lemon thyme 6-8″
Marjoram 12″
Cilantro (annual) 18-24″

This is roughly based on, with possible substitutions for things that are not hardy in Zone 5. I’ll probably arrange it in some kind of a circle, with the taller plants in the middle.

The library has a couple of books on herbal tea gardens. Exciting!

2011-05-22 Sun 19:13