Archives: garden

flowers in winter

Even though spring is officially here there’s still a chill in the air today, and if the mini blizzards that swept through the skies over this past weekend were any indication, we still have a little ways to go before spring comes in at full force.

In the depths of that extremely long and cold February, I decided to create a bit a spring atmosphere in the house by planting a handful of Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs.

paperwhite buds

For the past few springs I would enviously see posts up on blogs or Instragram of these beautiful blooming buds. And just when the thought of crocuses, and tulips blooming in the garden seemed like an eternity away, I figured it was high time that I got in on the Paperwhite action too. And that is just what I did.

I purchased my Paperwhite bulbs on James North from i-fiori flower shop.

Since I was a little late in the season to plant the bulbs some of them were already starting to sprout little green shoots. I was reassured that this was no problem. This was true; we had blossoms galore!

After acquiring the bulbs, I collected an assortment of vases, jars and vessels from around the house along with a little pile of smooth stones.

It was all really pretty easy:

1. Fill your receptacles with a few stones

2. Plop the bulbs on top

3. Add water until just the base of the bulb is wet

4. Place in a sunny window

5. Continue to water daily to the level of the bottom of the bulb or to cover the soon to be shooting roots

6. Observe daily as the bulbs start sprouting and shooting up

paperwhite bulbs

I read somewhere that you can add a little vodka to the water to avoid the toppling of stems that start to happen if they shoot up to be very long. The vodka will stunt the growth so that the stems are shorter and hardier, thus not toppling with the weight of the blossoms.

paperwhite blossoms

Warning: the flowers do have a pretty pungent smell. I wouldn’t necessarily call it fragrant. But I figured the smell was the price I’d have to pay to have something beautiful, blooming and spring-like in the windows for the month of February.

city hall’s backyard garden

If you’ve happened by Hamilton’s City Hall out back on Hunter Street you may have noticed its backyard vegetable garden. I’ve been admiring it since spring.

The summer that Jack Layton died I remember City Hall had its edible garden out front on Main Street as well as another one in front of the Farmer’s Market on York Boulevard (see my post on that here). I hadn’t seen an edible garden run by the city in a long while so I was pretty pleased to see one up and growing again this summer.

I love it when public spaces get used for practical purposes like this.

City Hall Edible Garden

city hall urban edible garden City Hall edible garden yellow zucchini

The garden is beautifully planned and you can tell that the people (or person) in charge of this mini master-mind of a vegetable garden knows their gardening stuff. Zucchini; both yellow and green, carrots, kale, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes, and beans are all growing harmoniously, climbing up triangular trellised teepees and flowering their vegetable fruits in abundant beauty! Nothing is over crowded and everything is growing symbiotically, which is more than I can say about my own vegetable garden.

There have been days when I’ve seen people stop at the vegetable garden; a mom with a stroller, an elderly man with a market cart, plucking a zucchini or two. I wondered if the garden was just free-for-the-taking but later I heard that its harvest is to be donated to local Hamilton Food Banks.

City Hall back garden

On the particular day I took these pictures a city staff member from the horticultural department was out harvesting the garden crops. I got to talking with her and she said that unfortunately a lot of the veggies were picked over so they didn’t have as much of a harvest to donate to the local Food Banks as they had planned. The worker said she hoped that the people who were picking the vegetables were those that might’ve needed a little extra help in accessing fresh produce. Even with the crops picked over, I still felt she had collected a nice harvest of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, kale and zucchini.

City Hall carrots edible garden city hall edible garden harvest

 

 

rhubarb

This is the second year that we have been able to harvest the rhubarb from our relatively young backyard rhubarb plant.

The stalks were hearty and we were able to take from it several bunches from late May until the end of June.

To keep up with this seemingly non-stop supply of rhubarb I needed to find an easy recipe to start using it up -and fast!

On Pinterest one day I came across this quick easy-to-make recipe from a food blog called Feed Me Phoebe.

rhubarb yogurt cake

Rhubarb Yogurt Cake (recipe from Feed Me Phoebe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 10-inch round spring-form cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the yogurt, sugar, salt, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the oil into the batter slowly, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk the batter again until smooth.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl and fold it into the wet batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and scatter the chopped rhubarb on top.
  4. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back lightly when touched. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then lift it out with the parchment paper and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

We’ve made two rhubarb yogurt cakes so far this season and they never last in the house for longer than a day or two. We’re constantly sneaking in pieces pre-breakfast, throughout our numerous coffee and tea time breaks or whenever we happen to be just passing by the kitchen.

Rhubarb plantSince Steve is the keeper of our backyard garden, he did all the rhubarb stalk collecting. Especially since he’d read up on how you’re not supposed to just go in there and chop down the stalks with a knife or scissors like I would’ve done. Instead he gracefully twisted and snapped them off before passing over a large and heavy bunch to me.

Rhubarb stalks

rhubarb picking

Someone once told me not to pick fresh rhubarb after the end of June -increase in toxicity? So by my books I’ve about a day or two left to get in all my rhubarb chopping for the year. It freezes well so we’ll still have plenty throughout the summer if I have any sudden urges to make my mom’s rhubarb cake recipe (click here), which involves a simple cake batter, a package of strawberry jello, and mini marshmallows!

 

 

spring seedlings

Since the second summer we’ve been at our house we’ve had a backyard vegetable garden. It’s a small urban one because our yard is pretty teeny, but so far it has done the trick!

We’ve been able dabble with growing garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and some herbs.

backyard garden garlic scapes

weathering seedlings

We did a quite a bit from seed this year but with multiple work and home projects on the go we also needed to supplement with a few purchased seedlings that we acquired from the Mustard Seed Co-op’s Seed Sale from a few weeks back.

In fitting with the end of Ontario’s Local Food Week, The Co-op is having their big grand opening celebration this Saturday June 7 from 12-6pm with a whole slew of local producers/vendors, face painting, live music and kids activities.

Mustard Seed Coop spring seed sale

mustard seed spring seed sale strawberries

 *Mustard Seed Co-op, 460 York Blvd. 289.492.COOP, @mustardseedcoop

plan b

We don’t always, but when we can we try and by local and/or organic.

This winter we decided to buy a winter share with Plan B Organic Farms. It’s the second time we’ve ordered a share with Plan B. What I like about it is that it cuts down on trips to the grocery store, and it helps us decide what meals to make for the week.

With Plan B you have the option of buying entirely local, or with a mix of international and local organics goods. You can get a weekly or bi-weekly share, and you can order a small or large box. They can deliver directly to your home or you can check to see where they do free local drop-offs in your neighbourhood.

We opted for a small bi-weekly box for 10 weeks (we added on an order of coffee and eggs too), which we pick up at a local store a short walk from our house.

Plan B has been perfect for this winter stretch, as it’s helped to tide us over until things get hopping at the local farmer’s markets for spring and until our summer garden gets into full-swing.

We make a lot of soups and enjoy having fresh pea sprouts on our lunchtime sandwiches and garnished on salads.

fiesta forever…

I would say that we’re no traditionalists when it comes to baby showers and other such celebrations.  So when my sister and friend offered to plan a “baby shower” they made sure it would be as unorthodox of a shower as you could get.  We went with the theme of a fiesta! I couldn’t have thought of a more fun and colourful way to celebrate.

Collaboratively we gathered up, bought and made fiesta decorations for the house and yard which were fabulously vibrant.  Everything looked so beautiful! The weather cooperated and it was proper summer hot and breezy.

Setting up pre-fiesta, with morning sun shining in.

frida kahlo drink coasters, fiesta wedding, fiesta baby shower

Loved the Frida Kahlo drink coasters!

Lavender, mint lemonade with lemon ice pucks.

We had a tub of cold cerveza, Mexican pop, and sangria. And of course a party would also not be complete without… tequila!

Since we already had our friends and family in attendance, and since there was great food, drinks, and lovely decorations up -Steve and I had thought to ourselves why not combine this baby-fiesta with non other than a SURPRISE WEDDING!! And that’s just what we did.

It was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  I loved seeing the expressions of shock on everyone’s faces, followed by tears, exclamations, and hooting and hollering.  We had such a fabulous day celebrating AND not to mention I felt content having escaped the pressures and stress that all come when you plan an unsurprise wedding.  There were people that of course we would’ve liked to have invited and would’ve travelled from a far to celebrate with us but this surprise wedding really made everything so simple and brought it back down to the basic crux of the matter -we got married and we had so much fun doing it!!

fiesta wedding, surprise wedding

 

summer strawberries

On one of those super hot days last week I went strawberry picking with my lovely friend Robyn. The past few years we’ve been making a tradition of going strawberry picking together at Lindley’s Farm in Ancaster.  The thing that I love about strawberry picking (besides getting some delicious strawberries) is that Lindley’s strawberries are pesticide free! Even though I know that I can get California-store-bought strawberries for half the price, there’s just something amazing about picking local strawberries hot off the strawberry bush -so juicy-fresh and chemical free!

In addition to strawberries Lindley's also has pick-your-own beets.

There’s a mini farm market on-site that sells some local produce grown at Lindley’s (if you don’t feel like picking your own).  They also sell a stock of other local Ontario produce from around the area.

The sun was hot but there was a beautiful warm summer breeze that made it all bearable.  The strawberries were so ripe, huge and amazing. Regardless of the summer heat and lest I forget being nearly 7 months pregnant, it was still worth it to pick-our-own berries.  Now I have berries to last well into the fall for smoothies, and baking.

Before we left Lindley’s one of the farmers was telling us that there was just a short window of good strawberry picking days left -only about 4 days to go from today!  Raspberries were also in season to be picked and the black raspberries should be ready to go in about another week or so. If you have a berry hankering, the time for picking is now!

*Lindley’s Farm, 900 Fiddler’s Green Road, Ancaster, 905.648.4212

 

 

a long one

We planted clover in the backyard last year so that we didn’t have to stare at dirt anymore, and so that we never had to cut grass again.  Sometimes, however the clover gets a little long as you can see here.

Steve recently found a variety of seed that grows short clovers at Tregunno Seeds on Catharine Street North.  We’ll have to try it out since some of the clovers in our backyard are just so super long.  I’m gunning for integrating Irish or Scotch moss into the mix, but I think that might just be wishful thinking and potentially impossible.

seedy saturday

On Saturday we attended Seedy Saturday!  This is where we’ve been happily getting our seeds for our vegetable garden for the past three springs.

This year there were seed vendors, give aways, door prizes, seed swaps and a lot of families and like-minded garden enthusiasts.

The best part about the day is the seed swap, where you can exchange and/or pick-up free seeds. I find it a little hard not to be greedy or over ambitious with garden plans when there’s such a variety of free seeds right in front of you -it really is like being a kid in a candy store.

The most unique find of the day were these purple Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  I’m interested to see how these will look like once they’re in the ground and blooming.

There was a sweet stack of vintage garden catalogues and books that you could give a small donation for and take home for further perusal.

 

Seedy Saturday is put on by the Hamilton Community Garden Network.  This year it was held at Ryerson United Church at 842 Main St. east.

 

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