Monday, February 25, 2013

you say tomato, i say..


if there is one type of produce that i insist on having homegrown or local grown it's definitely tomatoes. the ones you find in the grocery store just don't cut it. they're too acidic, the texture isn't right, they're certainly not ripened on the vine. tomatoes are so easy to grow and i swear you can taste the sun if you take a bite straight off the vine.
i love how there are so many different species each with their own unique flavours and uses. with a dozen or so plants, a few ripe ones can be picked almost daily to be used in salads or sandwiches. Mmmm fresh toasted tomato is a classic favourite.
 last year we tried some 'tiny tim' tomatoes, and they were... well.. tiny! we put them in the ground but they most definitely would have done well as a potted plant on a balcony or in a window. some of their fruits were fully ripe at just over a centimeter wide. they were so sweet!

..and of course the classic beefsteak tomatoes. yum... during the second garden year i was working down the street at the garden center, and i had enough time to come home for lunch and pick something from the garden to eat. i'd go for one of these and toast up some fresh thick sliced bread and sprinkle with pepper and a little sea salt. yuuum!

though tomatoes are usually planted as an annual in this part of the world, we had a couple random plants successfully seed and regrow the next season two years in a row. they were both smaller varieties, cherry and grape tomatoes. it was accidental, the plants from the previous year had been tossed into the wood pile, and they grew back as enormous bushes behind the garage. these are some species we hope to help naturalize in our 'forest gardens' in the future.

...all this tomato talk has me horribly excited for planting season.... hurry spring!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Second Time Around

though we had the space to garden three seasons in a row, 2012 was only the second year for the urban permaculture test patch. year one was but a sorry attempt at 'conventional gardening', which was overtaken by pests and rot. we had so much to learn... the next year was much more bountiful, where we employed some permaculture tactics in our garden.

the addition of on site composting and water barrel were two key components, as well as using a 'living mulch', in our case white clover. not only does clover fix nitrogen into the soil, but it keeps the surface of the garden shaded from the hot sun thus retaining moisture for the surrounding plants.

for the first year of the test patch we chose as many perennial species as we could incorporate into the garden, augmented with our annuals. we also did as much companion planting as we could, and tried to position plants to help one another get the sun/shade/moisture they need.

the herbs that came around for year two included the evergreen rosemary, sage, basil, summer savoury, oregano, mint, catnip and lemongrass. we also had planted raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, which we were pleased to see some fruit appear on in year two. the chives exploded the second time around, the lavender flowers smelled amazing, and i was surprised to see that the red lettuce and chamomile went to seed and came back dispersed together amongst the clover. also, from the very first garden year we had some grape and cherry tomatoes reappear along the garage where the original plants were tossed in the woodpile.

i'm grateful for the opportunity to see a garden in it's second year to see how well things weathered the winter, and with little care and pre-winter maintenance. i may not have much space to garden in this coming season, so i hope to find some other places to plant including other people's yards, balconies and some small guerrilla plots around the neighbourhood. seeing what types of things naturalize easily and which survived with little care will help me choose what to plant in plots that are further away, and what types of microclimates they thrive in.