Ann's Ruralish Life - BeanDreams 2006 Detailed Log

Ann's Ruralish Life > BeanDreams2006 Log

This page is an online timeline of BeanDreams 2006, Ann's gardening plans & results for the growing season here in Nova Scotia. See the 2007 growing season here.

JUNE      JULY      AUGUST      SEPTEMBER      WRAP - UP }

My Inspiration

My Gidu (Dido) - my grandfather. Awesome gardener - made rich, deep, black soil - the man knew how to compost for sure! Read more about why I find his gardening inspiring on my blog.

The Plan
The latest growing plan is illustrated below, using the precepts of companion planting.

- 1 patch of chives
- a couple of onions (to grow for their green tops)
- a couple of potatoes (ones that had sprouted from the grocery store)
- 2 rows Green Forest (Romaine) Lettuce
- 1 row Mesclun mix (greens for salads)
- 1 row Pilgrim Tomato
Additional varieties of Tomatoes, bought as transplants:
Roma - VF Pear or plum shaped fruid, solid with few seeds. Mat: 76
Fantastic - a medium early, medium sized tomato, F1 Hybrid. Mat: 65-75
Big Beef - sweet meaty beefsteak. disease tolerant. Mat:73 days.
- 1 row Gold Rush Bean, untreated
- 1 row sage (an herb)

I will also be planting two types of flowers, for my contribution to the garden that I share with my mother-in-law:
- Ladybird Poppy
- Empress of India Nasturtium

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February, 2006
19 Seeds purchased through Vesey's, a PEI company that specializes in seeds for short growing seasons.
25 Planted tomato seeds
27 Tomatoes first sprouted. It's a little blurry, as the camera's autofocus didn't really have much to latch onto. You can see the seed pods are a tan brown colour, and the outshoot is the tiny glowing white strand attached to them.

28 Tomatoes, day 2. Much easier to see the seedlings now!

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March, 2006
2 Purchased some sage seeds from the local hardware store (seeds from the Halifax Seed Company), and planted them today.
6 First watering/fertilizing of the tomato seedlings! Here's a distance shot of how everything's laid out. The background shows the tomatoes reaching for the light, and the foreground shows my sage, covered in plastic to keep the moisture in 'til they sprout.

Here's a closeup of how the tomatoes are progressing. Their first leaves are getting very large, & I see the barest beginnings of their first "true leaves" peeking out. Yay!

7 The sage sprouted! Awesome! They weren't so slow, after all!

18 Added epsom salts to the water for 3 of my four pots of tomatoes, as they seem to be yellowing, which might be a result of too little magnesium. The fourth pot has no yellowing, and its really accelerating in growth! It's got many true leaves already, and I hope that the others plants will catch up now that they have proper nutrients (I'm trying to be careful to strike a balance between over-fertilizing (which will cause the plants to cease growing) and too little (which will result in sickly plants)). It was funny, as I was detangling a couple of tomato seedlings from each other, I caught a whiff of them, and they smelled like tomato plants! Its a very distinct smell, my parents have grown tomatoes for years so I have lots of experience smelling them (not that I snort them or anything, it's just something you notice) :D, and already they smell like full-grown plants! Its great, it makes me feel like things are really coming along! :)

The sage, BTW, is doing magnificently well, no troublesome issues at all, and have true leaves set out already!

22 I've transplanted my little seedlings into their peat pots, ending up with 7 tomato plants and 7 sage. They seem to be doing well now, although there were some mistakes (I forgot to soak the soil of the first pot of seedlings, and as careful as I was, the soil was so dry and lumpy that I ripped off some of the root system. The rest of the seedlings I soaked with water first, and the earth fell off the roots nicely).

These peat pots are very nifty little things, you put your transplants in them when they're very small, and when it's time to plant them in the garden, you put them in, pot and all - this means no transplant shock, and the peat dissolves into a nice healthy addition to your garden soil. I'm SO glad that this little image was on the packaging for the peat pots, or else I think I would have totally freaked out if I started to see roots growing out through the pots! I assume that it's actually normal peat pot procedure. :)

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May, 2006
15 Nothing much has happened this past month, mostly waiting and watching over the seedlings. Unfortunately, I chose really crappy soil to transplant them in (a topsoil mix, which it turns out is really used for filling in holes in your lawn, but not for growing plants!), and all but one of my tomato seedlings is stunted. Today I've repotted 3 of them with a different soil mix, and we'll see if they improve. It was such a gorgeous day, I planted my poppies and nasturtiums in some of my outdoor pots. The soil in the pots is warmer than the ground soil, so it should be just right for them to grow! Also did some garden bed prep, de-weeding and turning over the soil.

16 Since they like the slightly cooler spring temperatures, I planted some romaine lettuce today. I also planted a few onions that we had bought at the supermarket which had sprouted in the bin. They'll be good for some onion greens. And I finished off by planting a few potatoes, just for fun. :) And now tonight we're having a thunder and lightning storm with lots of rain, which will get those seeds off to a good, wet start!

20 It's Victoria Day weekend, the traditional start of gardening season here in Nova Scotia. Woo hoo! I finally finished deweeding the garden today, and added the lovely well-rotted chicken manure that Dave's mom brought me. So it's all set to plant! I've started hardening off my transplants, so in a week or so, they'll be ready to go in the ground. I'll probably wait a bit longer to plant my beans, for the soil to warm up a bit more. I still have to build a little fence (the materials were donated by my parents) :) to keep Casey out - I just can't get her to understand that I want her to stay off the garden. She's already half-squashed my chives. :) The fence may also keep bunnies from eating all my lettuce - but I hear they can be pretty determined, so we'll see. Frankly, I'd just be really excited to see the bunnies up close and personal. :D
Addendum: Dave and I finished putting up the chicken wire fence - looks pretty good! As long as it keeps Casey out, and discourages rabbits, I'll be pleased! :)

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June, 2006
09 The beans have arrived!!! I check the garden every day, and this morning, I finally saw the beans peeking up! Yay! So everything is looking good - the tomatoes that Dave's mom bought for me have all transplanted well (and I think some of my stunted home-grown ones might be still able to be salvaged), and my sage is big enough that I could use some on the roast chicken I made for my grandmother the other day. The weeds,! There's a LOT of them. I weed a little every day, but there's always more - part of the joy of gardening. :) So the only thing that hasn't really taken off is the thing that should have done the best with these coolish temperatures: the lettuce! I'll have to reseed and see what happens - I'm not weeding in that area just in case I'm not recognizing the lettuce - when everything gets bigger I should be able to tell. :)

24 Just a little update - so far, so good! The only thing that didn't come up, except for 2 little guys, was the lettuce. So I de-weeded the whole lettuce area, added more good potting-type soil, dug and mixed it all together, and replanted. Hopefully something will come up soon! :) The tomatoes, potatoes, onions and chives are all doing really well, getting nice and big. I'm especially pleased with my own tomato plant that I grew from seed (I have 2 more that are ready to transplant as well); even though it started off more slowly, it seems to be catching up with the others that were purchased at a garden center. :) The sage is growing, but at a much slower rate - that might be normal for sage, I don't really know. But it is definitely growing, so that's what counts. Dave's mom gave me a couple of transplants left over from her man-friend's garden, so I have a couple of cucumbers and zucchini plants shoehorned in there. They're doing well too, a little bug eaten, but otherwise coming along well.

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July, 2006
20 The garden's coming along really well! The tomato plants are thriving nicely, but I'm sure they, like everything else, would benefit from some sunshine - it's been unusually overcast here in Nova Scotia this summer, we've hardly had any sun at all. But the plants are still doing okay. As you can see in this photo, the blossoms are getting ready to open (and some have already)!

The bean plants are doing well too, with lots of blossoms already - and there's plenty more summer left for them to expand and grow even more!

This huge plant is the couple of potatoes I planted, from ones that had sprouted in the bag - they're doing amazingly well! I'm sure I've got tons of potatoes growing under there!

And this, this is my one precious lettuce. For some weird reason, I CANNOT get the lettuce to grow - this little guy is the only one out of 3 (THREE) separate plantings to come to fruition! And even then, he got completely eaten down by slugs and had to start all over again. Poor little guy, he's such a trooper!

And check out the Empress of India nasturtiums! Wow! Gorgeous dark foliage, and beautiful orange/red blossoms - a fantastic addition to this year's garden!

And here's the lovely "regular" nasturtiums, a lovely orange with its typical lighter green foliage - all nicely offset with those really pretty red petunias I got from the garden centre a month or so ago.

So, everything's been growing well! :D Yay!

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August, 2006
2 My Empress of India nasturtiums are creating an explosion of color on the front stoop. The orangey-red shows off so nicely against the dark green foliage. I don't really know what's different about this container, from the others, but this is the biggest nasturtium display on the property. It is in more shade than the others, and little more protected from the elements, perhaps that has something to do with it?

I planted a couple of onions that had sprouted in the sack I brought home from the grocery store - and one of them produced this gorgeous bloom! It's really quite special, so many tiny white flowers!

My tomatoes are starting to develop flowers! Yay!

5 Look at the beans!! What a show! Nice and yellow and ready to be picked!

And here they are, inside and ready to be eaten! Mmm...nothing like fresh picked beans, the flavour is so intensified when they're that fresh - they don't need anything special done to them, just boil them in some salted water until tender-crisp, drain, add a little butter and enjoy! Yum! [Editor's Note: And I did just that. SO good, so flavorful!]

The first tomato!!! So far, he's about 1" across - I'm so proud!!

18 Wow! Look at this clump, all the flowers in this group got pollinated and produced fruit! Awesome! It has been getting colder though, so I've had to start watching the nightly forecast and cover up my tomatoes when it calls for temperatures dipping below the 10 ° C mark overnight, just in case there's a remote danger of frost.

This plant is the one I'm most proud of - this is the tomato that I grew from seed indoors, the only one of them to survive to maturity. And look, it's produced some fruit and more flowers to come! Yay!

I didn't plant any poppies in my vegetable garden, they apparently came over in some dirt Dave's mom brought over from another property. Gorgeous, aren't they? They feature prominently in Ukrainian folk art, so they have a special place in my heart. :)

31 More and more and more! LOOK at all the tomatoes on these plum tomato plants! It's amazing! They've been really prolific, it's awesome!

Potato harvest! I planted that one red one from the supermarket, and look! She multiplied nicely! They're really easy to grow, they take almost no care at all (at least, I didn't give them much care...) [Editor's Update: we ate them for supper that night, and they were delicious! I didn't detect much difference between store bought and fresh from the garden, I wouldn't really recommend them as a "must-have" for your garden or anything. But it was still a fun experiment!]

And still, my lone lettuce grows tall. I think I will harvest it shortly, as the outer leaves are starting to get tough-looking. *sigh*. Definitely not the "summer of salads" I thought it would be. :) [Editor's Update: I did eat it. It was okay. It was so old at that point that it was pretty dried out. As I said, the "summer of salads" it wasn't.] :)

And my special plant that I grew from seed is still doing really well! There are several tomatoes now, and that first one is getting bigger!

Check out the front yard plant pots! Look at the petunias and the poppies!!! These are the gorgeous "Flanders Fields" poppies, that I grew this year as a small act of Canadian patriotism. It was a Canadian soldier that died in the Great War (WWI) who wrote this memorable poem that our schoolchildren still learn to recite.

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September, 2006
23 The Ripening has begun! Look at this beauty! This is the first one to turn, but looking at it closely, I see that I have to pick it even though it's not fully ripe yet - you can see some stem-end damage (rot?) happening - not sure what's causing that, but hopefully I'll be able to salvage most of it and eat it! You can see the garbage bags on the ground surrounding the plants - I've used them since mid August when the night time temperature started to dip to a level I wasn't comfortable with. The last thing I want to do is lose all these fruits because of an unexpected frost!

Here you can see the tomato indoors - I've placed a (used) butterknife in front for scale. Pretty good size! :) (in the background you can see our toaster, and Dave's mom's container of Sesame Butter from the Bulk Barn. FYI: Bulk Barn is a very fun place to shop, it's full of bins of foodstuffs, both common and uncommon, that you can take as much or as little of as you need: they based the charge on weight and the specific product).

[Editor's Note: I ate this and a few other tomatoes from the garden since then - there is nothing, NOTHING like eating a tomato fresh from the garden. NOTHING. It is unsurpassed in juicyness, tenderness, flavour - you can actually TASTE the warmth of the sun inside it. Awesome. Awesome.]

27 I'm going to have to put the garden to bed soon - it's so late in the season, there really isn't much more time for the tomatoes and cukes to grow. And with the frost warnings starting to appear regularly on the weather forecast, the time to dig up the garden has come. I've picked several tomatoes already (for ripening inside), and I'll have to do the rest in the next couple of days.

It's kinda sad: on one hand, you don't really want it to end...but you can tell from the chill in the air that Nature's saying "it's time to button up for the winter!" So it doesn't feel unnatural, you can clearly feel in the air that growing season is over, that it's reached it's natural conclusion, and it's time to move on.

Thanksgiving is in a couple weeks - just in time for the end of our growing season. I'll process my tomatoes for freezing, and serve them as part of our harvest meal. :) I'll give lots of details on my prep for this feast coming soon on my blog!

29 Finally time to put the majority of the garden to bed! Here's a last shot of the tomatoes outdoors (you can see the plastic garbage bags again around their base). They did pretty darn well! The plants have shrunk down somewhat, perhaps in response to the cold weather (I also haven't been watering them too much lately, either).

I read in one of my mother's gardening books that this is a good alternate way to ripen your tomatoes. Ripen them right on the vine, indoors! You uproot the whole plant, and tie it upside down (here, I've attached them to wire coat hangers - it was Dave's idea, and it worked really well!). The hangers are hung on wood beams in our basement. Hopefully the tomatoes will start to ripen soon!

And here's the sad result of the cucumbers I grew this year. Only 2 cukes from 2 plants! They were also bitter tasting, on top of everything else - I hear that's something to do with a chemical imbalance in the soil, I'll have to read up on that to learn more. The (used) butterknife is again used for scale, and you can see a little dribble of red borscht on the counter.

Seasonal Wrap - Up

This summer was not a typical one for Nova Scotia. There were only about 7 days of sunshine during June and July combined. This and other factors led to many crop failures for our farmers, and for small gardens throughout our area. With only one exception, everyone I talked to in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) had a terrible growing season. This made me feel a lot better about the sad results of my vegetable garden. :)

My zucchini (which is usually a plant that produces WAY more fruit than you could ever use!!) didn't grow any. Not a one.

Cucumbers - only created 3 fruits - one got a blight of some kind and stopped growing. The other two were very small, and bitter tasting.

The tomatoes did well, but were very late in forming, so I had to bring them indoors to ripen. Only about half of the total fruit produced was able to ripen, the rest weren't far enough along when the plant was uprooted, to do so.

Potatoes grew well, one potato produced 3 - 4 new ones.

Lettuce, after 3 plantings, only grew 1 1/2 small plants. Very odd, as the weather was cool (as they like), and lettuce is a plant my mother has never had a problem growing, so I thought it'd probably be easy. Oops.

Beans - delicious!! But there weren't enough of them! :)

Things I'd change for next year:

1. Shorter maturity times - while we have a decent length of growing season, we had miserable weather during the beginning of the summer, and as early as August we had cold snaps (which is really odd, August used to be our hottest month - Global Warming and the Changing Climate strikes again). So next year, I'm only going to plant things with a maturity of 60 days or less (except for some tomatoes). That way, there'll be plenty of time for everything to mature, even if we get off to a slow start.

2. Plant more beans! I planted about 8 plants, but that only produced a few meal's worth of beans. I want to have enough to freeze for Thanksgiving, and maybe Christmas too. I would definitely set aside 2 rows worth of space next time.

3. Enrich the ground further. The ground was great at the beginning of the season, with the extra chicken poop (well rotted) provided from Dave's mom's chickens. But, it seemed to be dry and dusty by the middle of the season - it might need further enriching at the beginning.

4. If I can manage it (it would be a lot of work!) next year, I should move the garden to further out in the yard. The current position of the plot was fine when it was first put in many years ago, but the surrounding trees have grown and don't let the plot get sunlight until after noon - and plants do most of their growth in the morning.

5. Less space for lettuce next year (I may not grow any). A large chunk of my garden was wasted with nothing growing in it this year, because the lettuce just didn't grow.

6. Buy Roma plum tomato transplants. The plum tomatoes were by far and away the best producers of the varieties I grew this year. I'm assuming they're particularly suited to the garden soil here, so I'll stick with them next year. Roma outstripped the other tomatoes in production by at least 4:1 combined! It was very exciting to grow my tomatoes from seeds, but it didn't seem really worth it. Only one of the many plants I started managed to survive to produce fruit, and it was a lot of work and tending for just one plant (not that he's not worth it, of course), but I don't think I'd do it again next year.

I have some ideas for crops for next year:
  • Daikon radish
  • sugar snap peas
  • Stevia rebaudiana - As Vesey's states: "The leaves of this 'Sweet Herb' are 20-30 times sweeter than cane sugar, yet considered safe for sugar restricted diets. Stevia is used extensively in Japan to sweeten sugar-free products, as a safe alternative to artificial sweeteners." Sounds interesting, and with my mother-in-law's diabetes, it could come in handy!
  • beets - it'd be great to have borscht more often!
  • tomatoes (again, but from purchased transplants)
  • beans - they were great, but there weren't nearly enough of them!

    Of course, I am limited by the size of my little plot, so I may not grow all of that! :) But we'll see!

    Happy gardening everyone! See you next year!

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