I was actively soliciting rain yesterday so that I wouldn’t have to water the garden. Well, nature delivered – in quantity ! It seems like we’re in for another stretch of cool weather. The tomatoes alas, will likely be staying green for longer. When it comes to weather you just can’t please everyone in the garden. But, when you diversify what you are growing usually somethings will do well. At the moment, the beans are particularly happy, so I’ve started making some lacto-fermented dilly beans. They’re awesome, and good for the tummy too ! Last year we tried dill pickles, and while our pickling cucumbers are still small, I found some at the farmers market so I could get more batches in this year.
PS: I use horseradish leaves in all my pickles so they stay nice and crunchy. Grape leaves also work, and possibly raspberry leaves, although I’ve never tried them.
Yes, there are all kinds of things I’d like to be writing about the garden. But, I’m so busy IN the garden. Some pictures I managed to snap …
More flowers …
Blue Flag Iris
Wild Black Raspberry
Yellow Devil’s Paintbrush (Yellow Hawkweed)
Our alternate leaf Dogwood was flowering the other day, and was just humming with bees. It has a heavy pollen load and was particularly popular with the smaller native bees. Some bumble bees were around, but few honey bees. I thought I’d try a bit of a photo survey of the bees that were out and about on some of the plants that are in flower right now. Some I could identify, a few I’m just guessing at.
Sweat Bee (Halictidae, Halictinae, Halictini): Augochlora pura ?
GUESS: Leaf-Cutting Bee (Megachilidae, Megachilinae, Megachilini)
An Impersonator: Syrphid Fly
I love seeing the big queen bumble bees at this time of year. They’re so big you can see the down draft from their wings kicking up particles from the ground or moving leaves. And the honey bees, well they just have their heads in the flowers !
Bumble Bee (Apidae,Apinae, Bombini) on Red Clover
Bumble Bee on Wild Black Raspberry
Honey Bee (Apidae, Apinae, Apini) on Comfrey
It was a cold winter and this spring has been a steady but seemingly slow climb towards warmer temperatures. The garden is in pretty good form so far and I was busy in early May planting fruit trees and bushes. Woo-hoo !! We now have four trees: peach; plum; apricot; plumcot. Also, two chum bushes and six black raspberry canes were added. All came from Whiffletree Farm.
In the photo you can also see another spring project; my mini Benjes Hedge. It was a great way to use the trimmings from a large Manitoba Maple on the property. I hate to loose any organic matter ! I’ve planted some climbing nasturtiums along it which will hopefully lessen the number of stares from passers-by.
We’ve already started enjoying a few pickings from the veggie garden. Radishes, baby Red Russian kale, cilantro, multiplier onions, rhubarb, as well as herbs have been gracing the table. Peas are looking promising and should be bearing in a few weeks. The heat lovers have been put in as starts (tomatoes and peppers) or direct seeded (cucumbers and zucchini). Spring turnips have lots of greens but are a bit slow bulbing up. I suspect the phosphorous levels in the soil still aren’t ideal. The garlic, despite a slow start, is being its usual dependable self. We almost made it through the year with our home grown garlic, but fell short by a dozen or so heads. This year I hope to have more than enough !
These have been quite a conversation starter. “Are those bones on your counter ?”, “Why, yes they are !”. I’ve actually meant to take them down to the root cellar, but my procrastination has at least yielded some entertainment. I make stock with the marrow bones from our beef order, and then I rinse them off and save them. You might be asking why at this point. Simple, it’s for the trees ! I have plans for adding a few fruit trees to the garden this spring (and also raspberries). Trees need phosphorous for good root development, and since phosphorous is not very mobile in the soil, it helps to add a source to the hole when planting. Bone meal is a good way to get phosphorous ! So into the hole go the bones. Granted, these will be more of a long term source of P due to the fact that they aren’t ground, but hopefully the trees will be around a long time.
Phosphorous has been on my mind as of late. I have a high pH soil in the garden (7.8, we’ve got calcareous soils in these here parts) and it means phosphorous can become unavailable do to reaction with all that calcium. Nutrient balancing in general is a goal for the the veggie gardens this year, but that is a whole other post !
With my stash of rendered beef tallow in hand I had a few projects I wanted to try. As an avid organic gardener, I’m always trying to keep the diversity of species around our house maximized. In addition to leaving seed bearing plants like sunflowers and cone-flowers standing through the fall and winter, we also have a couple of bird feeders I try and keep stocked. The tallow meant I could add another type of feeder. I’ve been inspired in a number of ways by the books of Irmgard Kutsch and Brigitte Walden about the Children’s Nature and Garden Centre in Reichshof, Germany. In Autumn they have a description of making a bird feeder from seeds and fat placed in a clay flower pot with a branch attached for a perch. The picture makes it all clear!
I hung this near our established feeder before Christmas. Then I waited – and waited. Come the beginning of January I was starting to worry that the birds wouldn’t figure out where the food was, or maybe the really cold temperatures were making the tallow too hard. This week, however, the birds proved me wrong and a chick-a-dee found the treasure ! After that all her friends joined in, including nuthatches and a downy woodpecker who is our biggest customer. While we see these birds eating seed from a feeder, in the spring and summer they are voracious eaters of insects (especially during nesting season). Our three friends all made the top 10 list of The Best Birds for Your Garden. Here’s hoping a little extra fat will help this winter !
The next use for tallow was in helping ME this winter. The dry conditions inside do a number on my skin, so I’m always on the lookout for an even better moisturizer. A little time on Google turned up this recipe which claims animal fats are much better for our skin (makes sense, us being animals and all). I used avocado oil instead of olive oil and added some shea butter for good measure. It has been working great so far !