Why is mulching so confusing?

Gardening seems to have as many opinions and practices as there are practitioners.

Case in point: mulching.

When do you mulch? With what do you mulch? How deep do you mulch? Do you remove your mulch?

I’m becoming more and more enamored with Ruth Stout’s approach — just thow hay over everything and let it be.

Trouble is, I don’t have hay.

A variation that has numerous benefits is to throw compost over everything and let it be.

Now, how much compost? when do you apply? what kind of compost?

*Sigh* Why is everything so complicated?

I think I shall spend my time sourcing hay and reading Ruth Stout.

Veggie bed mulched with 2 inches homemade compost (yard waste and kitchen scraps) after a hard freeze.
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Ripening squash.

Green tomatoes are getting all the glory these fall days.  Let’s give a little love to underripe squash this week.

With our early frost (and surprise dump of snow!), the squash had to be harvested quickly.  It was a harvest of about half ripe, half green.  (Helpful tips on the difference here.)

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September snow. 

Luckily some warm days followed, and by placing the underripe squash in a warm, dry place that crucially receives sunlight, winter squash will continue to ripen.  My mini greenhouse is a perfect place to get a little more time for these squash to mature.

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Ripening in the mini greenhouse.

How was your squash harvest this year?  Any brilliant tips on further ripening?

Well, that didn’t go as planned …

It snowed. It snowed before our first killing frost. It snowed before Canadian Thanksgiving.

First snow of the season ☹️

Rude.

This meant I had to rush around getting the celery harvested on a cold fall evening way before I was ready to use it. Luckily with my no-dig beds, I just pulled up the stalks, roots and all and plunked them into a big, plastic bowl.

Cold celery, pre-snow.

Looking at this bowl of just harvested celery, I thought, “Well, now what?”

My plan was to use it in Thanksgiving recipes such as for the dressing, harvested ideally the day before! While staring at this bowl of cold celery that would most likely go wilty in the fridge before then, I had a brain wave.

I filled the bowl with my harvested vermicompost, watered, and left it downstairs. Much to my surprise, the celery perked up and has remained upright and beautifully green for two weeks now!

Happy celery in vermicompost.

I grow Tango celery. While I don’t get large, grocery store celery, the taste makes up for its size. I use the stalks and leaves in soups, stews, and of course, Thanksgiving dressing!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. 🇨🇦

Is it ripe?

Knock it, poke it, sniff it, shake it. How do you tell when your winter squash is ripe?

Answer: It depends.

img_3857-1For acorn squash the colour turns a dark green, the rind won’t accept a fingernail impression, and the “underspot” turns from yellow to dark orange.

img_3868But! for delicata squash, the rind is softer so the fingernail test is not reliable. Ripeness is determined primarily by colour. The white colour turns a creamy yellow and the striations turn a deep green.

img_3822Now, buttercup squash are a little different again and I use the colour of the stem as a good indicator. When it changes from green to wizened brown, then I cut it off the plant.

Whatever method you use, let the best, unblemished specimens ripen for a couple weeks to achieve a better taste and better storage.

Happy fall! Happy squash eating!

Chockablock o’ Cherry tomatoes.

“I don’t really like tomatoes.” she whispered guiltily.  Yet there are usually 3 – 4 varieties growing each year in my backyard garden.  Then fall comes and there is a glut of tomatoes adorning the window sills and countertops waiting to ripen or be preserved.  I try not to glower too much at these cheery fruit, preferring to gaze longingly at the winter squash curing on the steps.  However, tomatoes ripen a lot faster than squash and wait for no one.

This year it was cherry tomatoes.  I grew Baby Boomer, Tiny Tim (a grape tomato), and Sungold. They are pretty and prolific and all had to be picked last weekend.

The silver lining is that many other gardeners have shared this same experience so along with the glut of fall tomatoes are an abundance of recipes!

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Add oil and herbs.
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Bake.
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Squoosh and serve.

To handle the harvest, I roasted them all in the oven at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, then squooshed the softened, savory sauce over toasted garlic bread for a super yummy appetizer.  Others gardeners have sauced them and then canned them.  However you like them, roasting these little tomatoes is a quick and easy and yummy way to cope with an abundant harvest.  I wish you well.

Preserving Swiss Chard

I do love Swiss chard. I *may* have been a bit too enthusiastic with my sowing and growing of chard this year. I actually have a glut to deal with!

Luckily “putting up” chard is simple. Basically it’s a matter of blanching and freezing.

Clockwise from Top L: Chop. Boil. Drain. Cool.

Step 1. Wash and chop up leaves.

Step 2. Put chopped leaves in rapidly boiling water for 2-3 minutes. (You’ll see the colour brighten.)

Step 3. Drain leaves and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking.

Step 4. Drain again and place into freezer bags in amounts that make sense to your cooking needs. Oh, and remember to label and date the freezer bags! Pop into the freezer.

Label and freeze.

When you need a yummy side dish of greens, boil up your frozen harvest and serve as desired.

Additional note: My family would like to recommend freezing extra chard as more desirable than having chard every day for dinner. I agree to disagree. 😜

Marvelous marigolds.

Marigolds
Red and orange marigolds.

These cheery little annuals adorn my backyard garden every year.  They function equally well as decoration and as practical workhorse.  My father-in-law considers them weeds.  I consider winter rye weeds.  Que sera!

IMG_3779Marigolds are super easy to grow from seed, aren’t particularly fussy, have few pests, purportedly keep away some bad beasties, nourish the good beasties, and then provide oodles of seeds for next year!  Thusly, I am a fan.

I start a couple flats of seedlings inside each spring and plant them out in May along the borders of the vegetable beds.  One of the flats of seedlings goes to the library kids to pot on and take home with them on Earth Day.  They can either plant up a flower (marigold) or vegetable (lettuce) in a newspaper pot.  I’m secretly thrilled if they ask for both!

Marigold seeds.
Marigold seed.

This past weekend I’ve started harvesting up the seeds for next spring’s marigolds.  I’ve separated them out into orange, and what I call red.  Right now they’re mixed together in the garden, but next year I may try to coordinate!  What colour would you choose?