Summer of 1987 was an adventure. I worked at the Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, courtesy of an NSERC (Natural Science and Engineering Research Council) award. The lab that I worked in studied alkaloids produced by the secondary metabolism of papaver somniferum, or opium poppies. Most of my work involved helping the grad student maintain her plant-free cell cultures which grew in enormous flasks. The opium poppies themselves were shrouded in great mystery. They were grown in a top secret Government of Canada location in the middle of a remote wheat field (probably next to the cannabis), and as a summer student I never actually saw the poppies that entire summer.
Late last fall I noticed papaver somniferum seeds in the West Coast Seeds catalogue, which they refer to as “giganthemums”. The seed packets show an enormous pink flower and describe the blossoms as the size of a baseball. I must have been super excited when I ordered them and obviously didn’t review my order because I ended up with many seed packets. This year, I will be growing these in my front garden along with all my other poppies and some I will grow in the poppy bed in the back.
Since I didn’t blog about my garden once last year, I have some catching up to do. In fall 2020 I replanted my blueberry plants closer to the house where I hope they get more sun and ripen better. This leaves a large space near the dogwood tree in the back. Inspired by my garden friend Brian who did a huge bulb planting in the fall, my plan was to fill the empty space with spring bulbs. Unfortunately, by the time I went looking for spring bulbs it was mid-November, and the nurseries were displaying Christmas trees. So I am going to plant this space with giganthemums, saved seeds from my friend’s chocolate cosmos and from last year’s double cosmos, and tequila sunrise heirloom California poppies in stained glass red and soft cream, a gift from Brian. Stay tuned!
Salal control. The other big plan for 2021 is to continue cutting back the salal taking over the front yard. In the fall I pulled up the long snaking salal roots that were growing around the trees and that were entwined with the crocosmia corms. This year I need to cut it back from the other side before it reaches and engulfs our house.
The front garden is still a total mess. A few years ago I tried to control the weeds using layers of cardboard covered with dirt, but that was unsuccessful. Last year the grass crowded out the gentians and hollyhocks. This year I am going to try again with more hollyhocks, more gentian seeds and some of Dr. Bonnie Henry Pollinator Blend that I received for Christmas. This year I hope the flowers win.
Vegetable Plan 2021 is based on what worked best in previous years. Last year we had shortages of usable thyme and parsley. Actually, the thyme is doing well and has spread throughout the herb bed, but most of it is on woody stalks and is hard to pick and eat. This year I am planting more thyme, parsley, cilantro and chervil in the flower bed closer to the house, once the spring bulbs are finished. Both the sage and rosemary are overgrown and taking over the beds they are in, and i have finally reached Peak Bay Leaf, and my two plants are producing faster than I am consuming them.
Fava beans are always one of the big successes; last year was no different. I planted both Windsor beans which grow up to six feet and Eleonora beans which are supposed to be shorter and more robust plants, but in the end couldn’t tell them apart. Fava flowers closer to the bottom of the stalks bloom first. Halfway through the fava fertilization it started to rain and rain, so none of the flowers on the top of the stalks were fertilized. Despite this, we still had high yields of beans, which we are still eating. This year I am going to plant favas at the end of February in bed #3. Although this bed now gets a lot of shade in the summer from the apple tree, I am hoping that the beans get started before the apple tree is in foliage.
Winter Kale is still growing in bed #1: Nash, Lacinato, Starbor. The stalks are almost bare except for small leaves budding at the top, and I expect to get another harvest when the weather warms up. Once the kale is exhausted (May?) I will plant pole beans (Fortex and Blue Lake) as well as dried beans (black beans, calypso, borlotti). Last year the dried beans which were very successful and we ended up with a few pounds of each.
In 2019 I had the BEST garlic crop so decided to take some of the best heads and replant them. Instead of getting large heads with 5 or 6 or more large cloves, most 2020 garlic heads were disappointingly small, with only two or three small cloves. Planting my own garlic is a mistake I’ve made before. Boo. So, in the fall of 2020 I planted Italian hard neck garlic from West Coast Seeds. These are in bed #2. The other half of the bed is now planted with regular and purple asparagus. I planted the crowns in spring 2020 (they looked like something out of “Alien”) and last year we just watched them grow. This year will be the first harvest (hopefully).
Last year most of my arugula and lettuce were eaten by pests. The birds pulled up the small sprouts and the slugs ate the rest, despite using wire mesh over and copper netting around the beds. This year I am going to plant arugula (March) lettuce and herbs (starting in April) in bed 4, again and maybe plant some between the kale in bed #1. My family loves salad so I am hoping to make this a big lettuce year.
This year I want to plant zucchinis and squash again, but plan to start them inside. Not sure which bed they will go in: with the favas, with the beans or with the lettuce? I will see where I have the most space.
Last year the man had the BEST tomato year ever. Like everyone, he was trying to grow his own tomatoes and when he purchased his plants there were only romas and small orange tomatoes left (sunburst?). The Romas ended up rotting on the vines, but every day we ended up with many of the small orange ones which we ate in salads, roasted, froze and enjoyed for a long time. I am hoping he has similar luck again this year.
Last year we replaced a dead hedge with a trellis and planted four varieties of table grapes along its length. When I purchased the vines they were just little sticks which I planted too close together. Maybe I can transplant some to the front once the vines fill in. Last year they each grew about one foot, so each of the plants are about 18 inches high. I don’t expect them to produce grapes this year yet, but am hopeful for 2022.