Early Harvest: Radishes and Greens

Nothing beats fresh produce straight from the garden.  A lot of the crops Andrew and I plant on a yearly basis seem to take forever before you get to taste them.  Carrots, potatoes, onions, parsnips and squash are all ready late in the season and we tend to store these treats for months after they are picked.  These veggies are definitely worth the wait but sometimes I’m an impatient garden.

Oslicken Acre Radishes

Oslicken Acre Radishes

The short turn around time on radishes and greens are one of the reasons I love growing them.  Within a couple of weeks of planting radishes and greens they are on the table and ready to be eaten.

This year I planted Swiss chard for the first time.  It seems to be flourishing and we’ve already sampled some.  So far I’ve only been using the leaves, but I read somewhere that the crisp rib portion of the chard can be cooked and eaten as well.  More experiments will have to be done.

My parents used to grow radishes on a regular basis.  For whatever reason it hadn’t occurred to me to add these tasty morsels to the list of things Andrew and I plant.  So this year was the first year we’ve grown radishes at Oslicken Acres.  I’m enjoying them in salads and as uncooked veggie snacks in my lunch.

Growing Garlic: Harvesting Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Andrew and I are trying our hand at growing garlic for the first time this year.  Last fall we dutifully cracked garlic bulbs into cloves and got them into the ground before the last frost.  Over the winter snow buried the garden, garlic moved off my radar, and we let nature take its course.  In the early spring we were delighted to see that almost all our garlic made it through the winter and was thriving.

Having something come up in the Spring before you’ve even planted the rest of your vegetable garden was a great treat.  The early growth of garlic made me get excited for the coming growing season and start planning what else we were planting this year.

This week we started cutting the scapes from our garlic.  They are pretty and so far we’ve just used them as decorative items. They also have a lovely subtle garlic smell. I’m hoping experiment with different ways of cooking the scapes — adding them to a stir fry seems like the easiest option and will probably be what I try first.

Now that the scapes are cut we’re entering the homestretch and in a few weeks we’ll find out how our first foray into garlic has gone. Fingers crossed for a bountiful year.

Beautiful Weeds

IMAG0770aEvery year at around this time many of the open spaces at Oslicken Acres become awash in colour.  Hieracium aurantiaca more commonly known as orange hawkweeed or devil’s paintbrush come into bloom and green fields become tinged with orange.  Part of the daisy family devil’s paintbrush is a perennial plant that is often considered a weed or invasive species.

This bountiful flower grows abundantly in Northern Ontario and can often be found in meadows, ditches, and anywhere with lots of sunshine and grass.  The name ‘devil’s paintbrush’ was apparently coined by farmers who see it as being troublesome and aggressive in nature. The plant also emits a substance that chokes out other plants from growing too closely – another strike in the invasive species box.

Despite this I think the devil’s paintbrush is beautiful.  I love the look of the back field before the grass is cut and it is overgrown with the tiny orange flowers.  We aren’t trying to grow anything other than grass in that area so the flower isn’t really an intrusion or bother.  Andrew has often picked devil’s paintbrush, daises, buttercups and other wild flowers to make small flower arrangements. These arrangements are beautiful even if they are made up of what many people consider weeds. One man’s weed is another man’s bouquet.

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Little Miss Amongst the Devil’s Paintbrush

Row and Square Foot Gardens

The past four years Andrew and I have planted a traditional style vegetable garden.  Long rows of vegetables marked with wooden stakes.  We have tons of space outside so the idea of having a huge chunk of lawn taken up by a garden wasn’t a concern.

The row garden reminds me of my grandparents who planted a huge garden year after year, even when it made way more produce than two or one person needed.  I remember sitting on the concrete step at the back of their house looking over the garden, watching them work, and hiding in the shade of the house from the hot sun.  My parents also planted a row garden for years which I remember helping plant throughout my childhood and youth.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a row garden. It’s based on the straight lines and style of growing used by larger scale farmers and has been used by countless families for years. Andrew and I have routinely been excited about planting our garden in the Spring and I love to see the veggies grow throughout the summer. But inevitably we get busy, weeds flourish and the garden becomes neglected.  Maintaining a row garden takes a lot of time and effort.

This year we decided to try something different.  Inspired by a book I got out of the library we have planted a couple of 4×4 square foot gardens.  We are still planting some potatoes, squash, pumpkins, and zucchini in the old garden. But everything else has been planted in the new square foot gardens.

These compact beds are supposed to make gardening more manageable and challenges the idea that row gardening is the only way to plant veggies.  Andrew made the square foot gardens out of trees from our property and we planted the gardens together.  The planting took way less time and considerably less physical toil than the large row garden.  The ease of planting has me already loving the process and I hope the upkeep and yield are as rewarding.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Perennial Veggies

I love the idea of perennial vegetables.  You plant them once and are rewarded with food year after year.  Perhaps the most well known perennial vegetable is rhubarb.  It grows in abundance, requires minimal maintenance, is almost impossible to kill, and can be made into a multitude of tasty treats.

We were lucky that Oslicken Acres came with three well established patches of rhubarb when we moved in.  The one patch had a trailer parked on it temporarily and it is still thriving. From this year’s harvest I’ve made rhubarb desert and rhubarb cake.  I’m hoping to try a rhubarb nut loaf in the next week or two.

Last year we started to plant additional perennial vegetables and created our own bed of asparagus.  I had no idea asparagus was a perennial plant until a friend mentioned it.  It was great to see the spears of asparagus poke out of the ground this year – and a relief that they survived the winter.  Since this is only the bed’s second year we haven’t been able to eat any of the tasty morsels yet but are anxiously looking forward to when the bed is mature enough to harvest.

After doing some reading I’m hoping to plant some wild leeks in the future – another tasty perennial treat that requires little upkeep.

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