Tag Archives: gardening

Winter’s Promise – seedpods in the winter garden

My winter garden may seem lacking in colour after the frost and snow has had it’s way, but I see so much promise in the seeds that hold the breath of spring inside them.

014 copyThese tiny coriander seedpods will scatter through out my garden and grow into delicious green cilantro as soon as spring is here. I let them spread freely as they are easy to weed out in places where I don’t want them.

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Calendula pods will seed themselves and spread there beautiful orange and yellow blossoms  – I infuse their petals in almond and coconut oil to make a body butter for the dry winter months

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Lavender are some of the bees favourite flowers – they literally hum in early summer as I hang my laundry out right next to them. We have two top bar beehives on our property in the village and four more on a local organic farm. I use lavender to make eye pillows and a gorgeous body oil. They seed themselves in the garden and I pass them on to my neighbours and friends knowing that our bees will find them.

042 copy.jpgThese faded ladies are stunning in the summer garden with their rich pink petals and bright green leaves. ‘Rosa Rugosa’ flower at least twice if we’re lucky, in the early summer and again in the fall. They do not spread by seed but can be propagated by clipping their suckers.

009 copyOregano spreads itself freely and you have to keep an eye on it as it can be a bit invasive. It is however another favourite of the bees and delicious in the kitchen.

027 copyMilkweed have the most interesting pods and of course the monarch butterflies love them.

043 copyPretty pretty cosmos – flower of the sun – all inside those tiny pods waiting for the spring

006 copyEchinacea – one of my treasured medicinal plants, and beautiful too.

 

A snow cradle:

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Microgreens and pea shoots for fresh little greens all winter

Microgreens - peas - Kootsac

Pea shoots with seeds saved from our summer snow peas

This is something I have been resisting for years – growing indoor edibles, because it seemed kind of a waste of electricity and maybe used more energy than it was worth. But, living where we do means that we rely on trucking produce in during the winter months. Though we try to eat as much of our own homegrown winter storage vegetables like potatoes, squash, garlic and carrots, and we can get local onions, beets and other root vegetables, greens are a different story. When I started to see tiny bags of micro greens for sale in stores at quite high prices I thought I’d give it a try.

We have a grow light to start our seedlings in the spring and we set it up on a table and created a little indoor gardening station, with a bag of Sunshine mix, an assortment of mostly recycled containers, a spray bottle for water and of course seeds. Some of the seeds are seeds saved from our own garden, like the peas, cilantro and cress, and I can see a lot of potential for saving other seeds this summer. Though we purchased soil this year, next season I will make my own as I usually do from compost, peat moss and vermiculite. We also have a small heat mat just for sprouting seeds when it is really cold, and a timer to control the grow light.

Kootsac microgreensStarting top left: cress, mixed brassicas (mostly mustard family), and peas

So far we have tried: peas (saved from our own snow peas grown in the Kootenays for over 20 years), cress (both summer and winter), broccoli, mixed micro greens and sunflowers seeds purchased from West Coast Seeds , mizuna, cilantro, basil and beets. By far the best have been the pea shoots which take about a week to sprout and then grow fast They are quite substantial greens and they will grow another two or three cuttings after the first one before they start getting tough and stringy. Cilantro and basil take longer to grow but are quite a treat on curries and pasta dishes – I plant them much closer together than you would normally. Most of our greens are eaten on top of rice bowls which are a staple for us.

microgreens - KootsacCress and two week microgreen blend from West Coast Seeds and in the background peas which are growing again after the first cutting

Since these little greens are grown in very little soil ( 2 to 3 inches) they will deplete the soil fairly quickly. If you want to grow them for longer, as in the case of the peas, herbs, or if you want baby greens, I have discovered that making a herbal infusion of herbs such as nettles, oatstraw or comfrey makes a nutritious treat for these little gardens. I dilute the tea with water before using.

Kootsac microgreensMixed microgreens and young peashoots in recycled containers

Honey bees – fall forage

Noticing our honey bees foraging in the garden not far from their hives.

Fall asterFall asters always attract pollinators and our bees love them. Aster comes from the Greek word for star, and they really are stars in the fall garden. Reliable long lasting blooms and food for bees in the late season garden.

Bugbane- 'Cimicifuga'Bugbane which used to be called cimicifuga but has been renamed Actaea, is one of my favourite fall blooms. I have moved it around my garden quite a bit until it finally came to rest right in front of my kitchen window where it receives afternoon sun only. It seems very happy there. In full sun the blooms would appear earlier and then literally fry in the sun, so I moved them to this shadier part of the garden. Now I can enjoy seeing the beautiful blooms and watch my honey bees forage as I do the dishes. It is very fragrant and as the long fronds sway in the September breeze you can smell them from quite a distance.

Fall sedumThere are many varieties of sedum, or stonecrop,  but this variety of fall sedum which flowers in my garden in late August through September, and sometimes until the snow flies, is my favourite. All of the pollinators love it, and on a warm fall day they are jostling for position on the  tiny star shaped flowers. I grow these in many areas of my garden, especially for my bees.

My Precious Seeds

September brings harvest, and my most precious garden treasures are my seeds. I am always charmed by the beautiful pods of beans that I pluck and shuck every Fall from my garden.

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This year for the first time I tried growing lentils. I was surprised that they came in such tiny little pods. Nothing like the beans I grow and shuck every year. Look at the difference in size:

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From left to right: Snow peas, which I call the Kootenay snow pea because they have been grown here for well over 20 years, (I grow them every year from my own seeds), a variety of Dragon’s Tongue which I call Jack Harvey beans after the restaurant I worked at who grew them, Orca beans, Black Coco beans, beautiful big white Italian Roma beans, and above them the tiny French lentils, and on the far right, the French fillet beans ( our favourite summer green bean for fresh eating.

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Jack Harvey beans are the yummiest bean for making baked beans. I do them in the crockpot and next time I make them I will post the recipe. They are chunky, buttery and delicious!