Monday, November 29, 2010

Harvest 2010- Thank God for the Grocery Store

I know it's late to be posting an update on September's harvest, but I needed some time to come to terms with my meagre gleanings. It was a tough year this year. Everything started out looking so lovely and green, then...
Clearing the garden.

1. My onions were eaten by the onion fly (again!).
2. My broccoli and kale crawled with the cabbage moth's pre-winged worms.
3. My crab apple tree caught a fungus and dropped all its leaves in May.
4. Only half my potatoes grew.
5. The squash grew slowly.
6. The eggplant grew even slower. 
7. My four harvestable corn tasted... hmmm, like wood?
The corn sure looked promising-- before August when they stunted.
The aesthetic of these carrots is great but our general consensus was that the traditional orange tasted best.
Two eggplant struggled to palm size. Too much rain, too little heat.

Late season broccoli was the only thing that survived the cabbage fly's summer assault.

There were some real hits- like the arugula, borage and many of my Italian herbs (and of course mint) that produced like crazy. I tasted the first fruits of my honey berry bush while the strawberries exploded. All the strawberry spinach and wild strawberry seeds I planted grew happily. I harvested grapes! And my carrots did a nice job of growing sweet with funky colours. And cucumbers! Cucumbers finally flourished in my garden thanks to rain, rain, constant rain.

But its all got me thinking about food security. If I depended on my yard this year for food, well, I'd have some great flavoured Italian water-soup and nice tea with cucumber slices.

I often joke I'm a lot like Marie Antoinette with her Versailles' garden. She ran a little hobby farm. She dabbled in growing the palace food but she depended on a much broader source of food production to keep the castle happy and fed. Her wealth allowed her the opportunity to glean the spiritual benefits of getting her hands dirty without any physical consequences when nature had its way.

This about sums up my gardening experience this year. I harvest much joy and rhythm in my urban yard. But this year I'm thankful to live in a time and place of plenty- where my garden doesn't drive my decisions about vacations or my children's survival rates.

I like to think I keep a garden as a food source. But in truth, quite thankfully, I garden as a hobby.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Alberta Avenue Farmers Market

It may be -14 and snowing- but there is a place you can buy chard, fresh greens and garden carrots today: The Alberta Avenue Farmers' Market. Located in the community league on 93 street and 118 Ave here in Edmonton, it is a relatively new (1.5 years old) year-round market working hard to connect producers with urban customers.

The prices are exceptional, though the selection is still pretty sparse. Today, I bought $3 eggs and grass fed hamburger for $3.50 lb from Ari. I bought a decent ring of garlic elk sausage for $5.50 and ground elk for $4.30 per lb from a producer in New Sereptia. There was fresh peach pie (she uses frozen, not canned peaches!) for $5 and a loaf of banana bread for $3.  From Green Eggs and Ham I bought a bag of carrots for $5- they will have fresh greens all year round, thanks to their greenhouse outside of Leduc.

There's a real need for a thriving year-round market in Edmonton, north of the river. But its more easily said than done: to get committed producers you need committed customers, but for committed customers you need committed producers. A new steering committee has been created to develop a plan for the market's sustainability, and since its in my community, I happily joined. In a neighbourhood where there is a diverse mix of people and growing revitalization, a market like this one can only enhance our networks and the vibrancy on the Avenue.

So, all you Edmontonians who have a grocery budget to spend and ten minutes on a Thursday (from 2- 7pm) to stop in to shop- please spend your dollars at a market that promises a lot more for our community than garden produce and baked goods!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November Flowers, Harvests and Buds in the Backyard

BUDS! In November?
Saskatoon has buds like this all over the tree.

I am fearing for the winter health of some of my berry bushes. There have been a significant number of frosts to date, but daytime weather has been generally mild. On roaming the back yard today I was shocked to find buds on my saskatoon- and my honeyberry was actually sprouting new leaves!?
Can you see the new leaves on the bottom right? There are others on the left.

FLOWERS! Even after many many cold nights, my pinks, clematis and, of course, asters, are blooming. The purple coral bells offed rich counter point to all the yellow and orange leaves from the mountain ash.

This is the clematis' second year planted here.  It is zone 2 and native to the rockies.
These pinks have offered an explosion of colour all summer long- and now into the fall. Behind them is a lavender, zone 4, that has flourished at the base of the apple tree for four seasons.

Prolific Asters!
Iris' and coral bell at the base of the Saskatoon.

HARVESTS: We continue to enjoy parsley from the garden. Up to two weeks ago the strawberries were producing and I'm popping out into the yard for still fresh garlic chives, oregano, arugula and beautifully coloured kale.
Arugula still growing and blooming
Still-green strawberries front a Morden Rose

Green onion/garlic chives are still giving. I planted these from seed (from Salt Spring Island Seeds) and they promise to be a perennial that will continue passing on the love, labour free! Wild strawberry seeds blew into this bed, and the little guys seem happy with the onions- a pairing similar to their natural habitat in the mountain meadows I grew up exploring.

Four varieties of oregano peek out from the fallen leaves of our mountain ash. 

The kale turns purple when cold- but its still good to eat. These little guys suffered under the shade of a large tree and in drought like, nutrient poor conditions. They are survivors that I don't think I'll eat- for their sake.

This is a Silver Sage that I grew from seed last year. It is still producing new leaves from its centre- now that the slugs are slowing down- I guess it has to grow when it can! I've planted wild strawberries all along the path (at the bottom of the picture) and these should produce fruit next season. They are doing a great job of filling in as a ground cover. I bought the seeds on ebay from an Albertan company. These seeds were hard to find- but propagated very easily both inside and out.