Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's New in My Garden This Year: Herbs Galore & Some New Fertilizer Options

Spring has FINALLY arrived here in Southern Ontario, and the planting has begun!

I have a surprising number of new additions to the garden this year - it wasn't something I really planned on, it just kind of happened :) The photo above is calendula seedlings which I was thrilled to see coming up; I was given a calendula plant by a local herbalist last summer and it did very well for me. I was hoping it would reseed itself vigorously and it seems to have done just that! If most of them thrive, I may actually be able to give a couple away myself. I dry the flowers all summer long to use for making salves and balms.

You may recall that I tried 2 new food plants last year: sorrel and ground cherries. While I loved the taste of the sorrel, it hasn't come back up this spring :( (it was a division from a friend last year). The ground cherries were a bit of a bomb, they didn't seem to ripen properly before the husks went all brown on me (they were probably in a less-than-ideally-sunny location, which may have contributed to the problem). They also took up a lot of space, and given that we didn't adore them, I don't think I'll grow them again.

Onwards to 2014 - here's a quick tour of what's new in my garden this spring:

Lots of herbs!
 On the top row are lavender and sage and the bottom are thyme and lemon mint (which was subsequently planted in the clay pot before putting it in the ground so it doesn't take over the entire bed!). The sage and thyme I picked up at the Mustard Seed seedling sale; the mint and lavender came from William Dam.

The lavender, sage, and thyme are all planted in my front bed that gets plenty of sun so I've got fingers crossed that they all thrive there! And I'm hoping these perennial herbs will finally fill out the bed along my front walk that's been looking a bit scruffy the past few years. The calendula seedlings are in the same bed with all these herbs, so I'm looking forward to a robust and great smelling herb garden along my front walk as all these plants fill in.

The lemon mint was selected by my 14 year old son - he requested a few plants of his own to grow this year and fell in love with this mint when we were at William Dam. He also picked out a few jalapeno pepper plants which are now in one of our raised beds. He has committed to doing all the care for these plants - we'll see how long it takes for him to get tired of the weeding and watering routine :)

I decided to give garlic a whirl last fall, and while it looks like critters got at a lot of it, I have 3 plants coming up strong. I was also given some lemon basil seeds by my lovely friend Roseatta, so a bunch of them have gone in the ground and I'm anxiously waiting to see how many of them germinate! The photo on the far right shows some of the perennial onions we were given last year by a colleague of my husband's. These are VERY robust - even after the brutal winter we had, they popped right back up in early spring and as you can see they are already producing huge amounts of green onion tops for us (which is good, because I put them in just about everything that isn't dessert).

For the first time ever, I broke down and got some lettuce seedlings so we could start enjoying our lettuce harvest a lot sooner. I picked these up at the Mustard Seed sale and I believe the variety is "Red Flame", but don't quote me on that because I have a terrible memory for that sort of thing :) I have direct sown some lettuce seed as well, so if all goes according to plan we should have a steady lettuce harvest for quite a few weeks (of course, things seldom go entirely according to plan in my garden!)

I was also gifted some strawberry plants, so in the ground they have gone, and a welcome addition they were, too. I haven't been tending to my strawberry patch very well since I transplanted them to another raised bed a couple years back, and the plants are looking far from robust. I am going to work on getting these guys back to good health this summer!

New Fertilizer Options

The plants aren't the only new thing in my garden plans this year. I'm going to be trying a few new ideas for fertilizing (something I've typically been not so great about). I have three new options I'm going to use, two of which are free and the third extremely inexpensive.

First up is this milk and molasses plant food recipe - super easy to whip up and something I might actually remember to do on a regular basis!

The next option is Freebie Fertilizer #1 and I might add I was quite relieved to discover this tip! As many of you know, I have been brewing kombucha for a couple of months now, and I am starting to get overrun with scobys (that's my scoby hotel on the left in the photo above). Of course, I am happy to give them away to friends who want them, but there are only so many takers (especially when each person who takes one starts getting overrun with them too, and my whole circle of friends is swimming in scobys). You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that people have had great success using them to fertilize their plants. Here's hoping my strawberries, tomatoes, rhubarb and raspberries all benefit from a little "scoby" treatment. Apparently many chickens go nuts for scobys, so if you are also overrun with them and know someone who has chickens, that might be another great alternative. I may just offer some to our egg farmer!

Freebie Fertilizer #2 is another one I just discovered after being given a comfrey plant (my plant is still looking a little worse for wear after being transplanted, so that's a stock photo). Comfrey can be used for fertilizer in a variety of ways; here's a good summary. I'm most likely going to go with the mulch option as it's the least involved and I am, after all, a pretty lazy gardener :)

I'll be sure to share how my fertilizer experiments work out later in the season!

What new and exciting things are happening in your garden this year?
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