Category Archives: gardening

Ordered my seeds!

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seedsDon’t you just love sitting curled up next to a cosy fire on a cold January’s night, dreaming of the coming spring and browsing through a seed catalogue? I do. And I get so excited poring over the gorgeous photos of vegetables, that I sometimes go a bit bonkers and order things that I really shouldn’t.

It’s easy to go a little overboard, but if one of your goals is to save money on groceries, then it’s logical to focus on what you eat the most of, especially if, like me, you have limited growing space.*

The first thing I did this year was to make a list of what we actually buy on a weekly basis: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, kale, rocket (arugula), cucumbers, cabbage, onions, garlic, and the “gorgeous ones” – kohlrabi and radicchio, celeriac, and fresh figs. Working from that list,  I narrowed down the list by eliminating things that take a lot of room to grow in the veggie patch, but which are inexpensive to buy: cabbage, onions, potatoes.

I’ve ordered my seeds this year from Baker Creek seeds in the USA. They have an incredible selection and I could buy the European heirloom seeds through them, cheaper than I could buy them over here.  I confess I do feel like a bit of a “buy local” traitor for doing so. Tell me what you plant!

 

 

*I could grow a lot more if my husband would consent to me digging up and planting vegetables in some of our lawn areas, but as I’ve not been the best caretaker in recent years of the vegetable plot I currently have, I need to demonstrate that I can take good care of the area I currently plant in. A “no tangled weedy mess” this year is thus my goal.

Lemon Balm Revisited

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Lemon Balm Pesto Poached Sea Bass Filets (or other white fish) Lemon+Balm

Just want to reiterate how AWESOME that Lemon Balm Pesto recipe is (if I do say so myself!). Last night I took two cubes out of the freezer, thawed them and threw them into the ceramic frying pan with a knob of butter and a splash of white wine. Stirred that around a bit and then proceeded to gently sauté-poach some sea bass fillets.

All I can say is WOW – was it ever ‘knock your socks off’ delicious! I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo. Argh! If you do have access to lemon balm and haven’t whipped up a batch yet, get at it and pop it in the freezer. It is one recipe you won’t regret making!

Lemon Balm TeaLemon+Balmtea

Put a handful of fresh lemon balm leaves into a cup.

Pour in hot water

Allow to steep for 5 minutes

Drink and reap the benefits 🙂

Green Tomato Chow Chow

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This week I made a fabulous Canadian chow chow recipe. I have heard vicious rumours that some chow chow recipes have cabbage in them. This one doesn’t!  If you aren’t familiar with it, green tomato “chow chow” is an excellent way to use green tomatoes from your garden at the end of the season. It is a tasty accompaniment to roast meat dinners. It looks similar to piccalilli, but in my opinion is much tastier. It is also delicious with cheese and crackers. If anyone has other ways they enjoy it, please share! The recipe is here. Enjoy!

Green Tomato Chow Chow

Tomatoes with Taste!

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I just harvested the last of my tomatoes. I grew three different heirloom varieties this year. If you don’t know about heirloom – or “heritage” – seeds, you can read about them here – but suffice it to say that heirloom tomato varieties have TASTE! So if all you have ever eaten are supermarket tomatoes (or grown the much-hyped but rather tasteless “Beefeater” ones), you should give real tomatoes a go.

Last year I grew Black Russian (a heritage variety that looks similar to the Black Krim) and cherry tomatoes. This year I grew Cherokee Purple, Black Krim and Big Rainbow.

In blind taste tests (with husband as fellow guinea pig) we discovered that the Black Krim were slightly salty and delicious, the Cherokee Purple were slightly sweet and delicious and the beautiful yellow and orange “Big Rainbow” were ever so slightly sweet – and all around delicious! And while the Black Krim looked a lot like last year’s Black Russian, the Black Krim had a better texture (less ‘mealy’ somehow?).

If you have little space and can only grow one thing, make it a tomato plant. Once you have eaten real tomatoes the supermarket ones taste like, well, nothing.

Vine Ripened Black Krim

And here is my entire corn and squash harvest this year. For real.

What a no-sun no-heat summer yields . . .

My onions and garlic fared MUCH better 🙂

Cristo and Marco Garlic, Red Baron and Centurion onions.

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Garden Disaster

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Oh man. What a year for gardening. Not. Last year my fruit trees produced copious amounts of pears, peaches and I even got a few cherries. This year, the fruit trees blossomed early, then came a cold snap and the insects didn’t get to polinate them. So no fruit this year. Well, one pear. ONE. Hanging there in all its miniscule glory.

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Then, it rained and rained and RAINED all of June and July. I was okay – away in the sunshine. But the slugs, ah yes the slugs. They rose from the earth and the crops they did devour. Strawberries. Rainbow chard. Runner beans. Cucumber plants. Munch munch munch. All gone. And the slugs were freakin’ MONSTROUS in size.

Gross out alert:

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Yeah. I know. EWWW! It looks like a hedgehog!

So, what’s left? Well, Padron peppers which aren’t flowering. Aubergines (eggplants) which are flowering but which aren’t producing fruit. Grapevines that have produced zilch.
On the upside, the onions have grown gangbusters.

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The garlic is doing okay as well. The French petit pois – so far so good. Tomato plants are finally slowly coming on. Squash plants are CRAWLING at a snail’s pace. Not sure if I will end up getting any squash or not.

All I can say is “Thank heavens for grocery stores!” because between the pests and the weather this year, we would be starving if we had to rely on the garden this year!

Okay there is one beautiful sight I forgot to mention: my fig tree – it has about 17 or 18 figs on it and they are growing well! Yea figs!

 

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Recycling Kitchen Grey Water

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I have been interested in the subject of grey water ever since I had a water meter installed in 2009. After  extensive research on the subject, I have installed a WaterTwo water diverter valve to collect my kitchen grey water.

Most people harvesting grey water install the valve to recycle their bathroom (shower & hand basin) or laundry grey water. And indeed that is where the manufacturer’s website recommends installing it. So there’s my disclaimer on their behalf. But as indicated, I did plenty of research on kitchen grey water and decided I would start my foray into grey water in the kitchen. The kitchen is where I use the most water and where I feel I have the best control over what is in the water being recycled.

Why kitchen grey water?  I am a fastidious washer and rinser of fresh produce and for me, the kitchen greywater was a better option than bathroom shower and basin water. I also think it is a heck of a lot cleaner than my recycled laundry water!

Having said that, I will advise that  using  grey water requires caution – and re-using kitchen grey water requires particular forethought.  If you are a cook that does a lot of greasy cooking or uses harsh chemicals, it is definitely not recommended. If you are someone like myself, however, who doesn’t fry things and uses only organic bio-degradeable washing liquid and vegetable wash, then you could easily harvest your kitchen grey water to reuse in watering your plants and garden. Grey water should not be used on vegetables that are eaten raw (e.g. lettuce) and due to possible pathogens, all grey water should always be dispersed onto the soil, not onto the plants themselves. Never use greywater that has been used to wash meat or fish, nor when you have cleaned your sink using anything other than a good organic biodegradeable cleaner.

Use Bio-degradeable Cleaners

The three products that I use are Nature Clean’s Fruit & Veggie Wash (a Canadian product), EcoVer dish detergent, and Shaklee’s H2O cleaner.

How I installed the kitchen grey water diverter valve

After a lot of thought I decided to install the diverter valve on only one sink. This allows me to pick and choose which greywater ends up in the water butt. Basically I reuse water that has been used to rinse fruit and vegetables, dish water from very lightly soiled dishes, and the water that runs down the drain as we wait for the water to get cold for drinking, run off when filling and emptying the kettle, etc. – in other words, nothing that is very dirty or greasy. Many people do use more soiled water with great results, but I am new at this, am taking it slow and currently do not.

The diverter valve is installed on the small centre sink:

When the valve is open the water drains into the water butt (via the green hose), and when closed the water drains down the regular drain and back into the council system.

Here’s what it looks like under the sink. The white gunk is just silicone to ensure a tight seal.

Filtering the water

I  use a homemade three-filter system – a big plastic strainer to catch the big bits (which are then popped into my compost)

a smaller wire mesh thingy that sits on the drain hole

and a fine mesh that covers the end of the pipe (it is actually made from old pantyhose).

Do you wash dishes in that tiny middle sink?

No. I use a plastic dishpan in one of the bigger sinks, and provided the water doesn’t look too nasty, I pour it into the centre to be recycled.

More information / links on grey water

  • Using grey water
  • If installing a grey water diverter valve in the kitchen you should a) plan to use the water pretty much right away and b) have a mesh bag over the end of the exit hose to filter any tiny food bits. Most kitchen grey water users that I have encountered run a hosepipe out to the garden, where the water is immediated dispersed onto vegetation. At the bottom of the page is a video showing someone else’s drainage system:You CAN get away with storing well-filtered grey water by adding household bleach to the water butt, but using it immediately is the safest route to go. If you go that route (storage) you will need to research the ratio of bleach to be added per litre or water. Google is your friend 😉
  • Collecting, storing, re-using grey water
  • The WaterTwo Diverter Valve website
  • And finally, this is an example of how others have created a direct kitchen grey water drainage system:
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First Strawberry – shared with a bug

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We got home from our trip to Cyprus to discover . . . . a ripe strawberry! Wheeeee! I took a picture.

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I picked it and discovered a nasty little burrowing insect! Grrrrrr! I photographed him too.

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Then I flicked him off, washed the strawberry and ate it. Naturellement!

Last year I thought it was birds or  mice making these curious holes in my strawberries – now I realise it is this little critter. Does anyone know what kind of bug this is and how to get rid of him (without nasty pesticides)?