Archive for the ‘My garden’ Category

Now Harvesting: late-August
Andrea Bellamy |


The word harvest takes on new significance at this time of year, as the garden really steps it up. Right now I’m harvesting tomatoes, fresh herbs and beans daily, with cucumbers, peppers, and zucchinis making a semi-regular appearance. Pulled up my crop of ‘Ambition’ shallots today, too, and was impressed with how they’d multiplied. If you’re looking for an onion-family member to plant, shallots make a great container option (and I love their mild flavour).


‘Blue Lake’ pole beans and purple bush beans.

What are you harvesting now?


Now Harvesting: early August
Andrea Bellamy |

cucumber and tomatoes

I love coming home from holiday. Sleeping in my own bed. Unpacking. Airing out the house. Watering.

This homecoming was even sweeter because the garden had treats waiting for me. The first tomatoes – ripe n’ ready. Cucumbers – perfect. Potatoes – SO ready (so ready, in fact, that they warrant a whole ‘nother post).

The winners in the tomato race were the ‘Sweet Baby Girl’ cherries, followed closely by ‘Odessa.’ The cucumbers are ‘Sweet Slice.’

Thanks to my square-foot salad garden, which is in part shade, I’m still harvesting an abundance of lettuce.

What are you harvesting now?


Now Harvesting: early July
Andrea Bellamy |

'Thumbelina' carrot

The sole ‘Thumbelina’ carrot I managed to raise to maturity (yes, they’re supposed to resemble golf balls in their shape and size!)

My garden is officially in limbo land. We didn’t get summer weather (read: consistently above 15C/29F) until just last week, and then it hit – hard. So all my cool-season edibles, such as lettuce, radishes, and peas, are stressing, while it just became warm enough for heat lovers like peppers and basil to be outdoors overnight unprotected.

That said, I’ve got lots of stuff coming out of the garden:

* Lettuce: ‘Garden Babies’ butterhead, ‘Red Sails’, and ‘Amish Deer Tongue’. (I also planted ‘Darkness’ but it was a bust.)

* ‘Easter Egg II’ radishes, which are quickly bolting.

* ‘Sugar Loaf’ radicchio, also bolting.

* Beets: ‘Chioggia’ and ‘Touchstone Gold.’

* Garlic

* One single, solitary ‘Thumbelina’ carrot.

But we’re only days away from major harvests of potatoes and cucumbers; tomatoes, zucchini, beans, and peppers will soon follow.

What are you harvesting now?


Now Harvesting: Early June
Andrea Bellamy |

Now Harvesting: Garden Babies butterhead lettuce

‘Garden Babies’ butterhead lettuce poses on my balcony.

Here in Vancouver, summer is a little delayed. While the incessant rain and cool weather has meant stunted warm season crops, rust on my garlic, and pepper plants that are still biding their time indoors, it’s also meant a bumper crop of lettuce, scallions, herbs, arugula, spinach, and peas. In short, I’m growing killer salads.

We’ve been eating green salads every night with dinner, and truthfully, I can’t get enough of them. In winter I certainly do, when I end up eating them just to put some green on my plate. But garden-fresh-herb-topped salad that I grew? Bring it. Night after night.

Tonight’s salad consisted of one head of ‘Garden Babies’ butterhead lettuce (pictured above), chopped scallions, beet greens, sugar snap peas, and a sprinkling of calendula petals, dill, mint, and thyme flowers.

What are you harvesting now?


Now Harvesting: mid-May
Andrea Bellamy |

spinach harvest

I’ve decided to introduce a regular weekly feature on Heavy Petal called Now Harvesting. I hope to share with you what I’m eating out of the garden every week until winter, or until the garden is completely empty.

For my own sake, I think this will be a great way to look back on what I was harvesting at any given time, but also point out gaps in food production. That’ll give me the opportunity to adjust planting schedules for next year (yes, I have planting schedules). Gardening: it’s all trial and error, isn’t it?

This week is all about greens. The temperature spiked last week and my cool-season greens started to bolt, so we’re eating tons of arugula and spinach from the square foot garden. I still can’t get enough of arugula. I love how versatile it is – in pastas, salads, or on bruschetta. And I especially love that my two-year old likes it (bringing the Vegetables Lila Will Eat list up to three).

This week I’m also harvesting radishes, endive, and the last of the kale blossoms. What are you harvesting?


Square foot update
Andrea Bellamy |

Radishes and arugula

In March, I wrote about the creation of my newest garden space, a raised bed planted using the square-foot method (of planting in 1′ squares). I’m happy to report that the garden, so far, is a success – turning out early producers spinach, radishes, and arugula.

Nine square feet of awesomeness

Left to right, top to bottom: ‘Easter Egg II’ radish, ‘Sugar Loaf’ radicchio, ‘Tyee’ spinach, ‘Red Sails’ lettuce, ‘Tyee’ spinach, arugula, ‘Garden Babies’ butterhead lettuce, arugula, and ‘Amish Deer Tongue’.

Obviously, the lettuces and radicchio, planted later, are further behind. But what’s funny to me about this photo is that it shows what happens when you let a toddler sow seeds. There’s no careful, one-at-a-time seed placement. Handfuls: that’s Lila’s strategy.

What I’m loving right now is the arugula. Forget salads: cook up some orzo or capellini, and toss in a few handfuls of arugula after draining. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Toss until the arugula is wilted. Simple, and lovely.


Ferns and ephemerals

shooting star

Hello. I’d like you to meet Shooting Star, aka Dodecatheon hendersonii. This sweet little thing is one of the native wildflowers blooming in my backyard “woodland bed” right now. Like many of the spring ephemerals (so called because of their fleeting nature), it’s not exactly a show-stopper (but just look at how it wows en masse!). Since there’s just one clump in my garden, it’s best appreciated up close. Luckily, I don’t have much choice but to get close – our backyard is that small.


At 13′ x 15′, our backyard offers, let’s say, the opportunity to get up close and personal with each and every plant in it. Here it is, seen from the third floor balcony. The woodland bed is the one in the bottom right corner of the above photo.

woodland garden

And here it is earlier this month, as everything started to spring to life. Acer palmatum ‘Beni Kawa’ anchors this bed. When I planted it three years ago, I called it “the perfect small space alternative to ‘Sangu Kaku’.” I lied. Sure, it’s smaller than ‘Sangu Kaku,” which can reach 20’ tall, but it isn’t a tiny tree. In our household, it’s generally referred to as “out of control,” or “that &%* tree” as one of it’s ridiculously long branches insinuates itself into your personal space.



A new garden space
Andrea Bellamy |

New raised beds

Lila “cultivating” the soil in our new raised beds.

Last fall, Ben and I built three raised beds and installed them in a small grassy area above the parking garage for our townhouse complex. The area was rarely used, so we decided to build a mini community garden to be shared by interested residents. (We also photographed the making of these beds for my book! They’ll appear in chapter four in a how-to section.)

square foot garden

Bamboo stakes divvy up my nine square feet.

On Monday, in celebration of the time change and the great weather, Lila and I got out there and planted. I’m trying out the square foot gardening method in my half of the bed (which is being shared with a neighbour). I’ve planted in blocks before, as is the square foot method, but never formally. This time, I laid out thin bamboo stakes to mark out my three square feet, and filled seven of the nine squares with cool-season edibles: two with ‘Tyee’ spinach, two with arugula, one with ‘Easter Egg II’ radish, one with ‘Sugar Loaf’ radicchio, and one with ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons’ lettuce. I’ll plant the remaining squares with ‘Amish Deer Tongue’ and ‘Darkness’ lettuces in a couple of weeks.

So why all the salad? Mainly, it’s because this bed is in part shade. I’d estimate it gets a maximum of four hours of direct sun, even in summer, which rules out any kind of fruiting vegetable such as eggplant or zucchini. But leafy greens should do well, as should the radishes and the beets I’ll plant later.

I’m looking forward to having a dedicated space for greens. This new garden frees up a lot of room on my balcony farm for sun lovers like tomatoes. It’s also a lot closer than my plot in the actual community garden, making it a lot more convenient to whip up a last-minute salad. It also gets more sun than my herb garden on the front patio, and less than my back patio, which would scorch tender lettuces. If you’re keeping count, that makes this new raised bed my fifth garden space.

Some might say I’m just a tiny bit obsessed. But when you don’t have much space of your own, you’ve got to be creative in finding ways to garden. Co-opting part of your building’s common area makes good sense to me. Hopefully the other gardeners that join in will agree!


Spring gardening kick-off
Andrea Bellamy |

community garden plot feb. 2010

My community garden plot. Broccoli, garlic, cabbage, leeks, kale, and a heavy rye/clover cover crop make for a lush-looking garden — even in February.

While much of North America is having an unusually harsh winter, here in Vancouver, it’s downright balmy — much to the chagrin of the organizers of the Olympic Winter Games!

The mild winter has left me with beds full of overwintered veggies. Things that, in winters past, have always succumbed to below-freezing temperatures. But even half-hardy edibles are happily chugging along, oblivious to the fact that it’s February.

I planted peas this weekend in one of the raised beds on my top deck veggie patch: Super Sugar Snap (with seeds saved from my garden) in the back against the trellis and short-statured Sugar Ann (a new purchase) in front.

In the community garden, I turned under the rye/clover cover crop I planted in fall, in preparation for the planting I’ll be doing in March.

I think the coolest thing about having such a mild winter has been that I’ve actually been eating from the garden all winter. I always plant a winter garden, but–confession time–often, miserable weather prevents me from actually getting into the garden to harvest my crops. Not this year. Scallions, chard, Asian greens, kale, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, beets…all have graced my plate this winter. And all from my garden. Truly, it’s a great feeling.

How is your garden shaping up this February?


Six new annuals from Proven Winners
Andrea Bellamy |

Proven Winners box o' goodies

One of the best things about being a garden writer is receiving plants to trial. Nurseries and growers send writers and other horticultural industry types their newest plant introductions so we can try them in our own gardens, provide feedback, and—hopefully—fall in love with them and rave about them to others.

I especially like receiving these boxes of plants because of the surprise factor. Often they aren’t plants I’d seek out in a nursery, but once I find a home for them in my garden, I quickly see their value.

That was certainly the case when Proven Winners sent me six of their new introductions earlier this year.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with annual bedding plants, (usually flowering plants grown for a seasonal display of colour). Perennials and edibles make up most of my plants, and although I usually tuck a few Euphorbia Diamond Frost® into the cool-toned bed adjacent to my front patio, annual flowers are nearly absent from my garden. Receiving an unexpected box of annuals forces you to rethink all that.

Pretty Much Picasso petunia

Take Petunia Pretty Much Picasso™ , for example. I’ve never grown petunias before, avoiding them simply because they are so, well, common. (I know, I’m a snob. Sue me.) But Picasso, from Proven Winners,  is anything but ordinary. Its pinky-purple flowers are edged in lime green—one of my favourite colours in the garden. It’s a vigorous plant, trailing down the side of the tall container I have it in (along with rosemary, purple shiso, butterhead lettuce and golden variegated sage). It hasn’t stopped blooming since I planted it a few months back, nor has it needed deadheading. A real winner.

Ipomoea batatas Illusion Midnight Lace and Diascia Flirtation Orange

Now, I said I don’t buy many annuals, but I do have a weakness for foliage plants, and Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato vine) is queen of foliage in the world of annual bedding plants. (Well, perhaps coleus might have something to say about that, but I’ll let them duke it out.) Proven Winners has two new sweet potato vines coming out next spring: Illusion™ Midnight Lace and Illusion™ Emerald Lace (the “lace” in the name refers to their lacey leaf-shape). Here’s Midnight Lace, above, mingling with yet another Proven Winners new release called Diascia Flirtation® Orange in a colour combo your mother warned you about. I really like this diascia hybrid. Despite its name, it isn’t really a true, bright orange. It’s more a subtle salmon colour. It would be great in containers or hanging baskets. It’s bloomed non-stop since I received it.

Ipomoea batatas Illusion Emerald Lace

Both of these new sweet potato vines (here’s Ipomoea Illusion™ Emerald Lace with Alchemilla mollis [Lady’s Mantle] and Heuchera Dolce® Peach Melba) have more of a mounding habit than other ipomoeas I’ve grown. In fact, they’ve been rather slow growing, just slowly expanding rather than tumbling down in the cascading habit I’ve grown accustomed to in this species. This might be just what you’re looking for: I prefer the trailing variety.

mostly edible hanging basket

The final two trial plants,  Lobularia Snow Princess™ (sweet alyssium) and Lobelia Lucia™ Dark Blue found a home in an experimental hanging basket I put together.  I say experiemental because it was a type of hanging basket I’d never used before; I also tried to use all edible plants (other than these two flowering annuals). You can see it hanging above my front patio  in the above photo (that’s my neighbour’s yellow-and-red combo basket although it looks like they’re attached). I don’t feel like either of these plants got a fair trial in this container, which also contained purple shiso, chives, tricolour sage, strawberries, thyme, parsley, purple bush beans, nasturtium and sorrel. Lobelia Lucia™ Dark Blue was planted in the basket’s bottom pockets, which I found did not receive their share of water. As a result, they’ve limped along, barely alive (though still flowering!). Lobularia Snow Princess™ fared much better. It’s flowered continuously, and although it struggled a bit throughout the heatwave, it’s bounced back. Like all sweet alyssium, it attracts beneficial insects.

All of these plants will be available in spring 2010 wherever Proven Winners plants are sold.


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