Missing My Mix

I planted my first vegetable seeds this weekend. I had planned on planting them last weekend, but when I looked at my garden notebook from previous years, I decided it was a few days too early. So I was doubly eager to get my hands dirty this weekend.

But when I opened one of the bags of growing mix I bought this week, I discovered it was thick with fungal hyphae. They’re saprophytic fungi, to be sure—not technically interested in eating live plants—but in that kind of quantity, they could easily overwhelm my seeds and seedlings. When I opened the second bag of mix, I found it was the same.

I looked at the mountain of seeds I intended to plant, then at the small quantity of growing mix I had left from last year. There was no way I had enough to plant everything. It was already past 1 PM on Saturday—the nearby stores would be closed for the weekend. To get more soil would require a 45 minute drive to the city. Yuck.

So I did triage. Some of the plants I start in August are summer crops that need a long time indoors to get growing (eggplants, peppers, cape gooseberries). These I planted today. Others are spring crops that can go out to the garden as soon as they’re big enough to survive the slugs, birds, and drying winds. Every year I’m in a race with those early crops. They’re always ready before I’ve prepared the garden beds for them. I left many of these for next week.

In the end, the lack of planting mix will probably mean a more pleasant, less stressful spring planting season for me. And if it goes well, I might look back at my garden notebook next August and learn a thing or two about pacing my planting.

Pre-planting Chore

The potting bench in better times…

I suddenly realised today that tomorrow is the first of August. That means just two weeks until I start planting seeds for the vegetable garden!

Two weeks! Woo hoo!

That unalloyed excitement lasted a whole ten minutes, until I stepped into the garden shed.

It’s a scene of utter destruction. All through the autumn and winter, I’ve been walking in, tossing something on (or in front of) the potting bench, and then walking out.

Yeah, yeah…I’ll deal with that later…

Well, later has come.

Later is now.

I have two weeks to whip the shed into shape, or I won’t be doing any planting on the 15th of the month.

I know what’s on next weekend’s to-do list.

Planning Season

It’s that time of year again, when I eagerly await the seed catalog. The garlic has been planted, and I’ve made a list of the seeds I have and the seeds I need. I’ll determine what seeds I want once the catalog arrives.

I’ve created the garden map for this coming season, but haven’t yet filled in the spaces. I’ll wait for some cold, nasty evening to do that.

I’ve been eyeing the garden itself, too. There’s still clean-up work to be done out there, and there are big mallow plants to be pulled (the chickens manage many of the weeds, but they can’t deal with mallow). I keep telling myself it won’t be long before I can get out there again. It’s a bit of a lie—it’s still six weeks before I can realistically start preparing the garden for spring. But if I keep myself busy with planning, spring will be here before I know it.

That’s my hope, anyway.

Winter Roses

It was -3°C (27°F) yesterday morning, and only 8°C (46°F) in the house when I got up to light the fire. The days are short and often rainy. Nights are long. Towels in the bathroom never dry.

Sometimes it can feel miserable.

But over the weekend, I picked roses.

And I have to remind myself that at the winter solstice in Minnesota, I was hacking parsnips out of the frozen ground with a pickaxe, and months would go by without the temperature rising above freezing. The day my daughter was born, the noontime temperature was -31°C (-23°F). I used to teach snowshoeing. The winter we moved to New Zealand, the ground froze to 3 metres (10 ft) deep–froze people’s septic systems for months. Winter was real and deadly.

By contrast, I have not worn a winter coat since we moved here twelve years ago.

The lawn needs mowing year round.

I grow a winter garden (and the vegetables don’t freeze solid).

I pick roses.

Hard to complain about that.

Name that dinner…

While doing the afternoon chores today, I considered what I would make for dinner. Before I came inside, I gathered some of the ingredients I needed from the garden and from storage in the shed.

Can you guess what vegetable I paired with these flavourful ingredients?


You got it.


Truthfully, I didn’t decide exactly what I was making until after I gathered these seasonings; I only knew I wanted pumpkin. And to me, there’s nothing that says pumpkin like sage, thyme, onion and garlic. (Unless, of course, you’re talking sweet pumpkin, in which case it’s cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.)

I think many gardeners do this. We look at what vegetables we have on hand, and often know the ingredient list for our meals long before we know quite what we’re making.

Tonight I used my pumpkin in a cheesy pasta, but it could have just as easily become risotto, galette, or pot pie with very little change in ingredients.

Of course, the only reason I think sage and thyme when I consider pumpkin is because of my cultural background. If I were Indian, I might pair my pumpkin with cumin, coriander, garam masala and turmeric for a spicy pumpkin curry.

It’s what keeps gardeners from getting bored of eating the same vegetables day after day. Small changes can make a big difference in the final product.