Behold the wondrous bounty of our 2022 harvest

Not pictured: 3 figs, 2 microscopic strawberries.

What went wrong? It might be easier to answer “what went right?”, which was approximately nothing.

Planting season snuck up on us through a busy spring. I wanted to try a “three sisters” planting this year in one of our beds, which is a traditional First Nations agricultural technique of planting corn, beans, and squash in the same bed. The corn supports the beans, and the squash leaves shade both of their roots. But you have to plant the corn, wait for it to germinate, wait another week, then plant the beans, wait for them to germinate, wait another week… the long and short of it is that I started too late to get everything in and growing at its optimal time. The corn took off pretty well, but I hadn’t planted it deep enough so many of the stalks fell over from big winds, and the rest were pulled down by squirrels and raccoons who wanted to eat the unripe ears. The beans climbed the corn well, flowered well, but didn’t develop beyond that. And the squash? Well, let’s just say I have a nice packet of pumpkin seeds ready for next year.

As for the green tomatoes, these came from a volunteer plant that managed to establish itself in one of our basement window wells. I give it full marks for persistence, especially since it was on the north side of the house. When I pulled it out yesterday, the vine was almost seven feet long from furthest tip to root! But all the energy it put toward growth meant there was very little left for fruiting, and this handful of unripe tomatoes was all I could find. I’ll probably do them up as a quick pickle and eat them later this week.

Besides my admitted incompetence, we had weather challenges. This summer was particularly dry and hot, enough to scorch and kill my potted blueberry bush… not that it mattered much in that case, as Tertia helpfully pulled off all the developing berries before a single one could ripen. We also had animal challenges: the aforementioned squirrels and raccoons stripped nearly all of the developing figs off the tree. I counted around two dozen figlets at the beginning of the summer. At this point three have ripened, there are five more that might make it if the fall is warm enough, and the rest have simply disappeared. But the factor that probably made the biggest difference was simply that we were busy, way busier than last year. The summer rushed by — the kids went to day camp, we had two weeks of daily swimming lessons, we took two road trips — and the garden simply wasn’t a priority. If I had thought about it more, watered more often, gotten around to the compost I meant to add… well, who knows. But I didn’t.

The one bright spot, however, has been our marvelous fig tree:

Last summer I gave the fig a hard prune, taking it down to one main stem from three and trimming the new trunk down to about a foot high. I know that figs are hardy and typically respond very well to heavy pruning, but I still felt considerable trepidation about the whole matter! After that I wrapped it in cloth, surrounded it with an open-top cardboard box that I filled with dry oak leaves, put a bucket over the whole thing to protect it from precipitation, and waited the many long weeks until it was consistently warm enough to unwrap it and see if it had survived overwintering. To my delight, it did indeed survive — and while it took what felt like an awfully long time to wake up and start putting out new growth, it came back with a bang. Once it goes dormant again in a month or two, I’ll give it another good lop and chop, so that we can start shaping it into a good form.

Onward and upward, right? I learned some lessons this year (like: yes, you do actually have to consistently water stuff) but I’m already looking forward to next season. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make the world’s smallest batch of pickled tomatoes.

Putter: verb: (2) to work at random

It’s finally my favourite season again. I don’t mean spring, although spring comes into it. I mean the long season that stretches, where I live, from about mid-March through mid-November, the season I like to call Puttering About in the Yard.

I love it.

After what certainly felt like a long winter, it’s lovely to be able to just wander outside in the afternoon and… putter. Yesterday I raked up two bags’ worth of leaves that we didn’t get to in the fall, and uncovered the fig tree from its winter wrappings. Today I’ve washed the patio furniture and brought all the cushions up from storage. Maybe later I’ll rip out some weeds while they’re still relatively dormant and can’t fight back. Or I’ll sort through the storage shed so that all our gardening things are close to hand. Or I’ll start a list of what we’ll need for the garden beds (more mulch; more soil; many more strawberry plants). Or something else. It doesn’t matter; that’s the beauty of Puttering season. There’s always something to do, and you can choose what you like, and it’s all worthy and pleasant, and the stakes are reassuringly low. It’s not work if you’re just puttering.

Perhaps I’ll just sit out here and read a book.

Now, I know that I’m sending up a double-dog dare to the universe by declaring Puttering season open when it’s only mid-March. Our last frost date isn’t until the end of April, and maybe we’ll get another big dump of snow before this is over. But I don’t mind. What is all that compared to the fact that it’s 21°C today, the breeze is warm, and the robins are back? Not much, is what.

So here’s to the spring. Here’s to a full bird feeder and fat nosy squirrels, here’s to the sun on your skin and dirt under your fingernails. Here’s to puttering!

And then there were roses

We continue to reap the fruit of others’ labour here in our garden, most lately exemplified in our three or four rose bushes, which went from buds to full blooms seemingly overnight. I can’t tell how many bushes we have right now — which is strange, I know. There’s a clump on our back fence which may be one or two separate plants, but the garden in front is so en-junglefied at the moment that I haven’t made it back there to check. I don’t know if the gardens were just that well fertilized, or if there’s something about the city we live that encourages crazy growth, but the ferns are chest-high. Chest high! Not that I’m especially tall (full disclosure: I’m 5’5) but that’s tall enough to be above my children’s heads. It’s wild.

This has been such an interesting season of discovery around our house, maybe especially so because we don’t go anywhere else. I remain tremendously grateful for the blessing of this big backyard, and, as we say, for the hands that prepared it. Right now we are learning about what we have. Next year, we’ll begin to add our own shape to it. But for now, simply to watch, experience, and gather is more than enough.