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A Garden After All

Gosh it was hot today!  It still is!  My house has stayed cool so far this summer, but today it is hot and stuffy and will likely stay that way until this heatwave breaks.  The sudden heat has thrown Toronto into darkness with all the power needed for air conditioning.  I’m glad I didn’t contribute to that!  I just slow down in this weather, wear as little clothing as possible, and tomorrow I may have to go jump in the lake at some point!

As usual I have been burning the candle at both ends.  Over the long weekend I broke down and ended up setting up a small garden bed for herbs and lettuce.  It’s only 4ft x 6ft and already full.  I relocate my rhubarb (still too small to harvest, but hopefully next year!), taragon and bloody dock sorrel.  I added chamomile, 8 lettuce plants my mother gave me that were extra from her garden, and a lemon sorrel I bought on Canada Day.  That’s all the garden will fit, and likely that’s already too much!  I am, however, building planters to box it in, and I will put most of the rest of my plants in those, or in pots.  This will facilitate easy moving next year!  Two of the planters will be 5ft x 6 inches, and the third will be 6ft x 6 inches.  Each one is costing me about $16 to make.

So what did I get? Four kinds of mint, chamomile, calendula, sorrel, lemon balm, catnip, nettle, Russian sage, viola, two kinds of basil, anise hyssop, nasturtiums, lovage, caraway, lavender, two kinds of parsley, cilantro, dill and rosemary.  Not a bad haul, eh!  I just couldn’t help myself!  Heritage Line Herbs organic herb farm had a half price sale, and each plant is large and healthy.  All this for about $40.

I put my herb garden where my composters used to sit.  It took me a whole week to get around to moving them as it wasn’t easy work.  I had to empty the top part of each composter onto a tarp until I hit nice soil.  Then I scooped the soil into my compost sifter and gently sifted it into the wheelbarrow I borrowed from my neighbour.  I could only sift a couple of shovels full at a time, so it was slow going.  But the soil that came out after sifting was fantastic!  My only disappointment was discovering that the woodstove ash had been dumped into the bins on several occasions.  I think I did it once before learning that it acidifies your soil and thus should be avoided.  But obviously I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know that this was not a good practice.  The soil with ash was quite grey, so I mixed that back into the composters and am hoping that eventually it will be diluted enough to be fine.  Some ash is actually good.  Apparently.

When I got to the bottom of my composters, I just pulled them up and left the remaining soil in place.  That soil is very rich, but is quite lumpy as I didn’t sift it.  The sifted stuff went into the flower beds by my front and back doors.  The lumpy stuff is now my veggie patch!  Into it I mixed some nicely composted sheep manure I brought home from the farm where I train the dogs.  Hopefully the plants will like the mix and not find it too rich.  I couldn’t afford to buy top soil, plus I don’t love supporting the practice of soil being scraped up and sold.  It’s better to start small and build up your own soil as much as possible.

I still have to finish building my planters and getting the rest of my little herbs into some soil.  This heat wave is drying them out very quickly and I’m watering them morning and evening.  This weekend I bought a bushel of peas and shelled them (took about 4 hours!!) and then blanched them before freezing.  I did them in batches and reused the hot and cold baths, but it still was a fairly water (and energy) intensive exercise.  At least I saved the water and used it to water my plants.

My plan for this garden is primarily to grow herbs to make tea for the winter.  I drink an awful lot of tea when it’s cold and would love to make my own.  Most of the herbs are good tea herbs, the rest are for culinary purposes.  I am hoping to freeze a few, like basil and dill, for use throughout the winter.  I will be keeping a few in pots and am hoping they will last at least well into the fall inside.

It really feels good to be working in the garden again, even this little bit.  I enjoy fussing with the plants and have already given quite a few of them hair cuts in hopes of propagating them.  While I seem to have a lot of herbs, I only have one or two plants of each, which is not enough to really harvest for winter.  Since I have limited funds, propagating my own is the best and easiest way to expand my crop.  I now have half a dozen small jars full of cuttings on my kitchen window sill.  Fingers crossed, they will soon sprout roots and join their parents in the garden.

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