Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's Growing ~ Ornamentals

Right now, EVERYTHING is growing! Each meal is based on what we have most of, and with the neighborhood swap going on, we are enjoying things we did not get to plant ourselves like potatoes, and things that are delayed a bit, like green beans and cucumbers. Thankfully, Tim has been paying attention and has been turning away zucchini!

But this post is about the ornamentals. The stuff I plant for companion benefits and to fill in the green spaces. In fact, one bed was devoted completely to ornamentals because it was too late to plant peas or potatoes and because I had the seeds sitting around. This is my Painted Lady Pole Bean Christmas tree! It's gorgeous. The hanging tags on the top wire in the background are to give the fence the illusion of being taller to keep the deer from trying to jump in. Since the garden is much classier this year, we just couldn't use the knots of orange marking tape like we used to so I printed some vintage seed packs and laminated them for flags.

It's just covered with brilliant red and white flowers which attract hummingbirds and bees and truly makes it look like it is covered in Christmas lights, an illusion that is hard to capture on camera.

The Painted Lady is an heirloom pole bean named after Queen Victoria which is tasty enough if the beans are picked when they are small and tender. Or you can let them mature and pick them as dried beans. The beans themselves are also ornamental. If you pick them before they dry, the are pink speckled with purple. After they dry, then turn more of a tan with chocolate markings.

I also planted some Sweet Peas in with it because I didn't have a place for them either. The many colors of the peas just adds to the Christmas ornament effect.

In between the two bean poles is an artichoke which is developing. I expect there will be more than one choke on the plant, and since I don't really like eating them, they will be allowed to develop into the giant pink thistle flowers. You can see around the edges that the artichoke is nestled in red clover that I planted for a cover crop and to set nitrogen in the soil. The clover hasn't bloomed yet, but soon it will be covered in red flowers which ought to get the honey bees excited again!

My favorite ornamental is the Alaska Nasturtium which is a variegated bush Nasturtium with a wide range of colored flowers. Nasturtium is a very useful companion deterring aphids, squash bugs, and striped pumpkin beetles, and improving growth and flavor. Deters woolly aphids, whiteflies, cucumber beetles and other pests of the cucurbit family. Great trap crop for aphids (in particular the black aphids) which it does attract. I put them in each of my beds for good measure.
Nasturtium leaves have a peppery flavor and are good in salads. The flowers are also edible, but I think they're just too pretty to pick. Especially because they don't really taste like much. They sure will dress up a salad bowl though if you need a colorful garnish.

With all these flowers cascading throughout each bed, we are keeping the honey bees busy, and they are doing their thing for the cucumbers too. Sometimes I reach in to pick something and I can actually feel a breeze from all the little wings.

Besides all the humming birds and bees and beneficial insects, we have garden cats. This is Vivian Marie. She comes out to the garden with us each evening to chase locusts and cabbage moths. She loves the warm pavers and the first thing she does is give her back a good scratch on the rough surface.

And I have a Barlow Jap ripening. We've been eating Sungold cherry tomatoes for a week, but this is the first large tomato to begin turning. It's even ahead of the early Scotia tomatoes which is a surprise. Maybe my habit of saving seeds from the first fruit to set and ripen each year to avoid cross pollination is selectively developing it into an earlier variety. That would be cool!

And this picture has nothing to do with gardening, but I thought is would be fun to share anyway. On the way back from the horse barn this past weekend I saw this cow watching traffic, and I just had to turn around and get her picture.


  1. I always look forward to getting the Ontario "fresh market" report this time of year when I phone my mom on Sunday evenings. She and one of my uncles continue to grow a huge garden that they feed themselves and their extended families from. They just started digging their first planting of potatoes a week ago and they were anticipating their first maters and their first(of seven) planting of sweet corn to be ready yesterday or today. When I lived up there our kitchen stayed pretty busy canning and preseving the bounteous plenty this time of year.

    Great pic of Mr. Cow ! :)

  2. During my morning garden check I realised I will be freezing beans tonight. So far the cucumbers are coming at a manageable pace so pickling can be put off. THe number of tomato plants I planted pretty much assures me I will be making sauce, but this year I dodged the corn bullet. I'm happy enough to pick up 6 ears at the corner on the way home, eat a few and freeze the leftovers, but I balk at the thought of having to spend a whole weekend (not necessarily of my choosing) with corn kernels stuck to every skin surface.

    Last night Tim was again musing about digging a root cellar. That seems to be the main focus of his gardening interests... "what might I need to build? And how much concrete will it take?"

    Stay tuned for an update on what he's done with the garden shed...

  3. LOL ! I'm kinda with Tim on the, "What do I need to build and how much concrete you reckon it'll take" mentality. Especially the last part. I was still farming in Ontario when Melissa and I met. On her first visit north, after the obligatory, "WowthisisaniceplacenotatallwhatIwasexpectin'" comments were over, her next verbal thought was, "Geez, you people REALLY like cement up here." Indeed. Anything that can be made well can be made EVEN BETTER with the addition of an appropriate amount of concrete. :)

    At this point in my life, I'm pretty happy to stay here tending after my farms and to get my fresh veggies from a neighbour who operates a large PYO operation. It's in the upper 90's both temperature and humidity here this afternoon...in other words a normal July day...which makes any sort of additional work like preserving (except maybe crawling in the freezer with the veggies to sleep and eventually die) seem like a slow, hot way to commit suicide.

    Look forward to the updates ! I think Tim ought to write his own blog !