Saturday, June 11, 2011

Perennials...the easy way to garden!

The wonderful thing about owning land is that you can finally get started on those plants that take a long time to establish.  You have time on YOUR side!  I love the idea that you can plant some things, virtually forget about them and they'll keep on giving you wonderful gifts EVERY YEAR!

I thought I would dedicate this post to the plants and things that you can purchase now, plant and enjoy for years to come.  Now since I've already discussed asparagus so far, I will avoid them for right now.  Just note that asparagus also falls into the "easy garden" category. 

My neighbour's apple tree in full bloom!

I have been reading Suzanna Moody's sister's book "The Canadian Settler's Guide" by Catherine Parr-Traill.  There is a whole chapter on how the apple tree or orchard can add so much to the home.  Back in the 1830's they dried their apples and rehydrated them for use all winter long...that long as the mice didn't find them first.  Poor Suzanna's neighbour dried out her apples but when she went to collect them the neighbour only gave her 3 bits of dried apple...saying the mice found them under their bed and ate a feast.  (Under a bed???  Surely the rafters would have been a better place in those days!)  Apples store well over the early months of the winter.  They also freeze well for later use.  I was so intrigued with the dehydrating idea, that we may be looking for a dehydrator come this fall. 

There is a great debate over whether or not you must spray for bugs with apple trees.  My mother in law swears by the stickey cup method to attract bugs away from the precious fruit.  Plant an apple tree and let me know how that turns out.  For now we are happy to pick our neighbour's tree (with her permission) and seek out the local U-pick farms.  Its a GREAT family activity.

10 plants turned into THIS...

Strawberries in bloom May 20-2011


Strawberries are wonderful to have at home.  They take a whole season of care for only a few weeks of fruit.  Nothing in the world beats going out to your patch in the morning to grab some fresh berries to add to pancakes or just to sprinkle on cereals or yoghurt.  We planted 10 plants a few years ago and they EXPLODED!  Its been quite a challenge to keep the plants from taking over our parking lot!  (top pic you can see the bumper of my car)  The runners are a naturally produced survival technique.  Each plant may produce an infinite amount of runners per season.  Our first year we let the runners go wild....the second year we picked any runners we saw.  You can never get all of them, but it definitely helps the plants produce more fruit than plant.  All of its energy is spent on fruit production rather than making a bigger, greener plant.  Last year, the berries came way too early and the rains kept us inside most of the time.  The robins were thrilled....they got most of the berries before we had a chance to pick them.  That's nature for you! 

Originally this bed held flowers of all types, but we aren't flower people, so we dug them all up and decided what we were going to put in the bed.  We chose a perennial for the bed, as its very tough to turn that soil in the walled in space in the front yard.  Its also impossible to get a tiller in there.  We picked strawberries for that bed because strawberries like a slightly acidic soil.  We were able to cover the soil with cedar chips without fear the acidity would affect other growing things nearby (its just berries there!) 

Owen poses with the wild black raspberries we trained across our fence

When we first moved into our home, we noticed a corner of the parking lot that had wild black raspberry canes peaking out from around the fence.  We decided to let them flourish!  By keeping other plants and vines at bay, the canes are able to take as much sun and rain as it likes.  After the first year, the canes were starting to bow towards our cars!  Thats when we started training them down our fence (using gloves of course....ouch!)  Raspberry canes are quick take care.  Luckily you won't have to fuss with the canes much.  They do their own things and by mid june we'll have scads of berries!  We usually freeze some and pick and eat the rest fresh.  They are certainly longer lasting than the strawberry counter-parts.  We can pick raspberries for almost 2 months before the August heat does the poor guys in. 

I absolutely adore it when we send out the boys with a basket each and they pick their own....still in pj's.

Our disappointing blueberries

We had another awkward area for planting.  We had tried lettuce and herbs in the area previously...but the big manitoba maple blocks out a substantial amount of sun throughout the day.  I grabbed about 6 blueberry shrubs and only 4 survived.  The are still only twigs after 3 years.  I feel like there is something we are missing when it comes to this patch as well as blueberries in general.  We treated the soil with natural cedar chips as well.  Blueberries love the acidic addition to the soil.  So far they have only produced a few flowers each and the robins nab the berries before we've been able to taste a single one. 

Our experience with blueberries has been disappointing at best, but my husband is still optimistic.  Me?  I'm getting tired of weeding the area without any return.  (I'd love to dig them up and relocae them to someone else's property, personally!)  Our sad experiences with blueberries makes me jealous of those who live in the hwy 7/Kaladar area...they seem to be sitting on a gold mine of blueberries!

Garlic Chives


It doesn't matter the type of chives you grow...they all rock!  A baked potato is nothing without these green lovelies.  We FOUND them growing in the area that is now our flat bed garden, now tranplanted beside our BBQ right out the door from our kitchen!  Snip as you need them, they grow back bigger and better all season long.  Snip, wash and chop.  Add to a freezer bag and you have chives all winter long.  You can dry them too, but the frozen kind always taste more fresh.  

We have continued to cultivate garlic chives.  They are a broader leaf variety and sound snooty.  Not just chives, but garlic chives.     

Rhubarb is getting bigger!


I'll be doing another rhubarb post shortly...ours is getting out of control!  Rhubarb also freezes well, since when you cook with it, it turns to mush anyway.  Freeze them chopped or whole, both are just as easy to cook with.  They are a great source of vitamin C and other anti-oxidants.  Not a fan of the taste?  Add white sugar and try not to love them. 

All of the above-listed plants and trees are a great way to get into gardening.  There is very little expense put into them and they last for many years.  Talk about getting the most bang for your buck!

Have you got perennial plants in your garden plan?

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