The allotment garden, almost mid-June

I went down to the allotment to weed and put my last few veggies in. Some more tomatoes (these ones are called rainbow, and it looks like they mature into a range of colours, which would be pretty on a plate), some hot cherry peppers, and green and yellow zucchini.

I was probably there for about 3 hours. I also harvested some lettuce (I’ll take a picture of my harvest tomorrow in daylight: the storm was coming in and it was too dark outside to shoot, and I was too bagged to set up some proper lighting). Did lots of weeding – I could always tell when it was mint or dill that was coming up, because there are lots of those volunteering in my garden. Continue reading

State of the garden on the last weekend of July

Went again this morning to water and harvest.

Still nothing happening with the eggplants: my dream of growing my own ratatouille this year may not materialize: I haven’t had any more zucchini, either.

But things are happening.

Slowly, my paste tomatoes are moving from green to yellow — and one of them is orange, on its way to red.

Ripening paste tomato

The sweet red pepper continues to get larger, but isn’t showing any signs of color change yet.

Sweet red pepper

Similarly, there’s still just one hot pepper, and it’s green.

hot pepper growing

There were a couple of flowers on the zucchini (both males) but no signs of any baby zucchinis.

zucchini blossom

Early girl tomatoes are still almost white.

Pale early girls

I did pick a couple of sweet millions, though!

Sweet millions ripening

I also harvested some of my mesclun mix, and all of 3 swiss chard leaves. A few more yellow beans.


Anyone want some dill weed? One of the things about not weeding constantly is that I’m finding I’ve got some useful things growing… like some mint (very difficult to eradicate) and dill, which is good for butterflies if no-one wants it.

Dill flower

In search of the most beautiful Caprese Salad

A Caprese Salad is a simple thing: tomato, boccancini, basil, olive oil, and some say balsamic vinegar (some say no).

When it’s fresh, ripe, perfect ingredients, it’s the essence of summer sun and warmth.


Probably the best tasting one I’ve had in Toronto lately was at Lil Baci, which uses imported cheese, and it’s very creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, pairs with tomato in an awesome way delicious.


Because it has so few ingredients, it’s an amazingly graphic, sometimes architectural, salad. I want to capture it as pure art. I’m not there yet.


Here’s a salad that Sandy had when we were in Italy in 2005:


 Here’s one I photographed a couple of months ago:

Caprese Salad

Here’s my photograph from last week:

Caprese redux

 I’m getting closer, but I’m not there yet. Need more precision in my salad building, either get the whole plate or no background, editing details, clarity, clarity, clarity.

Then I saw a really interesting salad at a restaurant Sandy was eating at in Italy last night.

Hmm. Vertical stack. Hmm. different types of tomatoes.

I think I will continue to work on this.

Lack of measurable rain

Last evening on Twitter, it seemed that half of the people I follow in Toronto were talking about the ’86d competition for Toronto’s Hottest Chef, and the other half were focussed on the sky: would we get rain, or would we be bypassed yet again? I took a quick panorama using my iPod of the sky: we had overlapping layers moving at different speeds:

Clouds but not rain

Alas, a friend sent me a link to the WeatherUnderground map that showed rain pretty much everywhere but the old city.

I could no longer put it off. I had to go water my veggie garden this morning. Good thing I went. Lack of rain does not mean lack of weeds: they’re highly drought-tolerant. I did not photograph my shame of weeds! The zucchini, shoshi, and bolting mesclun mix were almost lost among them. I spent a good hour weeding, and could spend a couple more. I think I’m going to get some straw to lay down as a mulch where I’m not growing things to impede the growth of more weeds. As I weed an area, I’ll lay down mulch.

Here’s how some things looked today. I only took pictures of things that looked significantly different from last post. That means no pictures of zucchini, chard, plum tomatoes, or eggplants: they look like they’re in stasis.

First, my cherry tomatoes — Sweet Millions are beginning to ripen. Ripening will progress down the bunch, so it will be a matter of picking before the top one is too ripe and the bottom one isn’t ripe enough. Or just picking the ripe ones off instead of grabbing the whole bunch.

Sweet Millions getting sweeter

The sweet red pepper is definitely getting larger. I’m not seeing signs of any siblings for it yet.

Sweet red pepper

The Portuguese hot pepper is getting twistier and longer!

Portuguese hot pepper

I did manage to harvest a few things: some basil (it needed the tops lopped off, and I needed some fresh basil for today’s Caprese salad for lunch). And a handful of yellow beans that I’ll eat for dinner. I have a variety of squash that I got at the Leslieville farmers market on Sunday, so I may sautée up a mass of squash & beans and put them together with some pasta for dinner.


About 4 of the yellow beans had been munched from the bottom to about halfway up. I suspect it may have been the bunnies I’ve seen down there. I broke them off the vine, and scattered them around the plant. Maybe they’ll come back for them, now that they’re at ground level.

How’s your garden growing?

What’s growin’?

It’s been an interesting summer to get back into vegetable growing. I got my allotment garden planted by the end of May. Since then, it’s been a matter of weeding and watering. I could have been doing more of both.

It’s been very dry. Until Sunday, our rainfall for the month of July was 3mm. I was watering twice a week, but decided that with our heat and lack of rain, I really needed to increase that to every second day. I water for about an hour — listen to some tunes on my iPod, make sure there’s enough water to go deep into the ground.

Today I noticed some flowers on my Caspian pink tomato for the first time. It’s an heirloom variety, and hasn’t been doing much in the garden. I got it a couple of weeks later than everything else — it came from Urban Harvest, at the Leslieville Farmers Market.

I’ve had one zucchini — I harvested it young, about 5-6 inches long, cut it into spears and barbecued it one night along with some corn on the cob and a steak. That made for a tasty dinner. I haven’t had any others at all: I’ve had flowers, but no resulting fruit.

Here are some pictures of my garden from this morning’s trip.

These are San Marzano type paste tomatoes. An heirloom variety, true Italians would get riled and say that they can’t be True San Marzanos because they’re not being grown in San Marzano, and everyone knows that it is the terroir that makes it what it is. They’re right. But these were sold as San Marzanos, so I don’t know what else to call them. They’re not Romas, which I’m also growing.

Paste tomatoes

This will be a sweet red pepper. It’s quite small — about an inch across — but you can get the sense of it being a pepper already.

Sweet red pepper

This will be interesting. This is a Hot Portuguese. How hot is hot? To be determined!

Hot Portuguese Pepper

Here are some eating tomatoes. Sandy’s bugging me about when I’ll be serving Caprese salad! Based on the color and size of these, it will be a while, yet. These are called Sweet Millions.

Sweet Millions

This is a medium-sized eating tomato — between heirloom beefsteaky size and cherry tomatoes. Just right for salad. Actually, these are the ones that I want to use in a Caprese salad (if I use cherry tomatoes, I’ll want to use those little pearl-sized bocconcini) . It’s very pale at this point. Name? Early Girl. Let’s see how early she is.

Early Girl

Here’s my Swiss Chard. Still only about 6″ high, so I’ve been reluctant to start harvesting it. Only a couple of holes munched in it — it has fared better than my mesclun mix, definitely.


One of my neighbours down at the allotment garden gave me some yellow beans to plant. I’ve almost got some ready to harvest! I think. How do you know when yellow beans are ready to eat?

Yellow beans

This one’s not for eating. This is one of my two birdhouse gourd plants. I’m hoping I’ll get some gourds that I can dry and drill holes into, and turn either into appropriately-sized bird houses for cavity nesters, or some cute little bird feeders to hang from the lilac, sand cherry, and elderberry (because one can never have too many bird feeders). The leaves on the vine are quite beautiful.

Birdhouse gourd

I’ll post more pictures as things ripen. I saw a little bunny today. I hope it doesn’t eat too much of my stuff.

Initial planting done.

Planted on Sunday morning. Went down there about 8 am: not many people about, just me and the birds. Lots of birds in the birdhouses scattered around the place — diving, insect hunting, calling to each other in kind of a drippy tap sound (but not the same as cowbirds). Cornell’s bird ID guide tells me I’ve got tree swallows, which adapt well to boxes, but the sound’s not quite the same (hey, do birds have regional dialects?).

Raked things up, put the pots where they seemed to make sense, then planted, then watered again.

So I’ve got:

  • 4 Sweet millions (red cherry tomato)
  • 4 heart-shaped sweet red peppers
  • 4 Roma (paste) tomatoes
  • 4 early girl round slicing tomatoes
  • 4 San Marzano (paste) tomatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • 2 pots of basil
  • 4 black magic eggplants
  • 4 green Zucchini
  • 4 hot Portugal peppers

Plus seeds that I’ve kept in my ‘fridge for a few years:

  • Birdhouse gourds: I want to make birdhouses and birdfeeders of them. Planted 2 seeds each in 4 spots. I suppose I could get tree branches and stick them in the earth to give a structure they can climb. Was thinking I’d just let them wander all over the soil, but they might be safer from rodents chomping them if up in the air. When I planted soybeans, the local bunnies chowed down on all the fresh new shoots.
  • Mesclun mix: oooh, my own salad greens, guaranteed not to be watered with water downstream of a CAFO. Planted two rows, about 6 feet long each. Sowed the seed pretty thick, because I’m figuring the germination rate will be lower than when the seed was fresh, even though it was in a ziplock bag in the dark fridge 🙂 We’ll see if I get any to harvest.
  • Cleome: red. common name: spider lily. It grows about 4-6 feet tall, so I put it along the edge of the fence on the west side. The neighbour has lupins behind it, so it won’t interfere with them.
  • Lavatera: white. common name: mallow. It’s a pretty flower, a simple, clear, uncomplicated. Planted it in front of the cleome.


Here’s a picture of one bed: this contains the paste tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.


I’m hoping to pick up a few more things for ratatouille (I want to *grow* it!) at the Leslieville Farmer’s Market this Sunday morning: Urban Harvest had some awesome heirloom varieties of vegetables last year.

Initial Weeding has been completed

I’m sure that I shook a bunch of seeds loose from plants that I yanked, so it will be an ongoing labour, removing the weeds. That reminds me: one of the great tips in Square Foot Gardening was to fill seed holes with vermiculite. That way you can tell where something is that you deliberately planted, and sort it from the weeds.

Here’s my garden at about 6pm. Yes, that’s my bike back by the pine tree:

Weeding done.

My sorry looking rhubarb, which should have a chance to grow now that it’s not pinned underneath a wood frame:

My pathetic rhubarb

And, just in case you think everyone’s garden looks rustic, here’s my neighbour across the path (he gave me cucumber plants!)

One of my neighbours

One more weeding session left…

Went out there this morning, about 8:15. Started working where I left off, and got rid of as much of the dogwood as I could. Couldn’t pull it out — I think its roots go to Hades. While chatting with one of my neighbours, I commented that I’m thinking of getting rid of the wooden frames. They’re just on top of the earth, and the soil level’s no higher in them than outside of them, and weeds freely travel from one side to another. They serve as markers, nothing else.

He asked me how much I wanted for one of them — I told him he could just take it. He went back, did some weeding in his garden, and returned a little later with a proposal that he’d do some clearing for me if he could have one.

Hellya. He cleaned out (and then turned the soil) on the left-most of the three frames, and then I helped him carry it to his garden and we put it in place. It was great having the help. He found a few small potatoes, which I’ve replanted in the long skinny box, which is where I’ve also planted the cucumber plants I got yesterday from another neighbour. Oh — and a rhubarb was half under the frame, so it might come to life now that it’s been released.

Almost done.

You can see why midday is a terrible time to take pictures of a garden, especially if it’s full sunshine. The light’s really contrasty, and everything looks pretty dry.

One more session and I’ll have it all weeded out. I might do it this evening (I left my garden claw there), and I need to take a hose so I can water. The soil’s really dry, which makes it harder to weed.  So if I weed dry, then water, tomorrow I should be able to take a rake and make sure I’ve really got things cleaned out, and can start planting.