Tag: cycle of seasons

Garden Update: June 2024

After getting through the garden hibernation period—AKA winter—life is starting to appear in our yard again.

Many, many years ago, I knew a newcomer family that came from a very hot part of the world. Their first winter here was their first experience with below-zero temperatures. When the plants died off and the trees shed their leaves, they thought that everything was dead. By mid-winter, one of them asked a mutual acquaintance why no one was cutting down all the dead trees. It amazed and delighted them when spring rolled around and all of those supposedly-dead trees came back to life.

The garden is much the same.

When the snow first melts, all we’re left with is dead plant matter and barren soil. But when the spring sun finally starts to warm things up, then life comes rushing back.

While garden season in Winnipeg usually starts in late May, we’ve had a rainy late spring / early summer, pushing us into June. We’ve almost got everything in the ground now.

The Early Risers

There are a few very early signs of spring in our yard that mean the season is finally starting:

  • The double-flowering plum tree blossoms
  • The garlic we planted in the fall springs up
  • The rhubarb comes rushing back
  • The chives sprout straight up

The double-flowering plum trees covers itself in bright pink blossoms for about a week, then they all fall off and suddenly this seemingly-barren bush is covered in lush green leaves.

The plum tree, at least in this climate, doesn’t produce any fruit. It’s purely an ornamental tree. When I was researching that a couple years ago, amateur gardeners said it’s likely because the blossoms come and go before pollinators arrive, so it misses out on its chance to produce fruit.

I happened to catch a bumble bee happily working away on the blossoms while they were still in bloom. If that amateur gardener theory is correct, well, this early bee might mean we get a plum or two. If anything happens, I will report back on that progress here.

The garlic is always one of my favourite crops. I think it’s because we get two harvests out of them. There is, of course, the harvest of bulbs in mid to late summer—most of which I pickle—but in early summer come the garlic scapes.

Scapes are basically the flower stem of the garlic plant. They shoot up nice and high and then do several twists and turns. You let them get nice and big, but just before they start flowering, you yank them off the garlic plant. These scapes taste fantastic roasted on the barbecue or are a nice little treat if they’re pickled. There’s a vendor at the local farmers market who makes a mind-blowing hot sauce from garlic scapes, an idea I might explore this summer.

The dwindling pantry

This time of year is also where the shelves start to look a little bare.

We still have a lot left from last year, especially frozen chopped bell peppers and frozen chopped squash, but we’re down to our last few jars of apple juice and tomato juice, and we’ve long run out of things like frozen broccoli and salsa.

We really don’t like to buy what we don’t have to, so we haven’t had broccoli in months now and we’re eating a lot more bell peppers than we normally do. Our goal is to see if we can go a whole year without buying vegetables—and except for a few exceptions (like mushrooms and the occasional potato), we’ve managed to do that.

Although it’s a massive amount of work, I can’t wait for the preserving season to hit full-swing and I get to stock all of these shelves again. I always look forward to a year of great food.

Planning for a new year

As successful as the challenge has been, we’re always looking at what changes we need to make to do better next year. For us, this means increasing broccoli, paying attention to what tomato products lasted and what we ran out of, and figuring out how to massively increase our fruit production (because we don’t preserve or utilize much fruit, mostly because we haven’t grown much). A new challenge for us is to also expand our protein production with beans and the eventual crop of mushrooms, though the mushrooms might not happen till next year.

Oh, and we might be expanding our garden space yet again.

We do our whole property, the backyard of our west neighbour, and a strip along the fence of our east neighbour, but this year we might add some garden space at a retreat centre just outside of town. We’ve been offered some space there and John, my husband, AKA the gardener, has been out there to turn some soil over. It’s a great plot of land, but it’s a bit of a drive to get there, and on his first trip out there he came home with 19 ticks crawling all over him. So, we’ll see.

John determines which crops go where and there is a draw to the out-of-town garden. One possibility is moving our popcorn crop out to the retreat centre—they apparently do not have a squirrel problem. Last summer when we had popcorn in our neighbour’s yard, a solitary squirrel decimated our entire popcorn crop in less than half a day.

This Year’s Crop

If I’m remembering everything correctly, here’s what we’ve got ahead of us this year…

Perennials that come up every year:

  • Saskatoons (AKA service berries, June berries)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Horseradish
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Rhubarb
  • Flowers — I’m not sure if I’ll do anything with flowers this year, but in the past I’ve done lilac jelly and lilac wine, as well as peony jelly
  • Dandelions

Perennials from other people’s properties (not our neighbours) that we harvest:

  • Apples
  • Tart cherries

Things we’re planting, either as seedlings or as seeds:

  • Sweet peas
  • Peas for canning
  • Sunflowers
  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Chamomile
  • Basil
  • Catnip
  • Black Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Scarlet Runner Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Hungarian Wax Peppers
  • Habanero Peppers
  • Kohlrabi (for our neighbour)
  • Cabbage (for our neighbour)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Mustard
  • Ginger
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Potato

Whenever I do a list like this, I always forget something, so there’s likely more than what’s listed here.

As well, tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary, and a tradition we fell into a few years ago is to go to a greenhouse on our anniversary and buy something new for the garden. We’re going to head out and look for a new fruit for the front yard. I’d love to get a cranberry bush, but they didn’t have it last year, so perhaps a haskap berry bush (which look like oblong blueberries).

I look forward to the summer and fall ahead as I start really filling this blog with recipes, updates, photos, and more. Thank you for tagging along on this journey.