Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Boxing Day Harvest

This harvest from the backyard (apologies about it not being grown in the front yard) consists of green onions, two kinds of Swiss chard, mizuna, red Russian kale, mache/corn salad, parsley, marjoram, and a mystery green. We ate this as a salad with our vegan Boxing Day feast. (photo by J. Evan Kreider)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fruit Trees in the Front Yard

One morning before 9 am there was a knock on our front door. It turned out be be a woman from Montreal, on a tour of British Columbia. As a child, she had moved into our house in 1942. We gave her the grand tour of this house that has seen few changes since it was built in the late 30's. I was most interested in her description of the garden that her mother had in the back yard. Along with a rose arbor and a "victory" garden, there were fruit trees at the south end of the lot. Alas, these trees have all disappeared as it is now too shady due to huge conifers in the immediate surrounds. However, one "heritage" apple tree remains. The owner prior to us transplanted it from his farm on Vancouver Island, perhaps in the 50's or 60's. We have enjoyed these tasty Cox's Orange Pippin apples for many years, but age and increasing dense shade have taken its toll, resulting in an unhealthy-looking tree:

At the UBC Apple Festival in October 2008, I met an expert at grafting. She took a twig of the old tree in the spring of 2009, grafted it onto semi-dwarf stock, and produced a "whip". In October in the sunniest spot I could find in the front yard, I planted the new Cox's Orange tree:

Coincidentally, there's another fan of Cox's Orange trees on 11th Avenue who planted two of them on the boulevard, perhaps last fall. This photo is from July:

Three fruit trees (perhaps apple) are newly planted on 30th Avenue, in a front yard that is being dug up. It's hard to see any of the trees, but look for the yellow label on one of them.

On 31st Avenue, east of Dunbar, a new cherry tree has been planted on the boulevard. I suspect that the landowner planted it since it is an edible variety--one of the coveted Rainier cherries!

Planting fruit trees on either side of the city's sidewalk can be a good option in terms of available sunlight, assuming the boulevard trees do not make too much shade. It can be a small beginning to creating an edible front yard!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Harvest of Tomatillos on November 10

Tomatillos have been so great this year that next year I hope to plant some in the front yard! (These are from my back yard veggie garden.) Since colder weather has arrived, I decided to harvest all the more or less mature tomatillos to make a salsa and a salad. Two advantages of tomatillos over tomatoes are that tomatillos can tolerate some cold weather and they are not affected by blight.

(Photos courtesy of J. Evan Kreider.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Native Plant

On November 1, I encountered these beautiful specimens of Amanita muscaria growing in a front yard on West 31st Avenue in Vancouver. Are these edible? According to Wikipedia, perhaps, but only under certain conditions. It's best only to admire them. I wonder how the animal feels that took a bite from the one in the left background.

In the same front yard, these more mature specimens are growing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegetables and Flowers

Some years ago, the back yard of this house was included in a garden tour, part of the Salmonberry Days Festival in the Dunbar area of Vancouver. It was obvious to me that the gardeners were very knowledgeable. A few years ago, they dug up one side of their front lawn, landscaping it with interesting plantings. In May, I was surprised to see them dig up the entire front and construct a fence with a trellis, yet another re-design! But this time vegetables were included along with flowers. Even though it was a new garden, the gardeners' expertise showed in that it was attractive from the beginning. Perhaps because they have vegetables and grapes growing in the back, there is ample room in front to spare for flowers, making this mix of edibles and flowers so attractive.

In mid May the garden looked promising but a bit stark, with the structure finished but little planted:

By July, there was a complete transformation. Sunflowers peeked over the fence, and a squash vine was growing on the trellis. Outside the fence, the transplanted rhubarb was feeling at home, and colorful poppies abounded.

In mid September the squash plant revealed itself as a pumpkin, kale transplants had been set out near the front sidewalk, feathery asparagus could be seen in the background, and a large zucchini plant was made almost invisible behind the dahlias, sunflowers, and cannas.

All this was achieved on the north side of this bungalow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Walk on 31st Avenue

The marine cloud cover did not lift until noon on the mid-September day when I took a walk on the block where I live on, checking for edibles in each front yard. In my own I found Swiss chard, the ever-present kale, sprouting broccoli, lettuce, and coriander gone to seed.

The next door neighbors get extra points because their two edible plants are also native plants. But they didn't plant them--likely a bird dropped salmonberry seeds.

Growing on further down the street is another salmonberry bush that has sprouted in a boulevard display. It's great to see these native plants.

Across the street are the healthiest Brussels sprouts that I've ever seen. Seeing them, I'm fairly certain that my two disease-ridden plants are losers.

The garden with the Brussels sprouts faces south; this next photo shows the left side. The garden is L-shaped, along the front of the house and west border. It includes a peach tree and an apple tree, along with tomatoes and more Brussels sprouts.

Not to be outdone, the next neighbor also has healthy Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. The cucumber plant has been producing since before Canada Day.

Back across the street, these gardeners have zucchini near the sidewalk and scarlet runners near their house, similar to their last year's planting.

New this year is this gardener's attempt to grow a cucumber on the boulevard, using a tiny decorative trellis.

An eclectic combination is growing on the boulevard--next to the bush is a potato plant and a tomato plant. Judging by the size of the tomato plant, it could be a "volunteer".

Arriving at Crown Street, I decided to check out the next block. It does not have as many adventurous veggie gardens in front yards, but there were two interesting places to see. This unconventional front yard has an apple tree.

But it also has a pear tree, with lots of pears!

Directly across the street is a vegetable garden that is easy to miss because it is situated in a corner next to the house and almost hidden by a boxwood hedge along the angled sidewalk. It is a fairly productive plot, with more of those Brussels sprouts! Can you see the eggplant?

Arriving at Wallace Street, I noticed a raspberry hedge, reigned in by a simple bamboo fence, in a side yard.

Returning home through the lane on the north side of 31st Avenue I came across a back fence with several hand-painted metal signs with sayings about gardening. This is one:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Paved Lanes & Growing Vegetables

Do you find the next two photos interesting? In Vancouver, it is legal to pave the lanes from fence to fence, limiting potential green space and providing what is a rather drab and sterile scene.

In a lane behind West King Edward Avenue, these gardeners have "taken back" their lane that is paved edge to edge, and they have created an attractive and productive space for vegetables.

However, the garden structures attracted the attention of the City, and the owners received a letter from the engineering services department asking them to remove the boxes. There is a tongue-in-cheek article in the July 31 Vancouver Courier and a letter to the editor in a later issue.

There are many "lane gardens" in Vancouver, with smaller or no structures, particularly on lanes paved only down the middle. Here is a typical one that has been going for some years, producing raspberries, zucchini, a cabbage, and more.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pumpkin Garden for Children

In January 2009, we wondered if the snow would ever melt. This photo taken on January 23 shows no indication of what is in store for this boulevard in a quiet, tidy neighborhood where few front-yard vegetable gardens are found.

In early April, the sod was being turned over.

By mid July, pumpkin plants were thriving. The secret was starting the plants indoors.

In August, the foliage has dried up a bit, and the pumpkins are recognizable and sizable. This must be quite a reward for the 13 children and two adults who identified with the pumpkin patch by placing "namestones" along the sidewalk and road.