Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Spring on Denman Island

Getting a head start!
Spring has arrived early on Denman Island this year. The garden harvest right now includes kale, rhubarb and lovage along with other fresh herbs. Although a bit behind last year with my seed starts, I assembled the portable greenhouse a month early. Just days after, the evenings turned cool so I decided to keep the tomatoes in the sun room of the house for a few more weeks. I have however started two types of Sugar Snap Peas; 'Amish' from Salt Spring Seeds and 'Sugar Ann' from William Dam. They were sprouted then planted in long containers and moved inside the greenhouse for a good start. I spaced the seeds closely so when 'thinned' will provide fresh pea shoots which are an incredible delicacy if you have never tried them! If planting in the garden, plant two rows very close together, one for harvesting pea shoots and leave the other to mature for picking the pea pods.
Desert King Fig

My 'Desert King Fig' tree is still small (about 6 feet tall) and I'm always looking for tricks to increase its production. Last year, one of our local master gardeners told me to pinch the buds off (some of) the branch tips in the Spring. I was happy with the results so have done it again this year with some branches. Instead of producing a leaf and 1-2 figs, the pinched tip puts energy into 3-5 figs as shown in this photo. It seems to give a head start to the fruit and the leaves come out later.
Seascape Strawberries

The 'Seascape' strawberries are having a difficult start this year. I am still struggling with millipedes in the soil and it seems they are now possibly affecting the roots of the plants. I will assess this problem again in the fall. The June crop of this everbearing variety is always disappointing for me, and a battle with bugs and birds. I must keep reminding myself that the second crop in August will produce huge, sweet berries until frost.
Red Russian Kale

The winter bed of 'Red Russian Kale' has started to flower and will be allowed to go to seed. Some of the seed is saved for sharing or allowed to self start for this winter's crop. Small, tender leaves are still very sweet and a pleasure to snack on in the garden or brought in for salads. Our recent out of town guests were surprised that the fresh picked, overwintered kale was tender, sweet and had so much flavor... nothing like the stuff they buy in stores! 

The garlic bed, planted last fall, is looking great so far! The straw mulch was pulled back in February so the new shoots could emerge and grow straight. A few weeks ago a sprinkling of blood meal was put down between each plant to encourage large bulbs. 
'Lovage' is a vigorous, hardy, perennial plant that grows between 6 to 8 feet in height. This green giant herb requires very little care but the plant will spread and take a fair amount of space. One plant is plenty for any garden and you'll never use it all. April through June is the best time to pluck tender leaves since this robust herb can turn bitter in the heat. The stems and leaves smell and taste similar to celery. The leaves can be used in salads, or to season soups and broths. It is one of the aromatics used in my 'Roasted Tomato Sauce' page 198 in my cookbook 'For the Love of Food'.

'Rhubarb'... although a vegetable, is the first spring plant to produce anything that can be made to taste like fruit. Like lovage, it is easy to grow. Every spring without fail neon pink nubs emerge, transforming into thick, celery-like stalks topped with leaves the size of umbrellas. The stalks are edible, but do not eat the leaves, as they are poisonous. Even as the plant is picked, it will continue to flourish. In the next few days these beautiful stalks will be transformed into my favorite dessert 'Sour Cream Rhubarb Crumb Pie'. For that recipe and more, visit the chapter 'Rhubarb Reigns' on page 111 in 'For the Love of Food'.
It has been a busy few weeks, spring is in full swing on Denman Island. Time to work outside and get dirt under those fingernails!

Till next time... Happy Gardening and Bon App├ętit! 

Photos by Sally Rae   

1 comment:

  1. Great tip for the figs! I'll have to try that next year. Thanks.