About a month ago I wrote about the globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus). It is a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food crop. Apart from food use, the globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large purple flower heads. The following photos show a bed with about 20 plants. Many large heads have been harvested and many secondary heads have developed, more than required for culinary needs so several have been allowed to go to flower. Hmmm… it might be an interesting entry in the Middleville Fair (coming up September 17).
More about Pollinators
Last week I wrote about the reproductive strategy of cucurbits and the crucial importance of pollinators. All squash produce both male and female flowers separately on the same plant. First, the male flowers form and bloom – there are typically 10 male blossoms for every female flower. Then female blossoms of squash open first thing in the morning and close a few hours later (24 hours at the most), never to re-open again. If these blossoms are not pollinated they abort and fall off the plant. In addition, each flower has to be visited at least 15 times for complete pollination. Incomplete pollination results in small and misshapen fruit. The more I thought about this strategy the more counter-intuitive it seems as a successful strategy – unless it evolved during centuries when pollinators were incredibly more abundant than they are now.
Perhaps answers may be found in an upcoming lecture by noted local scientist Dr. James Coupland. He will be speaking at the West Carleton Garden Club meeting next Tuesday September 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Memorial Hall in beautiful downtown Carp. His talk will start with a big picture look at how we approach nature and how we value it before getting into pollinators and the impact of things like insecticides. His company – FarmForest Research – develops sustainable pest control products for big companies that are pollinator-safe. Born and raised in Almonte, Coupland spent more than 20 years in Europe, where he founded his company, before coming back home.
Still growing strong!
The weather continues gloriously summer-like this week with temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above seasonal averages. This summer has been a great year for globe artichokes as well as other vegetables that like lots of sun and heat – this includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, sweet potatoes and the vining crops such as squash and pumpkin.
The regular sweet basil has grown very large. It is not at all obvious where some early picking of leaves has taken place. I have not pinched out the flower heads – it is time consuming and I don’t feel that it will make a significant difference to the amount I harvest. (Warning: Basil is extremely sensitive to cold weather. It doesn’t even need frost for the leaves to turn brown and fall off – so as soon as nights drop to 5 degrees or less get out in the garden and harvest your plants.)
The Swiss chard is really growing prolifically – I need to keep harvesting the lower leaves to keep it from crowding out its neighbours.
The heritage kale has also done extremely well. I have harvested large branches already. The general rule of thumb when harvesting leafy vegetables such as chard and kale is to harvest no more than one-third of the plant at any one time and then give it a chance to recover before the next picking (assuming that you want a continuous harvest through the growing season).
I mentioned last week that I’m picking the flowering branches off my tomato plants in the hope that they will put their energy into ripening the green tomatoes that have already formed. I follow a similar strategy with other vegetables as well, for example, the Brussels sprouts have formed many sprouts along their main stem. I want these to keep increasing in size so I break off the top cluster of leaves so that the plant does not keep forming new small sprouts.
Notwithstanding the lushness all around, signs of the end of summer are hard to ignore. I try to do as much preparation of the soil and garden as possible in the fall – our spring can be very, very short. As the weather gets cooler I find that I have more energy to do more of the heavy gardening duties such as spading or turning over the growing beds. I use a long handled round-nosed shovel and leave the bed with lumps and clumps intact. I believe that the soil should not be worked up finely or raked as this will destroy some of the structure that we have worked hard to establish by adding compost. Let the freezes and thaws of winter break down the clumps naturally.
There are no stupid questions!
Hands-on educational opportunities are available weekly throughout the summer.
- ‘Weed and learn’ sessions take place at Augusta Park Community Garden on Thursdays from 9 to 11 in the morning and from 4 to 8 in the evening
- Gardening advice is also available Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 at the garden in front of the Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place.
Experienced gardening experts will be there to help with your gardening concerns.
Great Veggie Grow-Off
Please remember to drop off surplus garden produce at the Hunger Stop (aka Lanark County Food Bank). Bring your armfuls of produce to the Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place and make sure that it is weighed and credited to Mississippi Mills.
The Food Bank is open:
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
9:00 am – 1:00 pm
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Try to drop your produce off first thing in the morning if possible.