Sunday, June 19, 2011

Berries from the Backyard!

My main focus in the backyard and rooftop gardens has always been vegetables. For the most part I've always preferred veggies to fruit and for preserving I have access to large amounts of fruit for free through Not Far From the Tree. The exception to both of those things is berries- I adore them but we seldom get requests to pick berries with NFFTT. I have a few secret foraging spots for raspberries and blackberries in hidden spots of the city but some years I miss them or someone beats me to them. Two years ago someone gifted me with a small clump of wild strawberries and I stuck them in an unused corner of the garden near the rosebush. I didn't have high hopes but thought they'd look pretty if nothing else. Last year the runners had increased the number of plants by tenfold but we didn't really see much in the way of berries. This year however the amount of plants has increased dramatically- runners appeared all over the garden and I was forced to remove a few in order to have nay room for anything else. Where there was room along the fence and into the neighbouring parking lot I let them roam freely and surprisingly they have managed to root themselves in cracks of asphalt quite successfully! They also seemed to thrive on the long wet spring we had and I noticed loads of flowers this year. Now that summer weather is in full swing those flowers have become thimble sized strawberries, sweet and intensely flavoured, and I am picking them as quickly as they ripen. So far most of them have ended up straight in my mouth but I may yet have enough to make a single jar of luscious backyard strawberry jam!

Now I'm sending hopeful glances in the direction of the raspberry plant I've been nursing from seed for 3 years- it has actual canes this year!

The rest of the gardens are hit and miss. The tomatoes in the ground are flowering and look sturdy, but the peppers are lagging a bit.

I've got two green zucchini and one pattypan squash in there too and they are looking good but sadly I lost some cukes to marauding wildlife so am down to one lone pickling survivor. The wildlife has also wreaked havoc on my beans- I planted and replanted green and yellow bush beans, edamame and a miscellaneous bunch of climbing beans only to lose most of them when they were barely out of the ground. One row of green bush beans is finally filling in and few climbing beans survive but only a single yellow bush and no edamame survived the slaughter.

The potatoes in the bucket however are looking fantastic and we're currently eating tons of salad greens and curly mustard!

Up on the roof things are somewhat better. I have a mere 6 tomatoes in containers this year and almost all of them are flowering and even beginning to fruit!

The mini peppers seem healthy and have flower buds already.

I'm attempting to grow carrots and beets in containers this year and they are just coming up now but I planted them late so to be expected. My most exciting experiment this year is the squash bins on the upper roof!

I've had little success growing winter squash in the ground - normally possums and mice nibble off what few fruit that manage to appear before the plants succumb to powdery mildew, a persistent issue in my shady damp yard. Up on the roof in large shallow bins, the squash are thriving in the heat and sun and my hope is that the more consistent airflow keeps the mildew at bay and the more challenging access keeps the rodents away as well.

I planted some borage in the bins as well to attract pollinators and I'll post updates to keep track of their progress up there- I'm looking forward to see if they'll spread out on the flat roof or cascade over the side to make a hanging wall of squash to the deck below.

And should any varmints find their way up there, Shelby (aka the cheetah) will be lying in wait for them.

Speaking of the farm cats, Casey turned an impressive 20 years old today. She's celebrating by having a nap in her favourite shady spot on the deck. Varmint hunting is for the young.


  1. Hi Callie

    So nice to have a peek into your garden, and your lovely cats, congrats on the 20 year B-day, wow, that is just wonderful to have that many years with the kitty's.

    I am in strawberry mode myself, its heavenly to eat them warm from the sun out in the garden..hmm

    thanks for the update, I was wondering how things were going!

  2. Hi FG, I've been very quiet on the blog front lately because my schedule is insane at the moment- Pride Toronto is 2 weeks away and as the production manager I'm knee deep in the details 24/7 right now. And to make things even more challenging the CSO cannery started up again, a month earlier than last year so I've already taught two canning workshops and have another two this week. Does't leave time for much more than sleeping, eating and an occasional peek at the gardens - thankfully I work from home except when I'm actually teaching.