Managing Expectations – Prepare for the worst, hope for the best…

I have been pleasantly surprised this week:

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Bumblebees in the early morning, honey bees in the late afternoon, parasitic and jewel bees all day!

My husband and I caved and cut back a few of the overhanging weed trees from the neighbour’s side; the manitoba maple(s), white mulberry and the silver maple that had overgrown right over our garage and half-died. What I mean by half-died is that manitoba maples snap easily, and since they are crowding each other out, limbs die back prematurely and hang there like a tacky ornament.  It not only cuts off our sun, it poses a danger to our property and us. So they went. We were merciless. Got us an additional 1.5 hrs of daylight into our bed.  Not guilty.

Now my heirloom cherry tomatoes which normally grow up to 10ft. in ideal conditions are now dwarfed, not by 3-4ft. but 4-5ft., and FRUITING!!! It’s only on one plant fighting for light behind my elder shrub, but I’ll take what I can get.

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It’s hard to see, but the flowers are blooming beautifully.  

One thing I have been extra diligent about was fertilizing. I added more than what is normally needed to compensate for the lack of light. How does it help? Vegetables need regular fertilizing, especially because (in my property) it is competing with a mature tree. Even though I replaced all the soil last fall with pure compost, the tree will dominate so I have been careful to give extra hen manure (vegetable blend), and dry kelp meal to the soil, with the occasional dose of blood meal when I run out of hen manure.  Both manure and blood meal help to keep large pests at bay – particularly the squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons.

Mulching has also helped the soil to retain moisture.  Another source of competition solved.  I like using the coconut mulch the most.  You can buy it compact – looks like a solid block of sawdust. Once you add water, it falls apart and expands to its fullest capacity. My bed used up one package of 4cu. ft. pack.

My scarlet runner beans and Blue Ribbon bush beans have finally started coming! And have had my first hummingbird visit yesterday! As it happens…my phone died early morning because I forgot to charge it in the night before and pictures were not taken 😦 But, here are my beans – yum. Both bean varieties have deliciously sweet edible flowers.

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These vines have been growing endlessly, but quite easy to train along my trellis and stakes
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Blue ribbon bush bean as purple ‘freckled’ bean pods – perfect for a summer treat.

I will also add that within this hot mess are my african marigolds that have exceeded my expectations long before we cut off the tree branches. Now at its full height of 3ft.IMG_7847

While my peppers are starting on batch no.2…

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3 pepper plants swollen with new flower buds and peppers just starting

And while I’m at it, I might as well also tell you that my tropical fig has started fruiting:

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This tropical fig fruits on new growth. Most figs are generally not a fan of water and this summer has been especially wet and worrying.  I am surprised by the resilience of this baby, which I shamelessly brag was hok’d from FoodShare during last year’s move.

AAAhhhhh…summer…It’s finally going my way! The zucchini plant blah, blah, blah… We won’t worry about that. Squash need loads of space and full sun – all day, every day on top of everything that has been done to compensate for the space I’ve got. I’m quite satisfied with my surplus of soup greens which is where they have gone.  Yes, they are about 1 1/2 ft. in length but still produce enough flowers and greens for eating.

When I first moved in, the soil was so badly neglected, all I got was greens and 8 tomatoes. I could literally count them on my hands.  It was so sad. The biggest thing to remember is persistence, and consistency. This fall, I will add more compost. When you top up every fall with compost in a vegetable bed, the vegetables have a head start in the new season while giving the existing perennial herbs and vegetables better immunity for a healthy crop.

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One of the last calendula standing toward the end of November 2016 among the lingering lavender and finished lilies.

City gardening feels frightening because we are exposed so much more immediately to pollution, never mind our own disconnect from the natural environment.  But rest assured that if you take care of the soil, while planting essential companions for pollination, the quality of the yield will be just as good as the produce you buy from the organic market.  Ive had to remind myself that failed attempts are not an indication of incompetence or impossibility of it all, but rather the plants are simply tell me what is missing in the garden bed.  They are very direct but also forgiving. I continuously make notes on the condition of the garden, (south facing, north facing, etc, uncontrollable obstacles, soil issues, weeds, what died & why) and get ready for the next season!

ps: There’s no shame in paying someone to do it either 😉 If you really want it, there is always a way.

ON A SEPERATE NOTE:  I have started a facecrack group, Homesteading-ish Toronto. If you’re interested, please give it a go and join. Its open to all, whether you’re in Toronto or not!

Thanks for visiting and happy homesteading-ish!

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