Garden Update, Part 7

August looms and I was sitting on my deck wondering why about half my carrots seemed to be wilting.

On closer inspection, it turned out that a thief was at work. I suspected — and it turned out that I was proven right a day or so later — that a little mouse had found the salad bar in my backyard and was enjoying a late night snack (…obviously, with such improved eyesight from all the carrots!)

Sadly, nearly half the carrots now look like this, gnawed at the top where the leaves meet the roots into little carved out, concave excavations, mostly severing the connection and causing the leaves to wilt and leaving the roots of questionable quality for eating.

Expensive compost.

I had hoped to avoid this by being a little more careful as I tended the garden this year, mounding soild around the base of the carrots as they grew and gradually poked from the surface. But the never-ending rain (as good as it was for their growth) made the chore a defeating effort washing away each evening then baking dry each morning.

Alas, I dropped a few mouse traps between the rows and have sent the meal bill to at least one rodent this week.

But where there is one mouse…

Garden Update, Part 3

Two weeks after getting all the seeds into the ground, two weeks filled with a balanced mix of sun, rain, and spring warmth, most of the crops are now poking their heads from the soil.

There isn’t much to say about that, yet. Germination takes it’s sweet time no matter how may long evenings we spend at home tending to the scattering of aggressive weed seedlings and tending to the watering and hoeing and everything else that goes along with it.

The most excitement of the week was Wednesday morning. I’d ambled out onto the deck with my coffee and laptop, settled into the moderately cool shade of the pergola, logged into my work email and… found myself distracted by a fluttering, anxious chirping from the garden.

Each year I have a small problem wherein the many birds we attract to our yard with feeders and trees and a pleasant suburban, mostly bird-friendly yard, those birds tend to eat indiscriminately of whatever they can find in that yard, be it the bugs or the food I leave out for them or — about this time each year — the vegetable seeds I’ve hidden in the soil of my garden like a little game for them. Yum!

The solution has been to use a bit of taut netting around the main garden bed where I put the smaller, more delicate seed like lettuce, carrots, etc, and to also protect the peas in a similar way.

They can’t get in, so they give up.

But on Wednesday morning, barely a sip into my coffee, there was a small finch inside the netting, loose but distraught at its inability to escape.

It took me a few minutes, but I loosened one corner of the netting and pulled it back into a gaping opening, then motivated the bird to fly towards that opening by approaching the box from the opposite corner. It was quickly free, and flew off with a few chirps of protest. But it did leave me wondering how determined it must have been to have got inside in the first place.

I mentioned in a previous post that I kept the garden pretty simple this year, aiming to plant less “experimental” crops and more stuff I knew we’d use. That said, I planted a lot of those few crops and planted them thick. The next step over the next few weeks will be to aggressively thin the weaker sprouts from the rows and plots to leave room and resources for the stronger ones.

For example, my cucumbers have at least five plants per mound… which is four more than required.

All that said, one of the saddest developments in the garden is the apple tree. Last year it was white with blossoms, covered to the point that we debated culling some of them to reduce the apple crop. And to our detriment left it alone and wound up with a heap of unused apples rotting in the garden last fall because we simply could not keep up.

This year?

If there are more than three clusters of blossoms on my tree they are hiding where I cannot see them.

Figures. The one year when buckets of apples might come in useful and the tree decides to take a holiday. I’m not sure if it’s a weather thing, an over-pruning thing, or if the tree is just grumpy because we let her crop go unused in a nearby pile.

I don’t think trees have hurt feelings, but at this point I’m not ruling it out.

Garden Update, Part 2

May long weekend both seems to have come early this year and also taken forever to arrive.

Having extended my stay-at-home vacation from that work-from-home drudgery, I afforded myself an extra day to tackle the summer-is-looming projects that will help to shape the garden into a backyard oasis for the season. As we will not be going very far for the next few months, this seems more important than ever.

By far the most notable project of the weekend has been the minor maintenance and addition to our deck. As we’re rarely in a rush to go anywhere these days, I’ve been filling my mornings as the temperature improves enjoying the twelve-foot-square patch of wood stage that protrudes from the rear of our house. A morning coffee. A bit of writing. Spinning through the news or twitter feed.

It’s a northern exposed space and in the mornings it’s nearly perfect for a bit of casual enjoyment. But as the day pressed on, the sun peaking over the house mixed with the exposed unfinished ambiance left it wanting for any more practical use.

It’s Saturday mid-afternoon as I write this, and I’m sitting out on that exact same deck, but under the protective modifications that we installed yesterday.

See, as I was taking my daily walks around the park it occurred to me to pay closer attention to the decks and gardens of the many houses that back onto the green space. Roughly two-thirds of those properties had improved their decks with addition of a fixed shelter of some kind. Semi-rooves, awnings, or pergolas were numerous, and sitting in the deck below were comfortable looking people enjoying comforting looking spaces.

Research ensued. A whole adventure attempting to purchase a rare and expensive pergola kit during a pandemic retail lockdown occurred. Long story short, yesterday morning we found ourselves with the final missing pieces of a TOJAGrid modular pergola system.

We spent four hours staining the deck and timbers.

We readied the pieces.

We nearly killed ourselves trying to lift the ten-by-ten frame eight feet into the air (until the neighbour generously rushed over and assisted, social distancing-style).

I bolted it in place this morning and hung a couple strings of soft white lights around the upper perimeter and hung the sail shade.

It is a remarkable effect, actually. It’s hard to understand —let alone explain— why eight posts and a square of canvas completely transform a space from a platform in the backyard to a comfortable retreat. We were sitting under the new roof to our deck this morning, sipping hot drinks and noting how different it feels. A frame. A box with no walls and a flap of fabric above our heads and this familiar part of our yard where we didn’t-actually-use-much-to-be-honest was in a day morphed into an alluring outdoor shelter-of-sorts. I can see myself working out here as often as as the weather allows. I’ve spent the better part of today unable to pry myself from both the coziness and the novelty of it. Simultaneously inexplicable and completely understandable in the context of simple human psychology. It has created the illusion of a room and the illusion of a space and the illusion of a protective bubble.

Now I just need to pry myself away and plant some vegetables.