Monday, August 30, 2010

August Garden Update

My neighbour called this a Himalayan Orchid but a web-search suggests it is more likely a Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), also known as "Policeman's Helmet". This eager volunteer plant migrated over the fence from the neighbour's yard.

Considering that it's growing in a pile of rocks, I suspect this may be a good candidate for the next revision of the undesirable Alberta invasive species list. A brief web-search confirms its invasive nature including seed pods that explode, spreading seed several meters! OK, I'm going outside to pull it right now. It has an attractive flower that belies its evil intent to take over the world.

My guess: Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) caterpillar. Found August 21 on an apple tree leaf 2 blocks from our home. This seems late in the year to find this caterpillar, since this reference mentions "This species has only one generation per year, usually appearing in mid-May and flying to late July depending on latitude." Maybe they are trying for a second generation? Or wrong species? The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail apparently goes for 2 summer generations in the warmer eastern climates.

The annual Zero-Mile-Diet-Applesauce-Making-Festival gets ambitious this year. A little too ambitious for one weekend in retrospect, but it's satisfying to survey the full freezer afterwards. No canning this year, too busy with baby to take care of. Our favourite tree is about a 5 minute walk from the house. It's one of many to choose from within similar range.

This time we also picked some sort of prairie cherry (with pits) from the neighbour's yard. It looks and tastes somewhat like a Nanking Cherry. It is likely one of the fruit bushes listed on this page. The bushes had no thorns, which I thought the Nanking Cherry has, but I could be wrong.

The Utrecht Blue Wheat heads are now turning blue (though it's hard to tell due to high exposure and contrast in the photos). Due to wet conditions this summer and possibly for want of a longer growing season, the wheat is still quite green. I've started to cut it and hang it in the garage to ripen and avoid possible frost tonight.

The "West Central Garden", showing marigolds, beans, cilantro and carrots.

Bean harvest is turning out really well this year. The carrots that did germinate are doing well. We will start harvesting the potatoes soon. We have virtually no raspberries or strawberries yet; not sure if it's the variety, weather or improper care. They are not very established yet, so we will see if they improve yield next year.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

July/August Update

Above: Unknown potato variety and Utrecht Blue Wheat. The wheat heads have begun to form but are green at this stage and not yet "blue".

Delphinium (transplanted from neighbour last year)

Amaranth R158 (Amaranthus cruentus) has decided to grow after all, though still slowly. The R158 variety is described as "developed by Johnny's Selected Seeds and Rodale Research Centre. The leaves and seed heads are mostly red. It is early and heavy yielding." The grains are rich in protein (16 - 18%). Amaranth is believed to be a domesticated form of Pigweed (Amaranthus hybridus). It was historically grown in Central America as long ago as 4000 BC [unreferenced wikipedia info, to be confirmed].

Carrot going to seed in its second year. The carrot was found in the garden this spring left behind from last year. It was transplanted to an appropriate location so we could collect the seeds.

Mystery volunteer plant/weed in compost pile.

Close-up of the mystery weed flowers.

[UPDATE: Appears likely to be Common Hemp Nettle or Galeopsis tetrahit identified by Dave the Home Bug Gardener, see comments below]

Possibly some kind of volunteer Wild Mustard (possibly Brassica kaber)? I was debating letting it go to seed and try eating the seeds, but I changed my mind and pulled it. I might try if another one pops up. I think this is the Mystery Weed posted previously.